Chimney Repair or Reline?

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thehiggy

New Member
Nov 15, 2021
11
New York
I've searched everywhere on the web and found a lot of information (and opinions) but this site seems to be the most well informed.
I've tried to piece together information from here or there, but I really think I need to layout the entire situation to make sure all the pieces are accounted for.

INFORMATION
  • Moved into this 1972-built house in Western NY in early 2017; five previous owners, think the ones here before us didn't take great care of anything
  • Enjoy having fires through fall-spring, usually average 1-2 a week (am sure to use dried seasoned hardwood)
  • Had two "normal" sweeps done in Fall 2018 and Fall 2019
  • In February 2021 I had a level 2 inspection done (in addition to sweep); the technician's report is attached but said to have found staged 3 creosote, missing flute mortar joints, bad spalling on firebox
SPECIFIC DIMENSIONS
The technician's report has some measurements listed, but here is a list of my own measurements:
  • Chimney:
    • Crown Length 42.5"
    • Crown Width 21"
    • Crown Height approx 2.5"
    • Chimney Offset Center on Crown
    • Collar Height 6.25"
    • Flute Exterior 12.75" x 12.75"
    • Flute Interior 11.125" x 11.125"
    • Chimney Height approx 22'
  • Fireplace:
    • Opening Height 26.5"
    • Opening Width 34"
    • Rear Width 29"
    • Depth: 24.5"
    • Hearth to Mantle 42.5"
    • Hearth Depth: 14"
PROFESSIONAL OPTIONS
At first I didn't really know what options I had, so I obtained quotes for all sorts of repair or replacement work - I've opted not to include quotes I got for wood burning and gas inserts.
I think I would prefer to keep an open wood burning fireplace - I know its not efficient but I love the ambiance and I'm not concerned on heating (though I should note that the idea of a wood-burning insert that is usable with the door open was intriguing....though from what I gather those don't really exist anymore)
  • Contractor 1: PCR Creosote Clean $2,430
    • I'll note that contractor 1 is the people that did the initial level 2 inspection that I attached; they are a relatively new business, and seem to be doing a lot of advertising/branding - that money has to come from somewhere, and I think it shows as their quotes for everything seem to be the highest of all the quotes I've obtained
    • I understand how the process works, but seems very steep to me considering a 25lb tub cost $300
  • Contractor 1: PCR Clean / HeatShield Masonry Repair $8,200
    • Including smoke chamber parging, top closing damper, crown repair
  • Contractor 1: PCR Clean / Stainless Steel Liner $10,145
    • Including smoke chamber parging, top closing damper, 10" insulated stainless steel liner, top/bottom plate, rain cap
  • Contractor 2: PCR Creosote Clean $1,200
  • Contractor 2: PCR Clean / HeatShield Masonry Repair $7,675
    • Including smoke chamber parging, top closing damper, crown repair
  • Contractor 2: Tile Removal / Stainless Steel Liner $6,700
    • Break up all existing flute tiles and remove
    • Including smoke chamber parging, top closing damper, 10" insulated stainless steel liner, top/bottom plate, rain cap
  • Contractor 3: Chain Clean / HeatShield Masonry Repair $3,770
    • Including smoke chamber parging, crown repair
    • This is a small company / older gent, but seems to be regarded as the most trustworthy of all the companies around
    • Not sure if the rotary chains will be sufficient
DIY OPTIONS
I am a fairly handy person, and I'm definitely not afraid of tackling large projects - however anything that involves fire safety I'd definitely rather err on the side of caution.
I think the only thing that I would not be able to do myself would be the cleaning/removal of the creosote - I don't think any self-burning solutions are going to remove the level/stage of creosote that I have now, so I think I'd have to at least pay $1,200-$1,300 for a PCR cleaning.
After that I think I could manage to install a stainless steel liner myself.
From what I've gathered online, I would want to do a smooth wall (better) 304L grade liner (believe 10"x10" to fit into my 11"x11" interior with the insulation), which I'm gathering should be approx $1,200 (rigid)-$2,400 (flex Rockford) - that'd definitely save me a good deal of money, but I guess only if I can do it correctly.

BIG QUESTIONS
  • Is HeatShield trust worthy? I hear super mixed reviews about its longevity, and all the repair quotes I've gotten use it - I don't want to save $1k doing HeatShield instead of stainless steel now only to have to replace it in ten years
  • How bad does the creosote look? I know theres no universal answer, but the first contractor said he wouldn't use it one bit until repaired or it would light up, the last contractor told me he'd seen this level used for a decade without any issue. I just don't get how bad of creosote this might be
  • Aside from the PCR cleaning, is installing a stainless steel liner as straight-forward as it seems? I've watching a few guides online, and aside from making sure you have the correct materials, it doesn't look to be that technically difficult

Thank you very much for taking the time to read through my situation and providing any insight you can - please let me know if there are any questions at all.
 

Attachments

  • Fireplace Pictures_Redacted.pdf
    4.5 MB · Views: 201

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
30,101
central pa
Is HeatShield trust worthy? I hear super mixed reviews about its longevity, and all the repair quotes I've gotten use it - I don't want to save $1k doing HeatShield instead of stainless steel now only to have to replace it in ten years
No it isn't.



How bad does the creosote look? I know theres no universal answer, but the first contractor said he wouldn't use it one bit until repaired or it would light up, the last contractor told me he'd seen this level used for a decade without any issue. I just don't get how bad of creosote this might be
It really doesn't look to bad I would chain clean it.


  • Aside from the PCR cleaning, is installing a stainless steel liner as straight-forward as it seems? I've watching a few guides online, and aside from making sure you have the correct materials, it doesn't look to be that technically difficult
For an open fireplace no it isn't. You need an 11" liner which means removing tiles. Then you need to tie it in at the bottom and parge the smoke chamber.
 

thehiggy

New Member
Nov 15, 2021
11
New York
No it isn't.




It really doesn't look to bad I would chain clean it.



For an open fireplace no it isn't. You need an 11" liner which means removing tiles. Then you need to tie it in at the bottom and parge the smoke chamber.
Thanks for your reply!

So you're saying that in order to fit a 11" liner with insulation (wrap?), I'd need to remove the existing tiles?
Are you aware if I could do a smaller size liner/insulation within the existing 11" x 11" (so not having to remove tiles)?
 

armanidog

Feeling the Heat
Jan 8, 2017
403
Northeast Georgia
You could install one of these and have a six inch insulated SS flu, which would be around 7.5 inches in diameter with the insulation. Not even worry about the chimney and parging the fireplace. It has fans to blow warm air around. Edit: Also you can get a tax rebate with a new stove above 75% efficiency. .
 

Ctwoodtick

Minister of Fire
Jun 5, 2015
1,780
Southeast CT
You could install one of these and have a six inch insulated SS flu, which would be around 7.5 inches in diameter with the insulation. Not even worry about the chimney and parging the fireplace. It has fans to blow warm air around. Edit: Also you can get a tax rebate with a new stove above 75% efficiency. .
You’d have to clean existing chimney though prior to install.
 

thehiggy

New Member
Nov 15, 2021
11
New York
@armanidog thanks for the link - i did check out wood burning inserts, but i'm hoping to keep it wood burning if possible as i like the ambiance and am not worried about heating costs (but if someone happens to know of an available-in-usa wood burning insert that can be used with door open, i'm all in)
 

Ctwoodtick

Minister of Fire
Jun 5, 2015
1,780
Southeast CT
Cleaning the chimney is not that expensive compared to the other costs required to use the chimney according to the report he attached. .
Right, I just didn’t want you to miss that step, as some might have.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
30,101
central pa
Thanks for your reply!

So you're saying that in order to fit a 11" liner with insulation (wrap?), I'd need to remove the existing tiles?
Are you aware if I could do a smaller size liner/insulation within the existing 11" x 11" (so not having to remove tiles)?
According to your fireplace opening size you need an 11" liner. Even if you went down to 10 which may work but is too small by the numbers so it's a risk there wouldn't be room for insulation.
 

Woebegone

Member
Sep 25, 2018
9
Milwaukee, WI
You’d have to clean existing chimney though prior to install.
If your installing the Ss liner and an insert, how “clean” is clean enough?

If your able to aggressively brush the clay, remove 100% of stage 3 creosote from the top 2-3 ft where it builds up as the flue cools, and brish/whip all loose creosote out of the smoke chamber, is some sort of chemical or abrasive treatment to eradicate stage 3 creosote in smoke chamber essential?

At some point it seems like it’s not in contact with the liner, and the chance of ignition (esp with an insulated liner) it seems next to impossible.

Just curious if there was a standard that has to be hit or if it’s a binary “get it all or it’s not safe” situation.
 

Ctwoodtick

Minister of Fire
Jun 5, 2015
1,780
Southeast CT
If your installing the Ss liner and an insert, how “clean” is clean enough?

If your able to aggressively brush the clay, remove 100% of stage 3 creosote from the top 2-3 ft where it builds up as the flue cools, and brish/whip all loose creosote out of the smoke chamber, is some sort of chemical or abrasive treatment to eradicate stage 3 creosote in smoke chamber essential?

At some point it seems like it’s not in contact with the liner, and the chance of ignition (esp with an insulated liner) it seems next to impossible.

Just curious if there was a standard that has to be hit or if it’s a binary “get it all or it’s not safe” situation.
I’m not a pro so I can’t answer your question with any authority.
That said, I would think that removing all stage 3 buildup is important.
Although one can never remove every particle of soot/creosote in the chimney, I would think the thing to shoot for is the least amount of dry soot left in the chimney as possible. Stage 3 stuff should be removed.
 

thehiggy

New Member
Nov 15, 2021
11
New York
Thanks for the helpful advice all!
I'm jumping back into focusing on this project now, so going to try and push myself to make a decision within the week.

I did decide that I was going to go with a wood insert - though I like the open burning fireplace, it just seems to make the most sense.
Currently I'm deciding between a few tax credit eligible models (notably Blaze King and Osburn)
It really doesn't look to bad I would chain clean it.
@bholler , as your opinion is held in such high regard in the forums - I did want to ask your opinion on cleaning / liner install.
I have research enough to know that obviously ideally you could completely clean out the old chimney from all creosote before installing a liner for an insert. I should note one of the main businesses I am looking at told me that no cleaning at all would be needed to install, so not sure how big of a red flag that is. Basically I'm trying to gauge exactly how necessary / to what degree the cleaning is.
I'm fairly handy, and from everything I've seen I think I should be able to install the liner/insert myself - I'm just not sure on the cleaning.
I know I'd be able to do some rotary brush cleaning myself, but from what I've been told it won't be very effective against the stage 3 creosote (pictures in my previous attached inspection report).
However getting PCR done is going to add $1,500-$2,000 just to clean (I know a drop in the bucket vs your house burning down, but trying to balance cost vs risk).
I believe I'll need a 6" liner, which I'm planning to insulate as well - I'm hoping that this will lessen the heat exposed to the old creosoted clay tiles.
 

EbS-P

Minister of Fire
Jan 19, 2019
3,511
SE North Carolina
Thanks for the helpful advice all!
I'm jumping back into focusing on this project now, so going to try and push myself to make a decision within the week.

I did decide that I was going to go with a wood insert - though I like the open burning fireplace, it just seems to make the most sense.
Currently I'm deciding between a few tax credit eligible models (notably Blaze King and Osburn)

@bholler , as your opinion is held in such high regard in the forums - I did want to ask your opinion on cleaning / liner install.
I have research enough to know that obviously ideally you could completely clean out the old chimney from all creosote before installing a liner for an insert. I should note one of the main businesses I am looking at told me that no cleaning at all would be needed to install, so not sure how big of a red flag that is. Basically I'm trying to gauge exactly how necessary / to what degree the cleaning is.
I'm fairly handy, and from everything I've seen I think I should be able to install the liner/insert myself - I'm just not sure on the cleaning.
I know I'd be able to do some rotary brush cleaning myself, but from what I've been told it won't be very effective against the stage 3 creosote (pictures in my previous attached inspection report).
However getting PCR done is going to add $1,500-$2,000 just to clean (I know a drop in the bucket vs your house burning down, but trying to balance cost vs risk).
I believe I'll need a 6" liner, which I'm planning to insulate as well - I'm hoping that this will lessen the heat exposed to the old creosoted clay tiles.
It needs cleaned. Any company not cleaning would be a red flag and I would not use them. Clean it as best you can and see what it looks like. You are lining so you can be more aggressive. Not need to break out tiles but if you crack one it not a big deal. Get creative. If you can’t get it all call in the pros but it absolutely needs well cleaned.
 
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thehiggy

New Member
Nov 15, 2021
11
New York
Thanks for the quick response @EbS-P , seems to make sense.
I'll wait for any other lingering opinions / info, but another question I forgot to ask:
Any thoughts if I should / need a fresh air intake as well?
The manufacturer direct website I'm looking at offers it as an option, but not sure if adding a 5" fresh air intake with the 6" (+insultation wrap) liner would be worth it crowding the current creosoted 11"x11" chimney.
I did have smoky smell / backdraft issues with negative house pressure the last year, but remedied with a 5" fresh air intake in the basement.
 

EbS-P

Minister of Fire
Jan 19, 2019
3,511
SE North Carolina
Thanks for the quick response @EbS-P , seems to make sense.
I'll wait for any other lingering opinions / info, but another question I forgot to ask:
Any thoughts if I should / need a fresh air intake as well?
The manufacturer direct website I'm looking at offers it as an option, but not sure if adding a 5" fresh air intake with the 6" (+insultation wrap) liner would be worth it crowding the current creosoted 11"x11" chimney.
I did have smoky smell / backdraft issues with negative house pressure the last year, but remedied with a 5" fresh air intake in the basement.
I think it’s only needed if your house is very tight. If the fireplace had good draft and no subs changes were made to seal the house or add venting appliances it probably would be fine without. But if it’s an easy install I don’t see any negatives as long as the intake is kept clear.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
30,101
central pa
Thanks for the helpful advice all!
I'm jumping back into focusing on this project now, so going to try and push myself to make a decision within the week.

I did decide that I was going to go with a wood insert - though I like the open burning fireplace, it just seems to make the most sense.
Currently I'm deciding between a few tax credit eligible models (notably Blaze King and Osburn)

@bholler , as your opinion is held in such high regard in the forums - I did want to ask your opinion on cleaning / liner install.
I have research enough to know that obviously ideally you could completely clean out the old chimney from all creosote before installing a liner for an insert. I should note one of the main businesses I am looking at told me that no cleaning at all would be needed to install, so not sure how big of a red flag that is. Basically I'm trying to gauge exactly how necessary / to what degree the cleaning is.
I'm fairly handy, and from everything I've seen I think I should be able to install the liner/insert myself - I'm just not sure on the cleaning.
I know I'd be able to do some rotary brush cleaning myself, but from what I've been told it won't be very effective against the stage 3 creosote (pictures in my previous attached inspection report).
However getting PCR done is going to add $1,500-$2,000 just to clean (I know a drop in the bucket vs your house burning down, but trying to balance cost vs risk).
I believe I'll need a 6" liner, which I'm planning to insulate as well - I'm hoping that this will lessen the heat exposed to the old creosoted clay tiles.
Anyone saying it doesn't need cleaned should be eliminated from consideration.

Chances are mechanical cleaning will work though . Worst case scenario removing the clay certainly will and will be cheaper than PCR
 
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stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
6,165
Long Island NY
Generally (though there are exceptions; but only if the manual explicitly says it's okay to do so) a fresh air intake should be going down, i.e. exit the home below the level of where it enters the stove.
In that case, the size of the flue does not really matter.