seeking advice about chimney lining

Questions and answers relating to houses built in the 1800s and before.

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Ted
Posts: 4
Joined: Thu May 04, 2006 5:59 pm

seeking advice about chimney lining

Post by Ted »

New forum member here, about to purchase 1852 all-brick two-story farmhouse. Very excited, but also very grateful for all the terrific info shared....thank you! Am feeling lucky that many of the biggest problems I read about here are not an issue because it IS so old.....i.e., there's no existing electricity or plumbing to deal with, and instead that'll for most part all be housed in attached new wing which historic renovation architect has cleverly designed. (Don't worry, I'm sure I'll have plenty of my own unique war stories to share on the forum over the next couple of years!)

Biggest restoration issue, naturally, is the masonry. House (apparently never restored or re-muddled before) is actually in impressively good shape, but the mortar (original, possibly?) crumbles to dust when scraped at, so will require 100% repointing. Also, a few other brick repairs needed here & there, pretty minor, really --- biggest, perhaps, is rebuilding top 3 feet or so of both chimneys. After getting proposal from historic masonry contractor for almost $100,000 for a two-story house that's 20' x 30', and doing the math, I say "whoa". Comes out to about $2,450 per day for two months, for 3-man crew including materials (need I mention, the bricks are already there)! I know he's competent; that's certainly not the issue; I just can't help but feel like he's trying to gouge me 'cause it's a Historic Landmark. And I resent that. So I've been doing lotsa research and realize there's no reason I can't learn to repoint myself, using the proper lime-based mortar.

Here's my chimney question: it appears there are two ways to make chimneys usable & safe: (1) install stainless-steel flexible liner [can be D-I-Y], or (2) have special concrete-like material poured around inflatable, removable rubber 'sausage' [not a D-I-Y project].

Anybody out there have advice to share about which is better way to go? Thanks in advance!

kec01
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Location: Oak Park, IL
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Post by kec01 »

Here's my experience - In St. Paul, MN, our house was a 2 story 4-square. The chimney was brick and had 2 flues running up it, one from the furnace and one for the fireplace. The 2 flues were virtually touching. In order to have a flue for a wood burning fire, we would have had to remove brick midway up the outside of the chimney, then break up the pieces of the fireplace flue and rebuild it. However, because the 2 flues were almost touching, the restoration fellow said that the odds were high that the chimney flue would also break in the process (both flues were made of 2 ft long pieces of terra cotta tile, mortared together). Then through the outside opening and also from inside the living room, they would reline the smoke chamber which is between the flue and the firebox. We needed the smoke chamber relined as the parging had crumbled off in chunks from it's walls. Our estimate was to rebuild both flues with a compacted volcanic ash product, to reline the smoke chamber and then use the old brick to close up the hole in the chimney. We had already had our firebox tuckpointed for $500 (I think that was the amount). The estimate we received for the flue/smoke chamber was $7500 and it was given in the fall of 2003. We didn't get the work done that fall, and ended up moving in the fall of 04 so the work was never done. We had other companies out and were told by all that just dropping a metal liner would not provide the heat protection needed. The estimate I've described was also high because of the 2 flues and because we were concerned with restoring the chimney brick so that it didn't look patched. Yes, we about gagged when we got the estimate but for that chimney, we really wouldn't have had a choice. I would definitely get a few estimates and spend some internet time learning about fireplace and chimney construction.

and.... If your flue is original, it is very likely built of 2 ft long pieces of clay tile that were mortared together. Your risk is that the mortar has crumbled and is gone, leaving gaps between each piece of tile and between the bricks of the smoke chamber and/or firebox. If you have a woodburning fire and sparks go up the chimney, those sparks will possibly find their way through the gaps in the tiles/bricks and will get into the wood framing of your house. You didn't mention if you have a chimney cap in your original post. If you don't, then rain and other weather elements have probably continued to worsen the mortar and parging.

If we had the funds at the time, we would definitely have gone with the flue rebuild, not the metal liner. We're fireplace using people and the risk of a house fire from stray sparks just isn't worth it to us.

Hope this helps.

HouseMouse
Posts: 262
Joined: Sat Mar 04, 2006 12:08 am
Location: New England

Post by HouseMouse »

Call your local state chimney inspector. Someone like that can give you a free estimate/inspection and outline your options (which is what he did for us, and a history lesson as well!). There are so many chimney charlatans out there, you really must beware. Don't scrimp on something flammable. :)
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HB
Posts: 1645
Joined: Wed Dec 10, 2003 12:24 pm
Location: Reading - PA

Post by HB »

Actually for a house built in 1852 there would most likely NOT be any flue liner. It would have just been laid up with brick all the way up.

I would say that the Stainless Steel liner would be the way to go. The bigggest reason is that it's reversible. Anyone restoring a house should do it to their liking, but any work that you do really should be reversible so that nothing is ruined for future generations of owners.

We had 2 stainless steel liners installed in our chimney so that the fireplace and furnace could share the chimney. The contractor backfilled the chimney with an insulative material to further isolate the flues from each other. This eliminates the chance of any sparks getting into the void space within the chimney and coming into contact with any wood in the building structure.

If the poured liner develops any problems or cracks, how do you fix that? Do you have to dissassemble the chimney and break it out of there?

Our system can be removed with a shop vac and some simple tools.

Good Luck!

HB

Don M
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Joined: Mon Dec 08, 2003 11:35 am
Location: Boiling Springs, PA

Post by Don M »

All good information but I agree with HB; my house is also an 1840s vintage, no tiles in the two side chimneys. Those are in good shape so I had them cleaned and installed chimney caps. The third chimney is huge, has the boiler flue and a monster walk-in fireplace which was bricked up and a thimble for a wood stove installed. I had stainless liners installed in both flues plus chimney caps. Don

houblon
Posts: 62
Joined: Thu Oct 06, 2005 8:25 pm

Post by houblon »

A lot of good info can be found in the hearthnet forum:

http://www.hearth.com/econtent/index.php/forums/

B

Starr-Point
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Post by Starr-Point »

I agree with HB and Don as well. If I ever want the stainless liners out, or they fail, it's a simple process to remove them. A poured liner is permanent, and makes demo of a brick chimney much more labor-intensive.
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kec01
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Joined: Mon Feb 20, 2006 10:47 pm
Location: Oak Park, IL
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Post by kec01 »

I fully agree with HouseMouse - call your local chimney inspector and learn your options. If it were me, I wouldn't risk a house fire to save a few bucks.

sarakay
Posts: 38
Joined: Fri Jan 27, 2006 3:46 pm

Post by sarakay »

Biggest restoration issue, naturally, is the masonry. House (apparently never restored or re-muddled before) is actually in impressively good shape, but the mortar (original, possibly?) crumbles to dust when scraped at, so will require 100% repointing. Also, a few other brick repairs needed here & there, pretty minor, really --- biggest, perhaps, is rebuilding top 3 feet or so of both chimneys. After getting proposal from historic masonry contractor for almost $100,000 for a two-story house that's 20' x 30', and doing the math, I say "whoa". Comes out to about $2,450 per day for two months, for 3-man crew including materials (need I mention, the bricks are already there)!
This may be "apples and oranges," but I had my 42' x 42' one story brick house in western PA repointed with historically correct mortar, by a mason with plenty of historical restoration experience and a great reputation, for $17K. That price included repairing one chimney and building a cap for it out of mortar. 2 or 3 guys completed the work in about a week. Of course my old mortar may have been in better shape than yours, but probably not since it was 150 years old and had been subjected to paint and vines as well as to weather. Masons who can do this work are hard to find but it might be worthwhile to seek out other estimates.

Sara

oldsch
Posts: 27
Joined: Wed Apr 05, 2006 2:00 pm

Post by oldsch »

About repointing from http://www.stastier.com

"Often much of the old lime mortar raked out is sound and could, with advantage, have been left in place. Today’s builder expects mortar to be strong, hard, dense and cement rich. Strength is perceived to be a prerequisite and soft lime mortars are often removed in the belief that the softness is a sign of failure. In other instances, entire elevations are re-pointed to provide a uniform color, rather than re-pointing defective joints with a suitable and compatible mortar.
It is essential that all pointing is carried out to match previously approved samples. This will remove any tendency for artistic licence on the part of the builder. The finish achieved on mortar joints can have a dramatic effect on the performance and visual appearance of the completed work, although this is often not immediately realised, sometimes only being condemned after the scaffold has been taken down and the full visual impact becomes apparent."

Repointing yourself is a great idea, you'd have to pay someone $200,000 to be as careful as you can/will be.
BUT, you may not need to do the entire building, lime mortar is suppose to be very soft and the color can be matched. It is easier for a contractor to replace evertything but you can fiddle around, get the color perfect and just do where the mortar is missing. You could test it on the new chimney tops. By the way my vote would be for stainless liners w/ a non-permanent fill isulation.

In short... don't put in what ya can't take out and don't take out whats already in... or something like that... good luck

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