Chimney repair: who do I believe?

Hello, all: I'd be grateful if someone could give me some advice on two points.
1. Last autumn I had a chimney cleaner come over and he told me that I needed a steel liner in my chimney (to the tune of $2,500). My house is older--about 65 years old. He told me that I was taking a real risk. Other people have told me that a chimney liner is completely unnecessary and a waste of money. Opinions?
2. The bricks in the "floor" of my chimney are all loose. That's bad. But one guy quoted me $175 to repair them (get them all locked into place and safe) and another guy quoted me $1,400 to $4,000. Quite the difference! Who should I believe?
Many thanks!
David in Toronto
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WPB wrote:

I'm just another "other people" -- why would you put any credence in my response?
The problem is at least twofold here -- first, who are these "other people" who disagree w/ the cleaner and what are their credentials and basis for their opinion? Second, a cleaner isn't necessarily anything more than the name--doesn't mean they're qualified for other work or even necessarily that his judgment on the condition is correct, either.
Then, from here I can't see your chimney to judge its condition, nor will any other respondent. Only you or somebody you hire can actually look at it and determine whether it does have leaking joints or other conditions that are actually dangerous.

Why not ask them what they're going to do and why would cost so much (or little)? Obviously then one guy is simply going to regrout in place--which may be perfectly adequate if that's all that's wrong. One would presume (but it's only a presumption since have no information other than a price) that the other guy is going to take the floor up and re-lay it and perhaps even replace some/many brick. Whether that is necessary is impossible to judge from here.
Of course, the cleaner and the one fellow on the floor may just be trying to take advantage of a situation, too, but there's no way to tell for sure here.
--


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Well, isn't that the point of newsgroups? Not necessarily to take to heart every comment everyone leaves, but rather just to see what people have to say, what their opinions are, suggestions and advice.
In any event, I realize that it's all but impossible to give good advice without actually seeing the situation. I just thought someone might be able to say "I had the bottom of my chimney repaired/stabilized and you can expect to spend around $1,000. Not $175 and not $4,000."
That's all.
David
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Someone has to look inside the chimney to see what is going on and if a liner is needed. If loose you mean you can move them then its bad. 175 , if he removes them , cleans and remortars them then ok, if he is just pushing in a 1/4" of mortar than no. Not knowing how many and how bad who can say. The 175 is probably a handyman doing it in a day he figures, but he may not understand how bad it really is. 1400-4000 may be the other extreme. You need more bids and to learn what is really going on. Get a guy to look in the chimney and photograph the issues, get bids.
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wrote:

Unfortunately around here you need to pay at least $75 for an inspection (or $125 for a clean and inspect) before a mason will quote any required repairs. Kind of quells the urge to get quotes from more than a few. But like the other poster said, a chimny sweep may not be qualified to evaluate borderline repairs, need to quote from the company that will be doing the repairs.
Among other things, if the mortar inside the chimny is as bad as the outside (implied by the need to repair some loose bricks) then the liner is advisable, cracked bricks may or may not be an issue. A cheaper cosmetic fix may be suitable for a few years but maybe you want a fix to last decades. If you can see smoke leaking from any part of the chimny, a liner is required.
Your city may have something to say as well, they may have limits to how much repointing is allowed before rebuilding parts are necessary.
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Thanks very much for your comments!

I've been told that they can send a video probe down through the chimney to see what the condition is. More $$$$$$$, of course, for that. The other thing that bothers me about the liner is that they have to knock out all the bricks outside my house in order to put the liner in. I'm not thrilled with the thought of them breaking through a brick wall that looks fine and has been in great shape since 1941.

Fortunately in Toronto most contractors give free estimates. And there's a good website where contractors are rated by their clients so I can filter out those that have had terrible reviews.

The chimney sweep guy told me that there may be cracks in the mortar on the inside of the chimney might allow a spark to get in and start a fire between the first and second floor. His doom and gloom scenarios threw me for a loop. But he was a bit of a hard sell and his company (which does both cleaning and repairs) have been calling me every couple of months to ask if I'm ready to get the $2,500 liner installed. The hard sell makes me suspicious.
Thanks again!
David
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Ive never heard of removing all the bricks to do it, one way is a balloon is inflated inside the chimney and concrete is poured around it. For 2500 a guy wants to tear apart your chimney, put in a liner and rebuild it? Sounds to cheap and I bet it would look bad. Id say you would be in real danger of loosing the whole chimney doing it that way.
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It's interesting, no one has ever installed a liner. In my area, this home wouldn't be allowed on the market without having a liner. I wouldn't burn without a liner! That's a disaster waiting to happen.
I had a chimney fire about a dozen or so years ago. This is what happens when you don't get the chimney cleaned, according to your burn habits. Anyways, it cracked the clay liner.
I had a stainless steel liner installed. The mason stuck a whirly looking thing on the end of a drill, to bust out the liner. It had a really long extension, which they kept putting together in sections. They didn't remove any bricks! The pieces of the liner was cleaned up from inside (firebox & smoke shelf). He installed the liner from up on the roof, it was a 24' liner, done in sections. Then they did a pour around the liner (I can't think of the name of the stuff used). They did have to form a new crown at the top of the chimney. Back then, this was a $2,500 job.
My sister had a chimney fire, I can't tell you how much it cost. But, they installed it like ransley said. "Ive never heard of removing all the bricks to do it, one way is a balloon is inflated inside the chimney and concrete is poured around it."
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I think you may have misunderstood. The whole point of a liner is to repair the chimney without tearing into anything.
Dad had a small chimney fire about 3 years ago now that presumably cracked the liner. The next fall we installed a stainless liner ourselves. It slid down in from the top, in sections.
No bricks were harmed in the installation of the liner. In fact, he had to add 1 row to the chimney.
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I appreciate you comments--thank you.
Good advice. I'll ask both the $175 guy and the $1,400-$4,000 guy exactly what they would do. Both these guys work for chimney repair companies and aren't handy-men. But the $175 guy is also pushing the $2,500 liner in a really hard-sell way and that's put me off. Yes, the bricks are definitely loose and I can pull them out by hand (and I have). But for an area so small my gut-feeling was that this shouldn't be a multi-thousand dollar job. It's not like I want the chimney floor in gold leaf. Up to $4,000 for just a brick and mortar job? Ay-yi-yi.
Well, I'm a new homeowner (well, almost four years now) so there's always something to learn.
Thanks again!
David ______________________________________________

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I appreciate you comments--thank you.
Good advice. I'll ask both the $175 guy and the $1,400-$4,000 guy exactly what they would do. Both these guys work for chimney repair companies and aren't handy-men. But the $175 guy is also pushing the $2,500 liner in a really hard-sell way and that's put me off. Yes, the bricks are definitely loose and I can pull them out by hand (and I have). But for an area so small my gut-feeling was that this shouldn't be a multi-thousand dollar job. It's not like I want the chimney floor in gold leaf. Up to $4,000 for just a brick and mortar job? Ay-yi-yi.
Well, I'm a new homeowner (well, almost four years now) so there's always something to learn.
Thanks again!
David _______________________________________________

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I appreciate you comments--thank you.
Good advice. I'll ask both the $175 guy and the $1,400-$4,000 guy exactly what they would do. Both these guys work for chimney repair companies and aren't handy-men. But the $175 guy is also pushing the $2,500 liner in a really hard-sell way and that's put me off. Yes, the bricks are definitely loose and I can pull them out by hand (and I have). But for an area so small my gut-feeling was that this shouldn't be a multi-thousand dollar job. It's not like I want the chimney floor in gold leaf. Up to $4,000 for just a brick and mortar job? Ay-yi-yi.
Well, I'm a new homeowner (well, almost four years now) so there's always something to learn.
Thanks again!
David

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"WPB" wrote

Grin, you *may* have some chimney damage. It may be relatively minor and fixable with a mere liner.
I needed repair to my liner. Long story made short, my house was rented for 6.5 years and they didnt abide by contract for annual professional cleanings and inspection. I got off lucky with a bill for 1,725$ for repairs. I had no serious damage but would have if we had not gotten back before the next freeze-thaw winter pattern. It was also very unsafe to use until the work was done.
In our case, we did *not* get multiple estimates. We went with a well known quality fireplace repair local company with an outstanding reputation. Theirs is so good, our local StateFarm place was smiling when we told them who we were using. (Turned out we could not file a claim but that's mostly because we are honest folks and didnt try to claim recent storm damage).

Sure is! Even for those of us who've had one longer!
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My house, just a little older than yours, has an unlined brick chimney. When I replaced the gutters, I discovered piles of ash around the chimney in the soffet that wraps around it halfway to the top. That convinced me that I needed a liner. I installed a used "certified" firplace insert woodstove which couples to a stainless liner going up the old chimney. The glass door of the stove gives a good fire view. No longer am I sucking all the heat out of the house when having a fire. Instead, it puts lots of heat into the house, with the aid of its noisy fan. Cleaning the chimney is easier, as a chimney brush runs straight down from the top, and all the ash ends up in the stove when cleaning. For the money you're talking, this could work for you also.
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Thanks for the advice. As it turns out, I'm getting my gutters replaced next week so I'll ask them to let me know if I have an ash issue just as you did.
I keep hearing mixed things about liners. The chimney repairman that I spoke with yesterday told me he doesn't think they're necessary and that they'll cut down on the air flow up and out of the chimney. I hate to spend more than $2,500 on something that may not be necessary and, in the end, makes matters worse. Then again, you're happy with your liner.
I'm not against the idea of the liner--it's the cost that's killing me (after just getting a new roof two weeks ago).
Thanks again!
David _______________________________________

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The liner I have just hangs down the chimney to the stove. I did have to remove the damper to get it in, but it was all self installed. But I am pretty handy. The stainless liner is not cheap, however. Fortunately, most of what I needed came with the used stove.

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WPB wrote:

You have to watch out. There are lots of crooks out there. A couple of years ago I wanted my chimney repointed because mortar was falling out and there were spaces. One guy wanted to remove all the bricks down to the roof and rebuild the whole thing. Another one wanted to smear white crap all over my chimney making it look like (crap in my mind). I've seen some of those. I finally got a mason to do what I wanted for not much money. You SHOULD have a liner in the chimney. It's just a safety barrier in case the chimney overheats like in a chimney fire and to keep gases from seeping into the home through cracks and dry shrunken mortar and giving you C02 poisoning. Go with the $175 guy. It's true a liner is not necessary if you have only oil or gas heat. A steel liner is about $2500 for a wood stove.
--
Blattus Slafaly ف ٣ :) ⅞

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They may al be right to some extent. Did any of them put a camera down to look? That would tell a lot. Is there a clay liner now or just brick? If there is no liner, I'd consider one as brick can deteriorate over time. I'd get prices on a stainless steel as well as the poured liner where they put a bladder down and pour a concrete mix around it. Both would work, but I have no idea of comparative pricing.
The $175 guy may be all you need if th ere are no other cracks or problems. My concern is, if there are lose bricks on the bottom, there may be loose brick some other place too, or getting very close to it.
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Firstly a chimney that's 65 years old, can still be OK. When a chimney is designed and built, the designer has a particular size and type of fire in mind along with the type of fuel that will be burnt and therefore the heat that will be generated.
If subsequently the correct type and size of fire is used along with the correct fuel all will be OK.
The problem comes with chimneys that are designed with one fuel in mind, when subsequent owners burn unsuitable fuel, possibly wood at the wrong temperature, possible due to the wrong sized fire using a different sized stove.
This can lead to cold burning fires, inflammable tar deposits left in the chimney and chimney fires.
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