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An unfair question for you to ponder.

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by schlot, Nov 8, 2012.

  1. schlot

    schlot Minister of Fire

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    Ok, my daughter bought a house with a fire place. After the home inspection, it was deemed that the chimney was not safe. I know the exterior is made of brick and probably was original to the house (40 -50 years old?) I have not been to the house to look at the inside of the chimney. I can only assume it has a masonry liner.

    a) What is the potential reasons it is not safe? Besides an obvious blockage problems is a masonry liner not up to code? Is the grout between the masonry units not problematic?

    b) Not knowing the size, what's the possibility of running a steel liner down the chimney? I would helping her get an insert in the future if this can be done?

    c) Any other sage advice?

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  2. pen

    pen There are some who call me...mod. Staff Member

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    You'll need to look at the sweeps report to see what they cited as issues, but potential problems could be:

    If it's old enough, there may not be a clay liner at all.

    If there is a clay liner, it could be cracked or deteriorating so that it could not withstand a chimney fire.

    There could be clearance to combustible issues, either with the chimney or with the firebox.

    Could have a burned out damper and or firebox.

    There's just a few ideas.

    But in the end, so long as the problem isn't that there is a structural issue (it's going to fall over) or a clearance issue (a floor joist was built into the chimney) then adding an insert and insulated liner is quite easy. If there are major problems, it's still a possibility, but may take more work. Also, if it is big enough and looks aesthetically pleasing, one can place a freestanding wood stove in a fireplace instead of using an actual fireplace insert.

    pen
    schlot likes this.
  3. bluedogz

    bluedogz Minister of Fire

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    This is probably different state-to-state, but when I bought my home (2004) the home inspector made a point of stating that he was NOT inspecting the chimney and if I wanted a sweep to do so it was on me. When we finally got a sweep to do so a couple years(!!!) later, he found big ol' cracks in the masonry liner(!!! again!)

    One pot of chili, three hot chocolates, and one 6" liner kit later, I was in business... thanks Hogz!
    milleo and schlot like this.
  4. Grisu

    Grisu Minister of Fire

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    I would have a certified chimney sweep come out and take a look at it. After that it should be clear what is the problem and if installing a liner will suffice. Is your daughter actually interested in getting woodheat?
  5. schlot

    schlot Minister of Fire

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    She bought it the hope of using the fire place. Of course we know that may not equal truly using it as heat.

    It was the home inspector that caught it, but I don't know if they truly identified a problem. Too many home inspectors I've seen will simply say not to use to cover their butts.
  6. jeff_t

    jeff_t Minister of Fire

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    http://www.csia.org/

    Have her plug in her zip and find a sweep to do a full inspection. Then she will know.
  7. Monosperma

    Monosperma Member

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    Can't the inspector just tell your daughter what exactly was the problem? I'm sure the inspector did not work for free, so it's not the least bit rude for her to ask for and be told specifics.
  8. schlot

    schlot Minister of Fire

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    His excuse (from what she told me) sounded pretty vague, hence my idea he was just covering his butt.
  9. schlot

    schlot Minister of Fire

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    Thanks...will have to call them and see what their rates are.
  10. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    Like bluedogz, I've not seen a home inspector willing to put their name on a chimney inspection. Off-the-record opninions, sure, but that's about it.

    When I bought this place last year, I paid $148 to have four chimneys inspected and one of them cleaned by a local sweep who was very highly recommended. A year later, a local stove shop thru which I was looking to buy a stove sent me one of their third-party contractors, and I got ripped for $590 to do an incomplete "level 2" inspection and cleaning. The first guy gave me an honest report (one bad chimney, three good), later verified by the seller's own inspector. The stove shop's company lied and tried to take me for $9000 in unnecessary work.

    Prices and ethics vary... shop around. I found the first guy (who I've since used for three chimney linings) on Angie's List, and cross-checked him thru BBB.
  11. swagler85

    swagler85 Minister of Fire

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    I sell houses for a living and go on many of these inspections. Every time we have an inspection and here is a fireplace they recommend not using it until it is cleaned and inspected. Sound advice, from what I am gathering from your situation is the home inspector doesn't have good comunication skills. He is more or less avoiding saying that he isnt qualified to inspect the chimney. I would tell your daughter to have a sweep come out and clean it out and go from there. Take a good look for yourself as well to see if there is anything obvious that may be a problem. A mason would also be good to have come out and look. And remember real home inspectors aren't like detective homes on tv, they don't tear into walls and rip out drywall and things to inspect.
    mfglickman likes this.
  12. schlot

    schlot Minister of Fire

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    You have probably seen it then too, some inspectors would not know which end of a hammer to use. From my exposure to the inspections we have to work with they are very conservative when it comes to things they don't understand.

    Like you said, the next step is to get a sweep in there and take a look. I found a couple with 20 miles of her house. Someone talked price above, but here in the midwest for a one story home, what kind of cost range would I expect? Also what kind of report have they provided you? Written with pictures? Video of the chimney?

    I'd think the video would be a good way of seeing that the inspector saw. Shows that he isn't afraid of letting you see the same thing they are.
  13. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    The video is part of the "level 2" inspection, to which I referred above. A great tool, and actually not hard to do yourself with a pruning pole and a handheld camcorder. Just make sure that if you're paying for video, you get video. I had the one company mentioned above tell me they did video, but when I continued to press them over several weeks for a copy of said video, they eventually told me they never did the camera work.

    Cost around here for a "level 2" inspection is $150 - $300.
    schlot likes this.
  14. swagler85

    swagler85 Minister of Fire

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    I found out very quickly that there is a wide range of inspectors out there with different levels of knowledge and experience. I have narrowed down a list of good ones I recommend and others that I recommend not to work with.

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