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Chimney Fires & Homeowners Insurance

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by RollinRidge, Sep 28, 2006.

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  1. RollinRidge

    RollinRidge New Member

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    Glad to e referred to this site.
    Anyhow - had chimney sweep out last week for inspection and sweep. (It's been 5 yrs since the last sweep-I know bad). We have an old fashioned masonry fireplace that had a wood stove insert in it - which we've used heavily each winter. I "decided" that I wanted a real fire so we pulled out the insert prior to the inspection.
    Bad news - chimney condemned due to previous chimney fires what cracked the lining and bowed the inside of the chimney. (??) When we had the chimney fires - we never knew. Anyhow- inspector suggested we put it through homeowners.
    Never filed a claim for anything ever. So I called and had it submitted. The agent calls me back and basically says that since we can't pinpoint and exact date of damage (cause we didn't have any internal house damage/call the fire department stuff) he really doesn't think it'll go through. And - this gets me - it could just be normal wear and tear. ??? Could it really? (It's only 25-30 yrs old max). He did say to fax over the report - which I have to get - so he can "discuss" it with his supv but it really doesn't sound too positive. I told him that I now have a non-working fireplace that will cost $6k to rebuild. (his attitude-oh well)
    Has anyone ever dealt with this? Any suggestions for what do I do?
    thanks
    RA

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  2. RollinRidge

    RollinRidge New Member

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    Talked to inspector about report. He now says that our insert was originally installed wrong (didn't tell DH this last week). That there should've been a liner?
    I really don't know anything about this :-S
    But he will send out a report stating that the tiles are cracked due to chimney fire.
  3. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    What kind of insert and when was it installed?
  4. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    "DH": Online talk for Dear Husband. Kinda like SWMBO.
  5. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    This sounds like a reach. It would be like calling homeowners because your copper water pipes were eaten away by hard water. Chimney flue tiles have hairline cracks the day they are installed - and usually many other cracks within ten years. Truth is, they are a lousy material for chimney lining. But this is usually not the fault of insurance companies. It is either wear and tear or bad initial construction. Either way, I'm not sure if covered by insurance. On the other hand, if you did have an "event" - a big chimney fire and the fire dept was called out, then you have a case.

    Chimneys were not usually relined years ago for a insert installation, and permits typically not pulled - our town did not require them. This may have changed now with full relines...although some here have asked their officials and been told they don't need one still!
  6. DavidV

    DavidV New Member

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    Is the chimney falling down?? I don't get the 6 K rebuild quote...Can't you do a liner??? I thought this was the exact situation that pour in liner was for.
  7. RoosterBoy

    RoosterBoy New Member

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    you should be going after the people that installed the stove. they should have put in a liner.

    but part of this is your own fault you should have read your stove manual that would have told you to have your chimney and flue and stove inspected every year buy a licenced company.

    im sure the owners manual said to have a ht103 type liner or flue.

    im sure if you called up and told the company that installed it they will agree they messed up by not installing a class a liner

    good luck this is Why before i buy something i make sure to learn and read as much as i can so i know installers and sales people don't pull a fast one on me

    good luck
    Jason
  8. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    Even if this insert was installed correctly and permitted. Every owner's manuals call for inspections and annual cleanings
    5 years is plain negligence and would void any warranty or safe operations.

    Consider yourself and family lucky, the flue liner probably saved you from a much bigger disaster. It did its job by containing the fire.

    Have to ask, how did you really feel entitled to collect insurance, for probably an un-premitted installation? All wood stoves require permitting and satisfactory inspections Without them you have illegally installed the stove and you want to collect insurance for an appliance that should not be present, that is installed non compliant, and contributed to your loss?

    After disasters we usually receive a visit from the insurance investigator. The first thing he checks, is to determine whether your stove was permitted and passed inspections.

    Two years ago my office posted that we will receive and stamp in any documentation of maintenance to your current wood stove installation. We want proof of sweeping and condition reports. If DIY then just make a note you sweeped or brushed on xx date and only x ash /debris was collected. You can also include that you pulled the insert and shop vac or changed gaskets.

    This is a voluntary program, which gets stamped in and added to your dwellings records. Should an incident occur public records strenghten you due diligence proper mantiance claim.


    I take no pleasure informing you this info I hope a liner can be used to reduce repair cost. I wish you found this forum before your situation
  9. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    Your inspector does not sound too helpful ("oh well")! Maybe he could have given you some more tips.
    You probably haven't had the house since new, right? I would think that multiple chimney fires would be hard to miss.
    Why not get a nice new insert with a big glass viewing area and a stainless steel liner (preapproved by your inspector)? Since, per the inspector, only the inside of the chimney is "bowed", I would guess that the exterior would be ok, and that he would be happy with the ss liner. Plus, the insert would be much more efficient than a "real fire".
  10. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Hang on a minute. Maybe they bought the house with the insert already installed in it. If that was the case and they hadn't had occasion to deal with a stove before then how the heck would they know when to sweep etc.

    Let's find out some facts here.
  11. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Yeah I know. I went out to a a guy's house here three years ago for dinner. When we got out of the car the first thing I noticed were the black stains running down the outside of his 30 foot masonry chimeny. Not from the top, the stuff had come out between the bricks in three places starting about twenty feet up.

    I explained to him that it was creosote leaking out of busted flue tiles. He had been in the house about ten years and using the old insert that was there when he moved in.

    He called his insurance company and they were more than glad to have a poured liner put in that thing rather than pay for his house burning down.
  12. RoosterBoy

    RoosterBoy New Member

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    well brother bart to me it's common sense before you play with fire or equipment you have never used read the operating instructions
    other wise if you get cut or loose a leg or burn your house down it's your fault ;-) should not have touched something you know nothing about or you live and learn i hope you don't take this the wrong way but it's just my opinion now they know :)

    thanks
    Jason
  13. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    No doubt. And the jerks I insure with (GallState) probably would have but his company had a crew come out, drop a bladder and pour the wet stuff down the flue. Paid the whole bill.
  14. RollinRidge

    RollinRidge New Member

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    Wow-didn't expect so many responses. (And no- you didn't chase me away) But actually BotherBart is right. The house was built in 1965 - we bought it in 2001-fireplace insert already installed so I have no idea when or if permts were pulled or not. It's a typical "tract" ranch where the single car garage was converted to add space to the living room-the fireplace was put on the outside wall. Neighbors say previous owner - and builder of the house - built the fireplace about 30 yrs ago. It is one of those big stone ones. Don't really know when the insert was put in but I'll "assume" since the firebox is black that the fireplace was used as a stand alone first. But we do know that for the 5 yrs prior to us purchasing the house it was not used. (He died, wife alone didn't do much of anything).
    The stove is a Pine Barren's something. And when we moved in we had Pine Barren's since they're right down the road (yes-we're in NJ) do the sweep and give us the ok. We really didn't know you're supposed to do a sweep every year. We always burned one of those "clean your chimney" things each year. But since this year we pulled the stove - it was looking kind of old to me and I wanted just a nice fireplace. And since we'd heard some not so favorable things about the previous sweep I did a search for certified sweeps.
    So-I'm sure Pine Barren's isn't responsible if the install isn't correct after so many years. Do I wonder if "their" sweep missed some of the cracks 5 yrs ago. (Neighbors did say they remember a whopping chimney fire about 15 yrs ago). Who knows.
    All I know is that the sweep/inspector that came out gave us the following estimates:
    1. $6k to tear down a rebuild (we certainly don't have that kind of money and the stonework to my ignorant eye looks just fine).
    2. Clean up the Pine Barren's stove and re-install it with a stainless steel liner - about $2k - but we'll still have an old stove
    3. Get a pellet stove. Will spend the $2k on a stove but the 3-4 inch pipe is only about $150-200. (Of course since then I've been trying to get info on pellets stoves and I'm coming up way higher that $2k).
    We actually don't have the $$$ for any of this which is why when the sweep/inspector suggested we put it through HI we thought - give it a try. Heck-we've been paying the same same insurance company since we moved in so if it happened "sometime" in the last 5 years...
    So-the fireplace is still filthy - he said he wouldn't sweep cause then we might "use" a condemned fireplace and he'd be liable.
    We don't have $2k laying around to fix it.
    So I'm just trying get options and find out what to do.
    thanks all
    RA
  15. RollinRidge

    RollinRidge New Member

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    Also-we didn't get an owner's manual with the stove/house. I attached the flyer from the stove-that's all we got. It doesn't say much except it seems like they paid $1200 for it. I guess since we were told it was working when we bought the house that was all that we thought we needed to know.
    Our homeowners insurance company knew we had the fireplace/insert. I believe when we originally signed up for it that was one of the questions asked along with the one about dogs.

    RA

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  16. RollinRidge

    RollinRidge New Member

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    Also-we didn't get an owner's manual with the stove/house. I attached the flyer from the stove-that's all we got. It doesn't say much except it seems like they paid $1200 for it. I guess since we were told it was working when we bought the house that was all that we thought we needed to know.
    Our homeowners insurance company knew we had the fireplace/insert. I believe when we originally signed up for it that was one of the questions asked along with the one about dogs.

    RA

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  17. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    Ha Ha - A pine pig - I mean Pine Baron! Another forum user has one of these....that model is coal/wood - these were made in Southern NJ right near where I lived...in fact, I think some of the coal ones might still be made!

    Yes, it was lab approved, etc. - and being coal did not need all the EPA stuff. If it has the shaker grates, etc you might consider burning some coal in it.

    Hmmm.. the brochure only mentions wood......is there a shaker grate?

    Back to the insurance - let me state my experience - amazingly enough, I have heard many instances like yours and bro barts story where insurance companies paid to upgrade chimneys. In my personal opinion, this is wrong (although good for you)......It is, in some ways, like them replacing your roof because it is 20 years old and you walked on it too much.

    But, heck, if they will do it and your rates do not go up much...and your deductible is not too high...well, go for it.

    PS. I have also heard of insurance companies rebuilding "leaning" chimney that pull a few inches away from the house. Again, usually bad construction or house settling, and not exactly what I think homeowners should cover, but who knows?

    My brother was recently biking (on public land) with a friend - the friend fell on his bike and caused my brother to spill - breaking his front tooth. The HOMEOWNERS insurance of the friend paid 5K to fix my bro's tooth. This is a little known feature of homeowners...it protects you when you are not even home!

    In my opinion, a permit or form from the insurance company is not what is going to make the difference in whether this claim is paid. The insurance company is more likely to use prior experience in similar matters and have a set policy - unless you really make yourself a "squeaky wheel", but you seem too nice to do that!
  18. RollinRidge

    RollinRidge New Member

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    Thanks Craig for saying I'm too nice. (I am but DH makes up for it when I need some "forcefulness")
    No grates-so I think this one is wood only. As it stands now-it's going out for trash in the very near future.
    I'm not too optimistic about getting anything from the insurance company - just being hopeful. (BTW - our insurance is FMI if anyone knows anything about them. We had a hard time getting insurance cause we're rural - no fire hydrants).
    25 yrs ago I had what you guys call "gall state" and did have a couple of claims - apparently too many in a short time (one a pipe burst and another a support beam twist) so they cancelled us. Made me VERY leary of ever putting in another claim for anything.
    RA
  19. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    Yeah, I always consider homeowners for either when (if) my place burns down, or when some robber comes in and cleans us out!

    If you are or know a DIYer, and want something in the fireplace, you can get some decent smaller EPA stoves for less than $1000 along with a basic liner....maybe 1200 with liner insulation. You could definitely sell that stove on ebay for $200 dollars plus......

    And, who knows what else you can find around the house to sell on ebay or craigslist?

    I see a stove of some kind in your future!

    (note, sometimes decent used epa stoves for sale here or on ebay).
  20. MountainStoveGuy

    MountainStoveGuy New Member

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    Wow, my internet has been down for 15 hours and i come back this morning and the the entire front page of hearth net is all new threads, and this one is already two pages long. I thought this would be a good place to discuss this. Nothing i need to add that hasnt already been said. Welcome to Hearth.com.
  21. RollinRidge

    RollinRidge New Member

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    It's funny what you "don't" think to do. When we were purchasing the house we were just so thrilled to finally find a property that could house our dogs and horses (and that we could afford) that the house was secondary. We looked it over really well and decided it was solidly built etc. We didn't have an inspection done and neither did the mortgage company. In fact, I've re-fied it 2x and got an equity loan and no one's ever asked about the fireplace.
    RA
  22. GVA

    GVA Minister of Fire

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    Just wondering is it true that if you buy a house that has unpermitted work that has been performed the new homeowner is responsible. I had an inspector tell me that once when I was looking at a Historic house built in Salem, built in the late 1700's.
    No I didn't buy it...... (Ceilings were too low people must have been really short back then) just kidding.
    Any way if this is true what recourse the home owner have.

    ELK this ones got your name all over it.
  23. saichele

    saichele Minister of Fire

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    My understanding is that the pre-existing unpermitted work (prepermit) is usually grandfathered, except in specific municipalities. There are a few (very upscale) areas locally that make homeowners retrofit old unpermitted work prior to sale, but definitely not all.

    Steve
  24. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    How to respond to this Inspector homeowner builder? No home inspector? I heard the multiple wrongs do not make right?
    No one has even checked to see if this stove was permitted? Permitting and inspections are public records.

    15 years ago when a chimney fire occurred was a repair permit and inspection done? Since this is the job and duties of a home inspector to research all history of the permitting process of the prospective home, then why not review public records. If not hiring aan inspector the onus is up to the current purchaser buyer beware?
    Not to be insulting here, but money spent for a decent home inspector might have been well worth it. I'm nbot a fan of home inspectors ,but when not having the knowlegde of what is safe and compliant, why did you not have a professional oppinion.
    Do not tell me you cheaped out on the most important purchase of your life? What for $300
  25. RollinRidge

    RollinRidge New Member

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    Having a home inspection would not have accomplished anything in my situation. According to ASHI standards they do not inspect interior flues or chimneys. (Our outside cap is correct, and stonework is fine). Or are they to move inserts. (Yeah-who wants to lift a couple hundred pounds).
    Apparently when the insert was installed it was the standard to use the exisiting chimney and not add a chimney lining. (Checked the back side of the flyer where it has installation instructions and it doesn't even mention a liner - so I really don't understand where the sweep/inspector that came to our house said it was not installed correctly. It looked just like it should). Maybe by TODAY'S standard it should have an insert but how were we to know?
    RA
    ps I do plan on seeing if there was a permit taken out back then. I know for all work we've done we've been very religous about getting the proper permits and approvals.
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