Chimney Question

I have an old Victorian style home (+100 years old) that has a large center chimney with three flues. One flue is used for the gas furnace, the other two are for two fireplaces which have their dampers plugged and are not used.
Recently, I had the chimney cleaned, and the chimney sweep took some pictures of the inside of the chimney - which appears to be in bad condition. The mortar is disintegrating, and if not corrected, would presumably lead to CO leaks or in the worst case - collapse.
To make matters worse, I was told that the three flues both angled and tapered, so using a steel lining is not an option. Help! Does anyone have any experience with such a situation and some ideas. TIA...
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I would talk to some other chimney pros. There are flexible liners available.
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Is only the furnace using the one flue for sure? No HW tank or other appliance? If it is truly not possible to sip in a steel lining to handle the existing furnace, and depending on the age of the furnace itself, it may be cost effective to abandon the entire chimney and replace the furnace with a high efficiency one that vents via PVC pipe through the wall (or even up the existing chimney).
Also, IMO, a CO leak would be 'worse case' over a collapsed chimney. Assuming he was showing you the deteriorated mortar in the lining, and the actual chimney structure isn't equally deteriorated. Either way - if you haven't got one, buy a CO detector to protect yourself and your family....

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I forgot to mention there are also two hot water heaters, both gas, which are stovepiped into the same chimney flue as the two gas furnaces. The dual heaters and furnaces are because this house was once used as a two family, but when I purchased it, I converted it back to single family. Whereas both water heaters are used, only one furnace is able to heat the entire house. I will take your advice on the CO detector.

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-snip-

Collapse is expensive, but probably wouldn't hurt anyone. CO poisoning is silent and deadly. Before you do anything buy a couple CO detectors and put one on each floor of your house.
And shop around for another chimney guy. I can't see it from here, but it is unlikely that your flue can't be lined.
Jim
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wrote:

This house has a center peak of nearly 40'. I'm guessing a chimney rebuild would cost around $50K - not including the cost of knocking out internal walls which have ornate wood and plaster work which will be impossibly expense to replace/restore.
I think taking the chimney out of service and venting to an outside wall as suggested by another poster might be the best alternative. What do you think?
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YES costs less. and if you go with a new direct vent 90+ furnace you will save big bucks on heating.
hot water tanks can be direcect vented too, although if your tanks are old it might be better to just replace them
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the chimey can be lined with cement, its low weight, might check some other contractors. a rubber bladder is inserted in the chimney, then concrete is placed all around, this does a excellent job
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-snip-

I wouldn't rebuild the chimney. But I'd talk to a few folks who do lining before I gave up on that plan.

If you're in the market- or intend to be in the market- to replace your furnace, the cost of relining the chimney goes into the mix of ; How much does it cost? How long will I live here? How much will I save?
Jim
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Is the mortar in bad shape all the way down? Did you see it? I wouldn't trust that chimney guy you talked to. Get a second opinion. Chances are you do have mortar problems in a 100 year old house, but not necessarily through the entire length of the chimney and not necessarily bad enough that it couldn't just be better protected from the elements (ie. a liner and cap) and stabilized.
I would only take that chimney out of service if you plan on never selling the house. That's going to negatively affect its value. People look at an old Victorian home with a big chimney in the middle of it and they expect a working fireplace or two. Right now you've just got the dampers plugged; don't make it worse.
I suppose it's possible you might need $50,000 or more of work, but it's also possible you need $5,000 of work. If that's the case, then you could spend $5,000 for $15,000 or more worth of equity, if you really get that chimney back in working order.
Alternatively, you could end up spending $5,000 to take that chimney out of service and vent your heat to a side wall and end up getting nothing back from that expense. Because then what you've done is made it more difficult for any new owners to get those fireplaces up and running, and they're still left to do the work that you could have done now. Or, maybe they didn't care about working fireplaces when they bought the house, but then they sure aren't going to pay for them when they buy from you.
The best thing you can do is get a second opinion from another chimney guy. If the chimney is really beyond being practical to save, then fine - take it out of service. But be absolutely sure about that before you do anything rash like semi-permanently disabling one of your home's most desirable features for potential buyers.
Jeff
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Fully agree with all but one point. Depending on location and the winters there, that fireplace may be considerably more than 15,000$ worth of the house value. In some areas, you can not sell an old house, if it doesnt have a working fireplace or 2. See, it's part of the charm a buyer just 'expects' to have. If you don't have it, they just get a different one that does.
I'd suggest he get 2nd and 3rd chimney work appraisals then if in doubt, contact a realtor in the local area for an assessment of the house value and 'sellability' difference if he takes the fireplace out. I don't recall where he is (or if he said where he is and I can't look back as I deleted his origional post). I live in Virginia Beach (on or just below the snowline) and thats where fireplaces start to add serious value to a house.
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well the easy solution is get furnace and hot water tanks off chimney by whatever means necessary and leave fireplace as non working for next owner to do whatever they want a new more efficent furnace adds real resale value to a home
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Not as much as a working fireplace. Everybody expects a home to have a working furnace, and how efficient it is is sort of an abstraction that most buyers aren't going to grasp when they're walking around the house looking at all of its features. You can tell them "oh, and our furnace is really efficient" but it just doesn't have any sort of immediate "wow" factor.
A working fireplace does, two working fireplaces have even more. Conversely, a non-working fireplace and a crumbling chimney are really huge downers for any buyer. I guarantee any realtor will tell you the first question they get when people see a fireplace in a house is "does that work?" Or if it's obviously plugged up, they look at it and say "oh, too bad, the fireplace is plugged up." And the last thing you want a potential buyer saying when they see your house is "too bad" about anything. A non-working fireplace is just wasted space, not to mention a constant reminder of what could have been, and potentially a constant source of worry if the chimney's left in bad shape.
You may as well fix the thing properly if it can be done within any amount of reason, figuring that increased equity into the cost. Maybe the OP wants to talk to some people who know his local area to see how much a working fireplace really adds to a home's value; as cshenk says, it does vary. In my area, it is pretty much a requirement, not so much because people use them for heating anymore but because about 80% of homes still have them, so you're competing against those homes when you sell. If it adds $30,000 to the value of the house and it costs $30,000, then it's still worth it vs. spending $5,000 on a new routing for the vent and getting maybe $2,000 back in value. It's not only about the initial outlay.
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On Jan 28, 1:01�pm, snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

well that same 5 grand might go from a old inefficent 50% furnace to a nice spiffy new 94% furnace cutting heating bills by nearly 50%
I agree the OP sould get 5 estimates for chimney repairs and go from there.
with such a old home theres no lceramic liner, so concrete or stainless liner will be necessary
but say heating currently costs 5 grand, and new furnace can cut that by 50%, in round numbers save 2500 a year. now live in home 10 years, save 25 grand
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Which is why I'd do that too if my heating bills were high enough to make a savings.
but say heating currently costs 5 grand, and new furnace can cut that by 50%, in round numbers save 2500 a year. now live in home 10 years, save 25 grand.
WOW! 5G? We are in the worst part of winter for us here and the bill was 180$. Then again, our neighbors (with no fireplaces) are spending 100$ a month more than us. Smaller homes too. We are augmenting with the fireplace. The other houses around us are between 800-900sq feet. We are 1100. I recon our bills should be 150$ more if the fireplace wasnt offsetting it? 2 cords aged pre-split hardwood ran us 310$ but thats 2 years worth. We got the second cord this time because we couldnt remember if we needed over 1 cord, or just under it. Looks like just under it.
End result, I am saving about 450$ a year after subtracting the cost of the wood and based on my milder winters.
BTW, we can get the wood cheaper than that, but this fellow is really decent and has an honest product well aged and properly split small before aging for 2-3 years.
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Just had one of the two flues in my chimney lined with flexible steel liner; don't see why that couldn't be done on yours.
We were in a similar situation, actually; my mortar had deteriorated badly enough that the chimney was leaning above the roofline and we had to have the top rebuilt. This was somewhat expensive, though not ridiculous (by New York area standards), especially when taken as part of the lining job. It only took a day to do everything, though we still can't really use our fireplace until we have that side re-lined too.
I agree with the others that say to talk to somebody else. Maybe the guy you talked to just didn't carry the flexible stuff and didn't feel like ordering it. Seems weird for a pro chimney guy, but who knows.
But you need to get that thing lined; worst thing that can happen if you don't is you wake up dead one day. We had carbon monoxide detectors in our house before so we put it off for a little while, but we know we shouldn't have. Definitely make sure you at least have detectors in your house now.
Jeff
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