Inspection Assistance Needed - Possible Options

  • Active since 1995, Hearth.com is THE place on the internet for free information and advice about wood stoves, pellet stoves and other energy saving equipment.

    We strive to provide opinions, articles, discussions and history related to Hearth Products and in a more general sense, energy issues.

    We promote the EFFICIENT, RESPONSIBLE, CLEAN and SAFE use of all fuels, whether renewable or fossil.

yinpin

Burning Hunk
Jul 25, 2016
142
Kingsville, MD
I am hoping you can help me, well actually my brother. They purchased a house a few years ago and had some bootleg inspection done that provided no documentation of the issues. He and his wife are pay check to pay check and they have been getting killed every year during the winter on electricity because the house is full electric and the duct work is hit or miss as well. He is an introvert, does not hold a conversation well and fails to remember details when they matter. They have a fireplace in the main living room that could do well to heat the play room, living room, kitchen and flow heat directly upstairs. The fireplace had some kind of prefab thing going on and it is shot and has looked shot. Upon purchase of the home he was told he could use it and he has not. It looks like it was overused, run too hot and poorly maintained. I told him he needed to get a formal inspection by a certified chimney inspection company, which he finally did last week (NFPA Level 1).

The challenge is that they really didn't provide a lot of details on the inspection sheet in terms of what was in place or provide any insight on corrective action, the report only states that it should not be used. He was told by the inspector that they only option is to rebuild the entire chimney and fireplace for $15-20K or put an electric fireplace in. Well given their financial situation rebuilding for $15K is not an option and an electric fireplace does not necessarily reduce the electric bill, although I am sure that there could be some efficiencies gained.

I was hoping he could put a wood burning insert or stove in its place and run an insulated 6 inch stainless steel liner through the flue and put a new cap on the top. He may need some additional work on the top of the chimney as well but this could prove to be more manageable, especially if we are able to find a used insert for him or perhaps he can finance through a seller.

I have attached the redacted report to see if the brain trust could provide any more info? I did type up an email for him to send as a follow up to the inspection company so we can get some written recommendations of options and reasons why they suggest those options. I appreciate any thoughts or experiences, thank you!
 

Attachments

  • Inspection Report - Redacted.pdf
    1.6 MB · Views: 145
Based on the financial situation I think he would be best served to spend a little bit of money on caulk and insulation. I expect sealing that fireplace up will save a quite a lot. Seal up the damper, put some cheap insulation inside and seal off the front with a board or something. Will look janky but on a budget it will do. Go around the house and caulk every leak you can find. Might even consider the storm window film. Basically seal and insulate is the best method until funds are available. I would not use that fireplace under any circumstances. The truth is they suck more warm air out of the house then they return anyway.
 
Based on the financial situation I think he would be best served to spend a little bit of money on caulk and insulation. I expect sealing that fireplace up will save a quite a lot. Seal up the damper, put some cheap insulation inside and seal off the front with a board or something. Will look janky but on a budget it will do. Go around the house and caulk every leak you can find. Might even consider the storm window film. Basically seal and insulate is the best method until funds are available. I would not use that fireplace under any circumstances. The truth is they suck more warm air out of the house then they return anyway.
I have suggested that he stuff that thing full of insulation and seal it up for now. There is no intention of using the existing fireplace as an open burning fireplace. I just am not sure why we could not do an insert and liner within the existing structure.
 
I was hoping he could put a wood burning insert or stove in its place and run an insulated 6 inch stainless steel liner through the flue and put a new cap on the top. He may need some additional work on the top of the chimney as well but this could prove to be more manageable, especially if we are able to find a used insert for him or perhaps he can finance through a seller.
I don't think this is an option. Not only is the fireplace rusted out, but it doesn't qualify for an insert.

One option would be to tear out the ZC fireplace and chimney, replace the chase cap, and install a freestanding stove with a new class A chimney.
Another would be to replace the old ZC with a new, more efficient EPA ZC, new chimney, and chase cap.
Another would be to install a freestanding stove in another location and seal up the entire top of the chase to stop further degradation.
Another would be to install a mini-split system to reduce heating costs significantly. There are some good installation credits to make this fairly low cost depending on their income.
 
I don't think this is an option. Not only is the fireplace rusted out, but it doesn't qualify for an insert.

One option would be to tear out the ZC fireplace and chimney, replace the chase cap, and install a freestanding stove with a new class A chimney.
Another would be to replace the old ZC with a new, more efficient EPA ZC, new chimney, and chase cap.
Another would be to install a freestanding stove in another location and seal up the entire top of the chase to stop further degradation.
Another would be to install a mini-split system to reduce heating costs significantly. There are some good installation credits to make this fairly low cost depending on their income.

Similarly,
you could consider a used pellet stove and go right out a wall with and use a cheap hearth pad under it. Pellets aren't the cheapest thing in the world but depending on how expensive the electric bill is it could be an option.
 
Similarly,
you could consider a used pellet stove and go right out a wall with and use a cheap hearth pad under it. Pellets aren't the cheapest thing in the world but depending on how expensive the electric bill is it could be an option.
Yes, that option is worth exploring if they have the skills to deal with one. If the fule is expensive and they have to hire out the maintenance then it may not be a bargain.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Shank
Yes, that option is worth exploring if they have the skills to deal with one. If they have to hire out the maintenance then it may not be a bargain.
Certainly. They are not maintenance free but if any mechanical ability is there they aren't a big issue.
 
Beyond the fireplace issues, see if the State or Electic company will do a Home Energy Audit. Many times these are Free and they will actually fix minor things on the spot. Then saving can be put towards fixing the FP.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Shank
Certainly. They are not maintenance free but if any mechanical ability is there they aren't a big issue.
It depends on the make and model and whether buying used or new. Some are better than others. All require regular cleaning.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Shank
I am hoping you can help me, well actually my brother. They purchased a house a few years ago and had some bootleg inspection done that provided no documentation of the issues. He and his wife are pay check to pay check and they have been getting killed every year during the winter on electricity because the house is full electric and the duct work is hit or miss as well. He is an introvert, does not hold a conversation well and fails to remember details when they matter. They have a fireplace in the main living room that could do well to heat the play room, living room, kitchen and flow heat directly upstairs. The fireplace had some kind of prefab thing going on and it is shot and has looked shot. Upon purchase of the home he was told he could use it and he has not. It looks like it was overused, run too hot and poorly maintained. I told him he needed to get a formal inspection by a certified chimney inspection company, which he finally did last week (NFPA Level 1).

The challenge is that they really didn't provide a lot of details on the inspection sheet in terms of what was in place or provide any insight on corrective action, the report only states that it should not be used. He was told by the inspector that they only option is to rebuild the entire chimney and fireplace for $15-20K or put an electric fireplace in. Well given their financial situation rebuilding for $15K is not an option and an electric fireplace does not necessarily reduce the electric bill, although I am sure that there could be some efficiencies gained.

I was hoping he could put a wood burning insert or stove in its place and run an insulated 6 inch stainless steel liner through the flue and put a new cap on the top. He may need some additional work on the top of the chimney as well but this could prove to be more manageable, especially if we are able to find a used insert for him or perhaps he can finance through a seller.

I have attached the redacted report to see if the brain trust could provide any more info? I did type up an email for him to send as a follow up to the inspection company so we can get some written recommendations of options and reasons why they suggest those options. I appreciate any thoughts or experiences, thank you!
Based upon your description of your bro and his wife, I don't think heating with wood is going to be his thing.

Far too much effort for someone who is not enthusiastic about the work involved. Even if you did all the work (or paid someone else) to get a wood burning appliance installed, and provided them all the wood for free, just the work involved with carrying wood, keeping the stove fed, and the day to day maintenance would likey end up not being worth the effort for someone who doesn't specifically choose the lifestyle for themselves.

I like your idea and the desire to help your family, good stuff. Burning wood for heat is only appealing to a select group of folks. Can't turn someone into one of those people, unless they are already there, or on the way.

Save yourself the future frustration and heartbreak, and perhaps there's some other way to help keep them warm. Insulation, sealing, and a mini split would all fit the bill.
 
  • Like
Reactions: TheElementalCashew
You say full electric so I'm guessing heat pump with electric auxiliary. As someone mentioned an energy audit might be free and the state Department of Energy will have info on some of the new tax credits for high efficiency heat pumps and water heaters. fixing the duct work would be #1 as you're still going to use the heat/AC system so it might as well be right. I just converted to a dual fuel heat pump package unit and so far I'm pleased with it's performance and what my bills have been. I do use wood but our temperature swings are crazy so there are a lot of days I don't light the stove because it's too warm but the heat is still needed at night.
 
Thank you for all of the replies and I appreciate the assistance in helping think this through. He does burn and split wood for the fire pit at his house but I could see that being aggressive as a primary winter heat source and has expressed that he would like to burn wood as a supplement since we do have access to wood at our hunting spots and he could/has borrowed my splitter.

I like the pellet stove idea because he or his wife could both manage filling the hopper (Not sure she would stuff a stove) and he has a place to store a pallet of pellets. Cleaning the stove and pipe would be something he would have to learn to do or hire out potentially but the cost of pellets could be high from what I have read. Tearing out the Zero Clearance fireplace and putting in a stove in its place could be an option too....would need to get some estimates.

But First.....I am in favor of trying to schedule a home efficiency audit to see if there are savings that can be made up in other places. No sense heating a house only to have 50% of the heat escape through other areas. Ultimately he will have to decide and do some additional research to make this all work. Thank you for some great ideas!
 
You say full electric so I'm guessing heat pump with electric auxiliary. As someone mentioned an energy audit might be free and the state Department of Energy will have info on some of the new tax credits for high efficiency heat pumps and water heaters. fixing the duct work would be #1 as you're still going to use the heat/AC system so it might as well be right. I just converted to a dual fuel heat pump package unit and so far I'm pleased with it's performance and what my bills have been. I do use wood but our temperature swings are crazy so there are a lot of days I don't light the stove because it's too warm but the heat is still needed at night.
When I read it iI figured electric baseboard.