Need advice about chimney sweeps' recommendations.

Well, the chimney sweeps just left and it didnt' go anywhere near how I would expect. So I need advice form you guys on several things. Specific qustions are farther down, in the second part that's also labeled 1 and 2.
They were supposed to come between noon and 4, and I figured they had to come by four because it's dark by 5 and the woman on the phone said they alway clean from the roof and the basement. -- I was getting the the oil furnace and also the fireplace chimneys cleaned.
Their work: 1) The fireplace took them about 10 or 15 minutes, from the basement only and almost nothing came out when they ran the brush up the metal pipe. It was a sort of ratty-looking brush in that I thought the bristles were uneven and that quite a few were missing. He said I had burnt less than a half cord of wood (since the previous cleaning) and that is probably true, even though it's been 22 years or so and I use the fireplace 4 to 10 times a year. Not one of my important questions today but say that totals 110 hours of fires, do you think that would be less than 1/2 cord? He held his hands together like a bowl and said that volume would come from a cord of wood.
He saw a clearly visible crack, a crooked black line, but with no empty space between the sides, which I think is called a hairline crack, in the back panel of the steel pre-fab fireplace, and said that would be $389 dollars to be replaced. Each panel he had said before he started was about $380. Even before he started, he brought up how easy it is with prefab fireplaces to replace one of the three walls or the bottom.
He was done and when I asked about the roof, he said they went up on the roof when it was necessary. In contrast to the woman on the phone who said they always did.
2) Then the two men went to the furnace, and took apart the flue, pointing me to the dirt inside, and it was 1/4 inch or a little more all around. The soot definitely tends to stick together and makes my fingers dirty, but it's a lot more like dry and very little if at all like oily.
Then one of them slid behind the furnace even though the space is only 14 1/2" wide and he wasn't especially small, and looked where the flue went up to that black metal plate I posted abbout earlier** He raised his arms and seemed to be doing something for 2 or 3 minutes.
He came out from behind the furnace and said because the dirt was 1/4" to in some places 1/2 inch thick, if he tried to clean [the flue], it would ruin his brushes (which he later told me are made out of some kind of plastic) and that he couldn't use them again, and he couldn't clean the pipes anyhow. He said I needed new pipes from furnace to ....well I thought he was going to say roof, but I realize he never said that, and the paper he wrote says ceiling. So he's only talking about the flue***. He said he couldn't do anything now, and said it would be $685 to replace the pipes. He said if he took it apart more there would be dirt everywhere. He said that amount of dirt was lethal and it meant the furnace was putting out carbon monoxide, although my brand new Kidde CO detector always says zero.
He put the old pipes back together, and asked for $115 which is their price for the second chimney, and the fireplace was the second chimney in my case.
My questions:
So what do you guys think?
1) I think I've had the crack in the fireplace for years. I've never seen it open up but it's hard to see when there are flames in front of it. Still I watch the fire closely and when it's low I still don't think I've seen the crack open. Maybe I'll make a fire and verify this. The fireplace make banging noises when the fire increases and somewhat when it descreases. I think that's normal for a steel fireplace.
He didnt' say what would happen if it wasnt' fixed and I didnt' ask. What would?
Actually it's been over 20 years since the fireplace chimney was cleaned, and since it had almost no dirt fall down, even with the ratty brush which was run up and down only once, I think I can go another 30 years or until I move or die, whichever comes first.
2) WRT the furnace, have you ever heard of a stove pipe that can't be cleaned because of soot or other oil furnace residue?
**(Actually, several days ago I said it was a black plate, but when I looked at the bottom of the chimney from the other side a few days ago, I saw that it's not a plate, but a box, about 12 or 14 inches square and 2 inches high, all very even black-color, like the surface is just like new. It's not soot or dust because around it it's not black at all. One side of the box is against the outside wall, one against the wood-framing that holds up the basement landing, one side partially against the main heating duct and the rest open but there is no door, and the fourth side facing me but above the flue and no door, so there is no cleanout, even though with a different part, there could be one there.
***For the furnace, he itemizes one 2' ST pipe, one 4' ST, one 1' ST, 4 adjustable 90^ elbows. No mention of the T or the barometric damper.
Thanks for any advice you can give me.
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"mm" wrote

Your main fireplace is low use so you get little dirt back. Mine is high use and gets cleaned at summer and again mid-winter. 1.5 cords a year about in use. Takes longer as there is lots of creosote to knock back.

Fire behind it which from your description is wood timber? Unsafe. Replace before use again.

If it can be removed easily, it can be cleaned. It's well past a brush job though with that much build up. It's a fire hazard now from the sounds of it and not a joke. When was the last time you had that done?
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Thanks. Behind the fireplace might be cinder block. I'm looking into it.

It certainly can. All but the last piece I could take out myself and vacuum and wash in the front yard, if needed.

months of the winter, and two other years, I called my oil company to have them come out. They said they were all booked up, and said they would call me when the rush was over, but they never did. So when I thought they were still busy, I ended up just buying a good ShopVac that could use the better filter bags meant for soot, and cleaning as much as I could reach myself, with a 4 foot clear vinyl hose taped to the end of the vacuum,
The Shop Vac worked great, in that no soot came out the exhaust and it sucked up the soot quickly. The clear hose didnt' stay clear very long.
I replaced the oil burner nozzle and aligned the electodes myself.
Sadly, I don't have gauges but the furnace guys haven't been using those anyhow, in recent years. Nor did they remind me to get the chimney cleaned, even when it was 1 1/2 inch thick all around inside, the time 4 years ago that the CO detector went off.
This year it occurred to me before getting them to adjust the furnace, I should have the chimney cleaned.
The previous furnace guy didnt' use gauges, but when it was 1 1/2 inches thick in the stove pipe, he just vacuumed it up with no need for a brush and no complaints that it would ruin his vacuum or anything. These guys are such liars; I almost wish I'd told them off when they were there.
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?

A half cord of wood would leave little creosote. In a fireplace, you get less than a slow burning airtight wood stove also. I clean m ine after about two cords. When I burned wood, I'd use about 4 or 5 cords a year and give it at least two cleanings.

What is behind it? You may want to get a second opinion, but the crack could be a problem down the road if it opens. It may also be possible to seal it, but I have no expertise in that area so ask someone that does.

I'm able to get 95% of my cleaning done from inside the house. The portion of chimney up top is always very clean. They may be correct.

Soot from an oil burner is different (and less a danger of fire) than creosote in a wood burning device.

Of course it puts out carbon monoxide. That is why you have a flue to direct it outside. Rather than ruin a $30 brush, it is better you spend $685 to replace the flue. Sounds pricey to me. Is this triple wall pipe? That is expensive.

Total cost? Not so bad for anyone to come out to the house for anything.

Metal makes lots of noise as it expands and contract. Probably normal.

If the crack opens and there is wood behind it, there is fire potential. If it is brick or concrete and the crack does not open, nothing will happen. You may want to have it evaluated though. I don't know if it can be repaired with furnace cement or not.

He's probably not replacing them.

I think you need a new chimney sweep.
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On Thu, 30 Dec 2010 05:56:10 -0800 (PST), snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

You remind me that the earlier chimney sweep, ahem, 20 years ago, did go up on the roof. These guys otoh, didn't arrive until 4:45. There was still enough light to do the roof things if they had started right away, but they didn't. They were going to an appointment when they left me, and by then it was totally dark.
It was strange. I called him about the fireplace and didn't think of the furnace, and he never reminded me either. If he had, I probably would have done the furnace too.

I thought about not paying. I even thought about what you guys would say when I told you I paid. But he had sent the brush up the chimney and even if someone else sent it up and down more than once it wouldn't have gotten much since it got so little the first time.
They should send the brush up and down more than once, shouldn't they?
Interestingly, the thing they had me sign doesn't say I'm satisfied with their work, it only releasees them from liability:
"The company has explained to me and I now fully understand the apparent condition of my fireplace, appliance, chinmney or vent system at this time. I understand that the Company has performed a visual inspection and is not reponsible for hidden or concealed defects. We have discussed visible defects and the company has recommended corrective actions. Since hidden construction defects and conditions of use are beyond the control of thee Company, I undersnat no guarantee or warranty of fire safey of any appliance is given or implied."

Okay, I would just call the other place today, but I want a little time to figure out the family relationship. Are they working with each other, bad cop, good cop, or are they competitors. Even if their father started a second company, if the children, the cousins, are running the companies now, they might have decided to cooperate. Unlikely that they're in cahoots but I want to read more reviews if I can find them.
I want to have a fire in the fireplace too, before I call, in case the conversation turns to fireplaces.

Right. I have that too, on both sides, and Right. It's not broken there but the crack isn't open at all. (I still haven't had a fire, maybe tonight.)

Right. There are plenty of honest companies.

I have the fireplace instructions, but I havent' found them yet.
Thanks and thanks krw.
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On Thu, 30 Dec 2010 12:34:23 -0600, " snipped-for-privacy@att.bizzzzzzzzzzzz"

The only thing I know aobut htat is that when I had an old outdoor gas grill with a window, I was able to clean a lot of the dirt off with a razor scraper. I think it looked very good afterwards, but I don't know how that comapares to a "neglected" glass fire screen.
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On Wed, 29 Dec 2010 23:00:23 -0500, "Ed Pawlowski"

I didn't know anything about furnace cement but I see some brands say they're good to 2000 F.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fire says
Temperatures of flames by appearance A Fire at 1/4000th of a second
The temperature of flames with carbon particles emitting light can be assessed by their color:[10]
* Red o Just visible: 525 C (977 F) o Dull: 700 C (1,292 F) o Cherry, dull: 800 C (1,470 F) o Cherry, full: 900 C (1,650 F) o Cherry, clear: 1,000 C (1,830 F) * Orange o Deep: 1,100 C (2,010 F) o Clear: 1,200 C (2,190 F) * White o Whitish: 1,300 C (2,370 F) o Bright: 1,400 C (2,550 F) o Dazzling: 1,500 C (2,730 F)
I don't think my flame was ever white. Even the oil furnace flame is only yellow, which is not listed here!
Parker Furnace Cement says it's good to 3000 F.
That doesn't mean it will stick, or even that I shouldn't do something else. But the cheaper brands of furnace cement were only 5 dollars, not 385! :)
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