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Wood insert (and problems) came with the house

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by stamello, Nov 14, 2012.

  1. stamello

    stamello New Member

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    I crawled up there again today. It's definitely wood - I could saw it, cut it, drill it, etc. Even after that I wanted to make sure, so I just pinched it with my pliers and it splintered wood grain. It's a 2x4 on its side. Modern milled size, so 1980s. It is not a part of the structure of the house - the chimney is on the outside of the house so it is only a part of the chimney.
    I think that you're right that it is was put there by the masons as part of the chimney blocking. It is right at the point where they extended the chimney, and it looks like they flattened the top of the old chimney, laid that 2x4 on it, and started laying cinder block at that point. From there on up the chimney is cinder block and clay liner.
    I'm not at all an expert, but when I got my head up there I didn't like the look of anything. the concrete work looked sloppy. A brick was missing on the interior side of the chimney, and I could see a small part of the back of my upstairs drywall! When I looked up into the cinder block portion of the chimney it just struck me as altogether sloppy.
    What now? I think I can assume that the 2x4 was blocking for the masons as they extended the chimney. It's on the house side of the chimney, but not connected to the house. Should I just knock it out and hope nothing falls on me :)? Then I need a liner from top to bottom?

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  2. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    Well, as for the 2x4... that's precisely what I'd do. However, "I could see a small part of the back of my upstairs drywall," may be a bigger problem.

    Me? I'd give DuraVent a call, ask for Dale (their engineering support guy), and describe to him exactly what you have there. He is probably going to suggest putting a metal chimney product (eg. class-A chimney) inside of your chimney, rather than a liner product, but let him make the call.

    If he's unable to get a clear picture of what you're describing, he may hesitate to make any specific recommendation. That's when it's time to get a local pro involved, but since there's such a range of experience (and intelligence) among chimney sweeps, you'd do well to do back-up research on any recommendation they make.
  3. stamello

    stamello New Member

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    Yes. But it looks like it's just missing a brick. Could I just cement the brick back in myself?
    I'm not at all opposed to bringing in a professional. But I'm skinny enough to actually crawl up there and do the job, whereas others may have problems accessing the area - causing further expense.
  4. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Yes, you can clean the area and cement in the brick. Just don't get stuck up there!

    The main thing is going to be getting safe clearances from the 2x4. If it can be removed, then DuraLiner should do the job. But check with DuraVent first and get the opinion of the folks the make the product.
    Joful likes this.
  5. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    Yep. If you can get the wood out of the flue, you should be okay with an insulated liner, which provides approved "zero/zero" clearance. That means "zero clearance between insulated liner and flue, and zero clearance between outside of masonry stack to wood." It does NOT mean, "zero clearance from liner to wood in the chimney," as Dale once explained to me. He stated that if there was any access to combustibles within the chimney, then you're into the territory of putting a metal chimney (not a liner) into your flue.

    Again, call Duravent. They'll put you on the right path.
  6. ansehnlich1

    ansehnlich1 Minister of Fire

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    Man I read this whole thread. What a flustercluck. If the $$$ was available I'd abandon that chimney all together and select a nice location for a wood stove and run a 6 in. stainless flue straight up and out the roof, or out and straight up the side of the house.
  7. The Maine Stove Guy

    The Maine Stove Guy New Member

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    After Reading this thread my first thought was...Yikes!

    Joful's advice is dead on..

    I have run into this type of thing a couple times and unless you can be 100% sure there is no wood within the masonry structure you should go with a metal chimney rather than a liner. Even doing that you need to consider the required clearance to the combustible (wood) that the metal chimney requires.
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  8. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    Yes... this is why my chimney was a no-go for the metal chimney, although I had forgotten until you just reminded me. In my case, the suspected wood was at a location where there was a jog in the chimney, and thus no way to guarantee the required clearance to the metal chimney installed within.

    Likely not an issue for the OP, but definitely good to keep in mind!
    The Maine Stove Guy likes this.
  9. stamello

    stamello New Member

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    The crazy thing is that someone built it this way and were then burning in it since the 1980s. And at least two chimney sweeps OK'd it.
  10. stoveguy2esw

    stoveguy2esw Minister of Fire

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    plus 1 on the call to duravent and Dale who is fantastic.

    i gotta say this is one of the weirdest ones i've seen in some time , you my friend (op) are lucky to have not had a major issue with that runaway stove with that flue only protected by black pipe.

    i gotta side with my pal Joful on this one , seek professional help and Dale is a great place to start
    Joful likes this.
  11. stamello

    stamello New Member

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    OK, I got up there and cut the piece of wood out. Pictures of the piece of wood and what the chimney looks like now are below. The pictures now show the whitish bottom of the mortar that was previously covered by the piece of wood. It's looks like it's just hanging now because the wood is gone. Above it is some sloppy mortar work and what looks like one or more a rock cemented into the side of the chimney. Above that is the 80s clay tile.

    You can see that there is also a gap between the whitish bottom of the mortar and the interior side of the chimney. In that gap I can see more old wood and whisps of pink insulation. So I'm thinking that when they extended the chimney they just slapped that piece of wood in there and cemented some field stones above it to act as a fire barrier to the upstairs wall.

    The space between the whitish mortar ledge and the offset cinder block is about 4.5 inches.This doesn't seem like enough room to do anything with, and it seems like that whole ledge needs to come out anyways so that a real barrier can be installed. But I'm afraid of just crawling back in there and knocking it out in case it is in some way a part of the support system of the chimney (especially because I'll be in the chimney if anything starts falling).

    As always advice and criticism is appreciated. I am very willing to call a professional on this, but I don't know of anybody that is going to be able to fit up there and see everything like I can.

    [​IMG]

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  12. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    You get A+ for persistence. This is a bugger. I say drop the insulated liner. You appear to have a generous margin of safety now.
  13. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    I'm not sure I follow you 100%, but this statement is concerning to me. That is bizarre the way that one course of block sticks into the flue. You can buy block in any width (3", 4", 5", 6", 8"), so it doesn't make sense that they jammed a full 8" block in a space where only 4" would fit. I do suspect it needs to be cut out, but understand your apprehension to do so. I would consult a mason. In some cases, you can find a company that does nothing but masonry chimney work.


    Have you called Dale?
  14. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    You haven't met some of our local "builders". When the store only has 8" block left, that's what they use. In rural areas or when it is after store hours you would be surprised what shortcuts will be taken. I hate to see this stuff, but it happens out here more frequently than I would ever like to see.
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  15. stamello

    stamello New Member

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    But I only have a 4.5 inch space - the gap between the offset cinder block and the spot where the wood was is only 4.5 inches. Can I get an insulated liner in there?
  16. stamello

    stamello New Member

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    I haven't called him yet. I wanted to see whether I could get all the wood out.
  17. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    I'm thinking begreen read your post too quick, and missed that detail. ;)
  18. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Correct, that and my eyes didn't believe what I was seeing. It's amazing this chimney ever worked at all.
  19. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    I think we're all in agreement: that protruding block has to be chopped back flush with the rest of the flue. How confident and handy you are will determine whether you want to tackle this, or call in a pro. It might not hurt to get a pro's eyes on it, even if you intend to do the hand work yourself, as they may see things you don't.

    The issue with the "in that gap I can see more old wood," is a separate issue, and is more reason to call a few pro's in to quote on making that chimney safe. Again, even if you end up doing the work yourself, they'll give you some direction on where you should be going.

    I'd worry less about that block sticking into the chimney, and your 4.5" clearance issue, which is easily solved. I'd be much more worried about gaps and wood showing thru, as I believe this forces you to a metal chimney, rather than a liner. As already stated, even with metal chimney, you must be able to guarantee a minimum clearance to any wood.
  20. stamello

    stamello New Member

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    Thanks to all for the advice - I'll call in a pro. It'll probably be a week or two, but I'll update this post once he looks at it.
  21. stamello

    stamello New Member

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    I had a chimney repair guy come out this morning. He looked at it for 30 minutes or so and talked to me about what I'd seen as well.

    He did not like anything about the chimney. He said that the masons who built it did a terrible job and had basically just stacked up cinder blocks without filling them with concrete. They offset the top of the chimney so that there was not a straight run up the chimney so it is impossible to put in a liner without knocking out block. However, since the block was put in so poorly it was too dangerous to knock it out without compromising the integrity of the chimney itself.

    So his assessment was that the chimney was unsalvageable. He was apologetic about this, but said that although he'd like the work it was simply too unsafe to try to fix. His only suggestion was to knock a hole out of the back of the chimney and put in a new class A chimney attached to the outside of the existing chimney.

    So now I can either:
    1) Get a second opinion,
    2) Accept his assessment and stop considering wood fuel.
    3) Accept his assessment and look for an alternative way to heat with wood. Outside wood furnace?

    Advice?
  22. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    It's good that you got a professional opinion. I would remove the whole thing. It's a liability. If you want to heat with wood you can either replace it with a proper class A system or put a stove + flue in another location in the house.

    FWIW, my son and I removed our full 2 story chimney and fireplace in a few days.
    Joful likes this.
  23. mellow

    mellow Resident Stove Connoisseur

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    If it is that much of a POS build then I would tear it down, not sure where you are located but if the ground moves to much (earthquake) you have increased chances that could fall down and cause some serious damage.

    I would tear it down then build a chase where the old chimney was and put a class A in the chase.
    Joful likes this.
  24. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    Another vote for tearing it down. You may recoup some space for closets / windows in the end. At a minimum, you can frame in a chimney chase (studs and cement board), and run a class A up thru it. It may look like a major undertaking, but it's not exactly rocket surgery.
  25. stamello

    stamello New Member

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    Well, I decided to get a second opinion, and the next chimney sweep said the same thing - the chimney is unusable and unsalvageable. He didn't think that it was structurally a problem though - no cracks or movement in 30 years. Our area is not prone to earthquakes, so I'm not worried.
    He also suggested the same thing as the last guy - knock a hole out of the back of the chimney and run a new class A chimney attached to the outside of the existing chimney. Good idea? If so, can I do this myself, and at what cost?

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