Fireplace flue replacement - scam or serious?

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Old 11-19-08, 02:23 PM
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Fireplace flue replacement - scam or serious?

I have a 20 year old house with a brick fireplace. The fireplace is only woodburning, no woodstove or gas logs. It has been used <10 a year and it is cleaned on a yearly basis.
This year, I used a new chimney sweep. I did call them - it was not a telemarketer/low price deal.

After cleaning the fireplace, they recommended that I replace the flue because the terra cotta tiles that form the flue had chunks of mortar that were missing between them. Cost = $3500.

My tree man was here today, taking down a tree that was directly over the chimney. When I told him that we couldn't use the fireplace until the tree came down and the chimney liner was replaced, he asked for more details. When I told him what the chimney sweeps had told me, he said there was no way in the world I would need a new flue. He pointed out that my chimney flue is encased in cinder blocks, which are then encased inside of brick. He said there was no way my house would catch fire and that telling folks they need a new flue is a common scam. Internet research I did seems to support this. He further said that if my house were 50 years or more older, then he might understand it, since older homes had the fireplace right up against the plaster/framing. Since our house is only 20 years old, we have at least one row of cinder block between the flue and the house, so he felt there really was no need for us to replace the flue.

Now I am confused. Any opionions? What would you do? I am concerned that if I call more chimney people for more opinions, all they are going to do is say, "Oh yes, you do need it!" because they want my $3500.

Thanks in advance.
 
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Old 11-19-08, 02:43 PM
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Get a second opinion. Call a certified chimney sweep. Have chimney inspection done and see what the inspector has to say. Don't tell him about what the first guy told you.

You can type in your zip code to locate a certified chimney sweep here: Chimney Safety Institute of America

A certified chimney sweep will tell you if you need to have the flue lined, if crown is in good condition and properly constructed, and if you need a chimney cap.
 
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Old 06-22-09, 05:07 AM
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nrusinak,

I've got a similar situation and was wondering how yours turned out.
 
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Old 10-15-09, 10:14 PM
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Only 5 years

Mike - A liner only lasts 5 years? $3500 for only 5 years?
 
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Old 10-16-09, 08:50 AM
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Ignore mike...he's just a spammer...probably in India or China.....
 
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Old 10-16-09, 01:10 PM
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Keeping in mind that he only had a limited view, why not get a powerful lamp and take a look yourself?
It has been known for people to line a chimney with the lining upside down, or even to overlook the fact that the lining is supposed to be able to expand and move with the heat.
 
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Old 10-16-09, 02:20 PM
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Well, the main reason is that I wouldn't know what to look for! If something was really wrong or if everything was perfectly alright - it would look the same to me!
 
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Old 11-15-09, 06:26 PM
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Since you are in Virginia look at at the outer area of the fireplace as well around the top for what is called thermal spalling caused by water getting into the brick the same as a sponge and freezing causing the brick to expand and pop of sections of brick as if it was flaking. I doubt very much your flue has damage. it is common for grout to sometimes fall out of the joints on masonry flues and if you truly have a hand built fireplace the liners are stacked on top of each other the same as a block wall only with the fireplace you also have a wall around the flue and all voids are suppose to be filled with mortar as it is being built. thus you end up with a 8'' wall of block and cement around the flue or even more on some fireplaces. If you realy want to be sure have a sweep with a camera show you the screen as he videos the chimney and make them explain what they see if they say you need a repair. Goodluck
 
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Old 11-15-09, 09:02 PM
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Fireplace/Flue needing replacement

That's what I thought too. My fireplace has a terra cotta pipe flue, surrounded by brick on the outside and cinder block on the interior wall. That mortar that is missing is in between the flue pipes, but there isn't anything to catch fire behind it - just brick or concrete. I see no damage from the outside. The fireplace is in great shape. We replaced the flue cap about 6 years ago and it is in excellent shape.
 
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Old 01-14-10, 12:40 PM
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Replace the liner

Every FIVE years? Are you crazy?
 
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Old 01-14-10, 12:43 PM
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In summary

I have a terracotta liner, 20 years old, which I get cleaned every year. I had a different chimney cleaner come this year who said it was good to go and noted no problems with the liner. Last year's cleaner, who wanted $3800 to put in a liner, indicated there were huge problems. I will not pay $3800 every 5 years to replace the liner. That is outrageous. I also won't pay $3800 to do it once when it appears that the existing liner is perfectly fine. SCAMS, just SCAMS.
 
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Old 01-16-10, 02:34 AM
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I am a Chimney Mason/chimney sweep in WA, first of all Yes chimney liners can get damaged, it can be from earth quakes, chimney fires, or inserts applying to much heat. The terra cotta flue liners are pretty tough but keep in mind its just fired clay, and if you dont have a cap water can get down inside and cause more damage. If your flu liners are cracked you should be able to visibly see the cracks, if you are able too go up on your roof with spotlight and look down the flu of the chimney the "cracks" should be extremely obvious. I have herd of a company scamming someone like this so its not unherd of. But cracked flue liners are a serious fire hazard. After determing it for yourself, if you think they are damaged call up another chimney company you should be able to get a free estimate with work at that cost. Another good place to look is open your damper and look straight up most of the time you can see the first flu liner and inspect it down there also.
 
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Old 01-16-10, 08:08 AM
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That's not the problem

The liner itself it fine. What I was told is that a couple of pieces of the mortar between the liner pieces were falling out, creating crevices that could be dangerous. The liner is completely encased in brick and concrete block. If I keep the liner clean (which I do) I don't see the need for a new $3800 liner because a few pieces of joining mortar have come loose. Again, the liner itself is just fine and cleaned annually.
 
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Old 01-16-10, 08:11 AM
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In addition,

We have a cap that is in great shape. The top of the masonry (or the crown) of the chimney is fine. Everything is in great shape, save the two small spots where chucks of mortar have come out between the liner pieces.
 
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Old 01-22-10, 11:55 PM
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It's not uncommon for mortor jonts to get loose and fall out. So unless the originall sweep used a camera to determine that the missing chunks actually were entire mortor sections, then it probably doesn't matter much. If an entire mortor section fell out and there was now an opening to the airpsace in between the flueliner/brick/cinder block, then there might be an issue some day. Chunks fall off all the time with no consequences if they are just squished out mortor overflow that break off. If there is an opening now, then it could be a potentiall fire hazard if a fluefire, etc occurred some day. With all that masonry involved it's still unlikely that a fire hazard exist, but a second/third opinion is money well spent. I dont know wher the 5 year flueliner lifespan thing came from, but that is ridiculous unless complete abuse was occurring all the time, i.e. fluefires. They last for may decades if treated well.
 
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Old 01-29-10, 02:43 AM
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Sorry about the long response, unless there is a way for the flu gases to pass thru the "damaged" mortar you should be ok, its not uncommon to see excessive mortar pruturding from teh joints that is left from the flu liners being set (kinda like how your cheese hangs out on a cheese burger) from a sloppy mason, often times this excess will break off from the chimney brushes hitting it but unless there is a visble hole between the flue liners i wouldn't panic,
 
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Old 07-31-10, 03:14 AM
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To sum up:
You can have flue damage by rain entering the top and freezing between the liner and the outer stack.
You can have sloppy workmanship where mortar is left hanging in the flue, waiting to fall off, or be knocked off.
You can have a situation where the flue was fitted too tight, without space for expansion.
You can build fires that are too hot for the size of flue, leading to cracked liners.
You can have fires that burn too cold, where oil is deposited on the flue lining waiting to catch fire, and where if there are holes in the flue lining the oil can impregnate the whole or part of the chimney and result in a nasty fire.
All this is fairly straight forward and can only be resolved by taking a look.
A typical chimney is only 16 feet high, taking a view from the bottom and top should cover about half its length, lowering your video camera and a light down the chimney to see the remainder should not be too difficult, or if you are afraid of heights ask a friend.
 
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