Need some confirmation

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htr2133

Member
Nov 2, 2016
19
Nashville, TN
Just closed in Sept. on our forever home and are remodeling to move in over the next couple weeks. One of the things we were so excited about was the older wood insert in lower level (split foyer hone) and the open fireplace upstairs. These two chimneys share the same exterior brick chimney but have separate clay-flue chimneys within it.

Before I moved in and finished remodel clean-up I wanted both chimneys inspected and cleaned. I was sure discouraged by the chimney sweep today. I've been recently burned by contractors and I can't shake the feeling I'm being sold a bunch of stuff I don't need. The company I used is well-respected (20+ years) and highly reviewed in my area. But, the guy immediately (before looking really) starts by telling me I should probably not use the wood stove insert. He proceeds to check things out and confirms his initial statement. He explained the insert was not properly installed. There is no connection from top of insert to anything. The insert has a smaller rectangle damper on top that sits below the original fireplace damper, which is still in place and open. He starts pulling some creosote from on top of the stove through the stove damper. At that point he says he doesn't feel comfortable cleaning that chimney or pulling the insert to clean anything bc it should not be used. He states there is too much liability on the company and reiterates the stove is dangerous to use. He said he would look more on the roof though.

He goes upstairs to open fireplace and checks the fireplace out which looks much better. Points out a few minor firebox repairs and proceeds to the roof.

Once on the roof, he proclaims the wood stove insert chimney to be totally shot. Says there is no point in running the camera through that chimney or cleaning it, a waste of my money. Claims he is trying to save me from paying for a cleaning or inspection service for that chimney and says I just need to replace the wood stove and install a class-a stainless liner. He did not charge me for any service related to the stove chimney in the end.

He goes on to say that my upstairs fireplace chimney has some minor damage to top flue joint he can see but wants to run the video camera up the rest to confirm. I watched the whole video; that chimney was extremely clean and he said so. He did point out and I saw several flue joints with some missing mortar and gaps. We concluded and the seller confirmed later that the flues were open for many, many years with no flue-caps. We think water intrusion caused the mortar joints between flue-tiles to fail in several places. The concrete chimney cap is also cracked in several places and I saw his pics of that. So, I don't doubt water intrusion could have caused the mortar damage. The seller confirmed also later that she hadn't had the chimneys cleaned in 10-15 years and hadn't used either since she had the last cleaning when the current chimney flue-caps were installed.

So, I've been starting to research and trying to confirm everything he is saying. I would love some thoughts from those of you who have been through this. Or especially if there are any chimney specialists on here. By the time he left, he was saying neither chimney is operational. Recommends a liner in both, replace the wood stove downstairs and coating the smoke-chamber for the fireplace as well.

It is just hard to swallow. The seller is a friend and I know they used both up till 10-15 years ago with no issues. I can't tell if I should do these repairs or if I would be fine to use these. Having seen the fireplace chimney, it does not need to be cleaned. The mortar joints were the only real flaw. Since he didn't run the video or pull the stove out, I could not visually confirm his reports of the chimney damage for the stove chimney.

Thoughts? Concerns? Next Steps?

Lastly, is it normal to instal standard class-a stainless pipe as a liner for the "new" wood stove insert? That seemed odd to me; I thought most liners were the flexible type.

Thanks!
 

clancey

Minister of Fire
Feb 26, 2021
2,314
Colorado
I am an old woman with no experience and just lite my stove for the first time in Oct with a lot of help and encouragement from this forum...If I were you with my instinct and what he says I would say is correct just by making a uneducated judgement about the situation...I am so glad that you joined this forum for you took the right step in my judgement..This will all be addressed so just be patient and take pictures of what kind of stoves you have and the fireplace or whatever set ups that would be valuable for the forum members judgments about the situation...But I would at this point believe your stove man and most certainly not light any fires for your safety and the safety of your family,,, In the meanwhile if you intend someday to use those stoves seek out some wood to burn for in burning you need seasoned wood that is dry so as not to create any creosote in your stoves and you could get a moisture meter as well to measure the moisture in your wood..It takes a few years to season wood for burning..., but maybe in your area they sell seasoned wood that is really seasoned--this would be a good start and locate your wood products.. old mrs clancey
 
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ABMax24

Minister of Fire
Sep 18, 2019
1,443
Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada
Doesn't sound real out of line. If that insert is a slammer (which it sounds like it is) then I think he is justified in telling you not to use it, they're not safe and don't meet code in Canada, and I'm not sure if they do anymore in the US either. It sucks spending money, but a wood burning appliance is probably the place to do it in the name of safety, a bad install could cost more than a burnt down house.

The class a is intriguing, unless he intends to bust out the tile liner and replace with class a because it would be cheaper than cleaning that flue and running a liner.
 
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armanidog

Feeling the Heat
Jan 8, 2017
394
Northeast Georgia
I would not use the chimney or stove.
There are rigid SS flue liners.
You will need to repair the chimney top or it will keep deteriorating .
You can get a second opinion but it does not sound good. After 10 years of no chimney cleaning I'll bet the chimney is full of creosote.
When a stove vents into a larger chimney flu the smoke cools down and creosote is deposited.
Since this a new house for you, I suggest cleaning the chimney and fixing the chimney cap this year. Then the next year or two could be spent setting up a new stove and SS liner.
 

kennyp2339

Minister of Fire
Feb 16, 2014
6,532
07462
Its not uncommon to see direct connects from old setups, did they work? yes, was it a bear to clean? you bet, once you clean the chimney you essentially have to pull out the insert to clean all the chimney crud that just fell behind it, very labor intensive, and depending on whether it was a slammer or direct connect the sweep due to changes in code cannot re-install the unit as is.
As far as fixes - insulated stainless steel liners are the fix, insulation is needed due to the mortar deterioration / cracks in the flue. As long as the insert isnt rotted out, cracked, or warped you dont need to replace it, you may want to because technology has made these units light years better as far as efficiency, operation, and cleanliness.
 

Ctwoodtick

Minister of Fire
Jun 5, 2015
1,654
Southeast CT
To be honest, this stove guy may have saved you a lot of big problems in the future. Unless he’s literally making things up about the condition of things, what he says sounds reasonable. You’re friend the seller, along with many other people, can unbeknownst to them be doing something that is seriously incorrect. Happens all the time. Totally sucks having an unexpected expense like this, but your stove guy seems accurate about what he said. Class A chimney would not go inside a masonry chimney to my knowledge. A stainless flex liner (insulated) would.
The pros on here will provide you more technical info on your questions though .
 

EbS-P

Minister of Fire
Jan 19, 2019
2,214
SE North Carolina
We had a similar experience when we bought our house. From what you described our two flues were in better shape. We Resigned to no not burn the basement as the space was not used at the time and the upstairs we install three 5kBTU ethanol burners. It was the cheapest safe way to see fire. Time went on finances changed. A hurricane dropped 5 cords of wood in my yard and we ended up with a wood stove vented through an insulated liner upstairs. More time passed and we are now using the basement more I just installed an insert with insulated liner.

Thinking back fireplaces just weren’t at the top of my list of things to address. It took 8 years for the first and 11 years to get the insert. I’ve spent more money on the house than I should have. I’ll get it back at some point. But the 8k$ of wood heating appliances were/are definitely a splurge and likely to never be recouped. Especially in the south.
 
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htr2133

Member
Nov 2, 2016
19
Nashville, TN
Doesn't sound real out of line. If that insert is a slammer (which it sounds like it is) then I think he is justified in telling you not to use it, they're not safe and don't meet code in Canada, and I'm not sure if they do anymore in the US either. It sucks spending money, but a wood burning appliance is probably the place to do it in the name of safety, a bad install could cost more than a burnt down house.

The class a is intriguing, unless he intends to bust out the tile liner and replace with class a because it would be cheaper than cleaning that flue and running a liner.
Thanks, he did mention busting out the clay tiles, but the estimate I eventually received mentions a flex stainless liner.
 

htr2133

Member
Nov 2, 2016
19
Nashville, TN
I would not use the chimney or stove.
There are rigid SS flue liners.
You will need to repair the chimney top or it will keep deteriorating .
You can get a second opinion but it does not sound good. After 10 years of no chimney cleaning I'll bet the chimney is full of creosote.
When a stove vents into a larger chimney flu the smoke cools down and creosote is deposited.
Since this a new house for you, I suggest cleaning the chimney and fixing the chimney cap this year. Then the next year or two could be spent setting up a new stove and SS liner.
I'm definitely going to have the cap repaired immediately and have a few mortar joints tuck pointed and waterproofing applied.

The quote I got back seems outrageous. 10k for the exterior chimney cap, very light tuck pointing and waterproofing + a liner and parging (sp?) the smoke chamber.
 

htr2133

Member
Nov 2, 2016
19
Nashville, TN
That is exactly what I tell people who call me in to work on a slammer. I can't touch it unless I am actually fixing it
"slammer" meaning an insert "slammed" into a fireplace opening and trim kit installed? Mine has no connection at all to the bottom of the flue. I measured today actually, the top of my insert damper opening is almost 12 inches below the fireplace damper. Is that a "slammer" install?
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
28,154
central pa
"slammer" meaning an insert "slammed" into a fireplace opening and trim kit installed? Mine has no connection at all to the bottom of the flue. I measured today actually, the top of my insert damper opening is almost 12 inches below the fireplace damper. Is that a "slammer" install?
Yes that is a slammer install
 

htr2133

Member
Nov 2, 2016
19
Nashville, TN
I am attempting to post some of the pics the sweep sent with inspection report and estimates. Pics from inside the flue are of the open fireplace on main level. Of the two, that is supposedly the better condition flue. I say supposedly bc we didn't run a camera through it.

c89c3e81-84c3-430e-b0f4-7c6448dd5923_cdv_photo_009.jpg f5a4cce1-5a66-429e-9c45-4f9be650923d_cdv_photo_001.jpg f0f49a8a-4424-45d9-b302-1d7fd93159f8_cdv_photo_005.jpg af2f9ac7-5581-4f31-801a-5670c85d5f49_cdv_photo_014.jpg 33b34075-eda8-45ac-bc9d-d3e2a216610a_cdv_photo_001.jpg d1568425-deb1-489d-a765-102a4c169641_cdv_photo_008.jpg
 

Rickb

Minister of Fire
Oct 24, 2012
1,190
St.Louis
There are 3 types of insert installs.

Slammer: Insert just thrown into a fireplace. (cheap, easy, but bad and almost uncleanable with out removing the insert)
Direct connect: Insert thrown into a fireplace with a stub of chimney going into the chimney with a blockoff plate to keep side draft down and reverse draft from killing you.(Again cheap, less easy and again bad. Very hard to clean. Draft is not great.)
Full install: Insert is installed into a fireplace with a full stainless liner from stove to cap.(More expensive, depending on the chimney can be hard to install or easy, draft is good, and usually easy to clean.)
 
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htr2133

Member
Nov 2, 2016
19
Nashville, TN
I've called and spoken with two other local, certified chimney companies; all have verified based on what I've explained that the first company was going about things correctly. Each company was eager to see the inspection reports and pictures and quickly offered to estimate the work. I have been careful not to disclose the price quoted by the first company. I have sent over the inspection reports and all the pics by email and am awaiting estimates from the other two companies.

I was quoted $9,900 for installing a flexible stainless liner, chimney cap repair, wash, waterproofing, tuck-pointing, and install of a Ventis HEI170 w blower and appropriate trim-out kit. Also includes a custom-fabricated, powder-coated stainless steel chase cover.

This seems high to me and I was prepared for it to be expensive....I thought. How does this compare for those who have had similar installs and work completed?

Thanks!
 

armanidog

Feeling the Heat
Jan 8, 2017
394
Northeast Georgia
Looking around I see the Ventis is about $2500, the liner will be around $1500-2000 with a cap and connector (how tall is the chimney?). Labor will be a big part of the remainder. They will probably have to grind out part of the old mortar on the chimney and then apply new mortar. The old cap will be removed and a new one poured. They may have to cut out the old damper to get the new liner through the throat of chimney. And the old liner will need to be cleaned to remove any creosote. The man hours add up.
Anyway, see what the other bids will be and hopefully someone here will have a similar job done recently.
 

htr2133

Member
Nov 2, 2016
19
Nashville, TN
Looking around I see the Ventis is about $2500, the liner will be around $1500-2000 with a cap and connector (how tall is the chimney?). Labor will be a big part of the remainder. They will probably have to grind out part of the old mortar on the chimney and then apply new mortar. The old cap will be removed and a new one poured. They may have to cut out the old damper to get the new liner through the throat of chimney. And the old liner will need to be cleaned to remove any creosote. The man hours add up.
Anyway, see what the other bids will be and hopefully someone here will have a similar job done recently.
You are correct, they are including all that you mentioned as well.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
92,764
South Puget Sound, WA
You are getting good and timely advice. Did the new stainless liner include insulation? It must be insulated.
 

htr2133

Member
Nov 2, 2016
19
Nashville, TN
Really appreciate the advice and community on this site! I've continued searching new terms I've learned like "slammer" "direct connect" and the make of my insert. I've learned a lot. I'm going to try to sum it up here to help some other newb like me:

-My old insert is simply slid into fireplace aka a "slammer".
-Illegal to install this way today...read dangerous.
-I could probably find an adapter for the top of my insert to connect and run a pipe to my flue liner, which is referred to as "direct connect". -Direct connect install is better than slammer install, but not nearly as safe as a connected full liner.

-This is where things start to break down financially though imo for someone in my situation. To get the correct pipe through the throat and my existing fireplace damper, I would have to cut out part of the metal damper (labor cost).
-To do this and keep my insert, I really need an 8-inch insulated liner, but in many cases like mine, that won't fit in my existing liner, so now you are talking about removing your clay flue tiles (labor cost again).
-It all starts to add up and in the end, I still have a less efficient insert than a modern insert and it is difficult to clean.

-It completely makes sense to me know why the sweep co mostly advise folks in my case to upgrade to a modern insert, which will accept in many cases a 6-inch insulated liner that WILL fit in my existing flue and install it in such a way that I can clean it without pulling the insert.

-The price to replace your old slammer or direct connect insert with a 2020 EPA approved insert, insulated liner, labor, etc. is not cheap! If you are expecting to pay a few hundred $ for an inspection and sweep and then you get an estimate for this; it can be jarring. Especially if you need exterior chimney repairs as well like a crown repair, tuck-poinint, flashing repairs, new caps, etc. In my research many people in my situation (buying a new home) also need some of these things done in addition to upgrading the insert and chimney system.
-That is why I balked, started researching and getting opinions on here and from other local certified sweeps, and I am still getting additional quotes.

I'm well aware some folks can DIY all of this and save lots of $.

Hope this helps someone!
 
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