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Fireplace insert chimney cleaning nightmares: need help/advice

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by stratoskier, Jun 28, 2010.

  1. stratoskier

    stratoskier New Member

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    Greetings to all!

    I've visited here in the past to read up on various issues and have been impressed with the level of knowledge available here. Maybe one of you wise wood stove gurus can help me out...

    About 5 years ago I installed a Lopi fireplace insert into an existing fireplace. I had to do considerable hearth work to make it fit properly, but eventually I was able to slide it in. The chimney is about 24-feet high. I installed 24-feet of rigid 6" stove pipe (single wall, not stainless steel) up the chimney. To make the angle through the old damper (removed) at the bottom, it has two 45-degree 6" fittings with a very short length of straight pipe linking them. The final connection to the insert is made with an 8" to 6" converter. The reason why the whole run (except the converter) is 6" although the insert outlet is 8" is because the chimney formerly had a network of copper tubes running through the bottom 10-12-feet. Apparently the former owner wanted to rig up some kind of heat exhange system to pre-heat water. He never finished it but left the pipes. I was able to cut off enough of the pipes (using a reciprocating saw attached to pipes with hose clamps!) to allow for 6" stove pipe, but not enough to accomodate 8" pipe. Anyway.... that's the system.

    My question: Is it ever possible to clean the chimney in a system like this (long run of rigid pipe, plus double 45 angles) without removing the insert each time? Obviously a regular 6" brush won't make it through the angles. If I start cleaning from the top, the loosened creosote quickly clogs the angles and it's time to pull it all out, disconnect everything below the long run and make an unbelievable mess all over the living room. I've tried getting a rope and small brush through by dropping a golf ball tied to fishing line from the roof down through the angles and into the stove (takes about 20 tries or sometimes never makes it). Then I can pull a rope through, and drag a smaller (3-4") brush through the angles. Unless I do that about once a month, it doesn't work. Even when the golf ball trick does work, the little brush does a lousy job of cleaning the walls of the connectors.

    Would flexible pipe work better, rather than the double 45-degree fittings? Or do folks with a setup like this just resign themselves to always pulling the insert out, disconnecting all the lower fittings and cleaning out the long run? I probably don't need to tell you that reattaching the three lower fittings (45-degree to bottom of the long chimney run; then onto next 45; then to converter; and finally to stove outlet) is very, very hard. It requires that I get completely into the fireplace box, get my head up through the damper chamber and get those itty bitty sheet metal screws into the holes in the pipe. I've had it with that operation!! If there's no better way to do this, I think it's time for propane!

    Sorry for the long-winded first post, but I'm exasperated. Thanks in advance for any and all input!

    Cheers,
    Bert

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  2. Fsappo

    Fsappo Minister of Fire

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    The first thing I would do is replace that black pipe with stainless. You can have holes in that pipe after just one year of use between the creosote and the moisture. Also, that reduction is just a lousy idea on an old smoke hog of an insert. Your gonna get slammed for that whole idea and although people on this site want to help, even advising on a death trap like your setup would make most folks shiver. My idea would be to buy a new 6" liner, sell your insert on craigslist for $500. Take the $500 from the sale and the 30% you'll save on the stainless steel liner (Liners cost $400 or so) and apply that towards a new EPA Certified 6" flue insert where the whole purchase will get you 30% off. You should be able to find a decent qualifying insert for $1500 or less right now while its still off season. All things considered you'll have a very low net cost and end up with a much safer installation.

    If you can afford to do that, I wouldnt even burn a candle in what you have now.
  3. stratoskier

    stratoskier New Member

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    Wow -- a fast response and an unequivocal answer! Thanks very much for the input. It sounds like good advice. Although I was aware that the 8" to 6" reducer might reduce the draft by "choking" down the air flow slightly, I wasn't aware that it presented any kind of a fire hazard in itself. I'd be interested in knowing why that is the case. Regardless, I believe what you're saying about my lousy system and will start investigating the options in new inserts. I confess that I often pride myself on making do with less, and in this case, the old insert was sitting idle in the garage when we moved in 10 years ago. I figured that I would put it back into service and save some bucks. Though it'll make me a little sad to retire it, Craigslist sounds like the best option!

    Thanks again,
    Bert
  4. Wood Heat Stoves

    Wood Heat Stoves Minister of Fire

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    an old 8" lopi could be an lxx? if so good luck finding a similar sized replacement for 1500, thing was freaking huge.

    also, not the horrible smoke dragons like many stoves of that vintage.

    why is his set-up a death trap? are you selling him a new liner? lol
    i agree, the 6" black pipe could fall apart, but it is in a brick chimney..........
  5. Fsappo

    Fsappo Minister of Fire

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    Pipe rots, top sealed off, smoke in house because rotted pipe falls apart and blocks flue. Thats one scenario. Anyone in the hearth business that endorses this kind of install should not be in the hearth business.
  6. cmonSTART

    cmonSTART Minister of Fire

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    Agreed. Single wall stove pipe is a bad bad idea. If you can get 6 inch stove pipe down the flue, you can get a proper stainless liner down there.

    To answer your question about cleaning, I clean inserts from the bottom frequently though to do so there can't be any hard build up and you still have to pull the surround and also climb on the roof to inspect. You need a flexible set of rods and the proper brush.

    That being said in all honesty I wouldn't service your system because of the stove pipe. Its nothing personal, just liability I don't need.

    Hope this helps.
  7. Wood Heat Stoves

    Wood Heat Stoves Minister of Fire

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    to be clear, i'd never endorse this install, or do anything like that in the field, i just disagree its a "death-trap"
  8. stratoskier

    stratoskier New Member

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    Thanks for the additional input. I've never been able to figure out the model number on the old LOPI, but inside the left door is stamped RD 1982 48532, if that tells you anything. It is big: 24" wide by 18" deep by 20" high for the main firebox, plus the hearth extension. One solution I had thought of previously to deal with the 8" opening in the insert, was to have a flat steel plate fabricated that would insert directly into the existing hole (cemented in) and have a 6" hole in the center for inserting the pipe. That would eliminate the reducer that is now requred.

    Sounds like regardless of whether I get a new stove or not right away (to be determined based on total cost) everyone agrees that the 6" stove pipe is a bad idea. I will definitely replace it with a stainless liner for the 24-foot run up the chimney. You guys like the idea of a 5-6' flex liner for making the angle down to the insert? That will eliminate the rigid 45's and should all remain the same no matter what insert is in place.

    Bert
  9. Wood Heat Stoves

    Wood Heat Stoves Minister of Fire

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    flex will make the install much easier too :)

    lopi made good stoves in 82 imo
  10. cmonSTART

    cmonSTART Minister of Fire

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    Ya, I would just run flex all the way down to the appliance. Easy peasy.
  11. stratoskier

    stratoskier New Member

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    I read that you can run flex the whole way, but I'm a little puzzled by that... It seems like the ribs in the flex would contribute to creosote build up more than the smooth surface SS pipe. Why would flex be preferable to rigid SS?
  12. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Rigid is always preferable but you are going to go into shock when you price rigid pipe and then the flex piece for the bottom. Burn good dry wood into a flex liner and it is gonna work just fine.

    Were it me, I would run the flex liner and try it with the old insert. Oh yeah, that is what I did. Spent a hundred bucks on the stove top adapter but it worked fine. Until I discovered the cracked weld in the insert and replaced it. Glad I did. I now burn just a little over half the wood I burned before and get more heat. Of course some of it came from getting religion here and starting to burn really dry wood.
  13. mellow

    mellow Resident Stove Connoisseur

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    Since it has not been brought up yet, is this an exterior or interior chimney? If it is exterior you would want to look at insulating that 6" flex pipe, or if you have cracked tiles in the chimney you would need to insulate to meet code.
  14. Fsappo

    Fsappo Minister of Fire

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    Thats a good point.
  15. stratoskier

    stratoskier New Member

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    It's interior and the chimney all appears to be in good shape (other than the various pipes that protrude into the chimney for the now-defunct heat exchange system, as mentioned in my first post). BrotherBart -- you're not kidding about the cost of that SS pipe -- yikes!
    Bert
  16. stratoskier

    stratoskier New Member

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    Hi again,

    This thread has run its course, but I wanted to thank all of you for your extremely valuable input. You've given me lots of clues for how to proceed and I feel much more informed than I did previously. I sure wish I'd consulted this resource before I first installed this insert 10 years ago!

    Great site --- I wonder how many fires and other disasters you guys have prevented by serving up your expertise?

    Take care,
    Bert

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