$4,400 Chimney Repair - Does This Make Sense?

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Small Law Survivor
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$4,400 Chimney Repair - Does This Make Sense?

Post by Small Law Survivor »

I had a reputable chimney company come to my 40 year old, oil-heated house outside Boston today, to give me a quote on chimney caps. The guy was very personable, very willing to discuss my chimneys and willing to inspect my chimneys while he was here. He seemed like a very knowledgeable, straight-shooter.

When he examined the flu leading out of our oil burner in the basement he said that the terra cotta panels were in very bad shape - many of them had fallen out. He tried to show me this using his extendable mirror, but I had trouble making sense of what he was showing me. However, I have no reason to disbelieve him - he seemed very credible, and his company has a good reputation in this area, at least on Angie's List.

He said that this was a potentially dangerous situation, since the gases from the burner could leak into the fireplace (that flu backs up to the boiler flu), and the missing tiles are in line with that fireplace. When I asked him to give me his "urgency" rating on repairing this on a scale of 1-10, his answer was "8,9 or 10."

Cost of installing stainless steel liner: $4,500 plus tax.

Does this make sense? I've been living in this house for 25 years, and I do get the chimney swept every five years or so - the last time the chimney sweep didn't mention this issue. This is a big expense - if I have to incur it, I will. But if I don't, or there is another alternative, I would like to know that.

Thanks in advance for any thoughts or observations.
Last edited by Small Law Survivor on Mon Jul 30, 2018 4:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
69 yrs, semi-retired lawyer, 50/40/10 s/b/c, 70/30 dom/int'l. Plan: 4% WR until age 70, 3% after social security kicks in. Boglehead since day 1 (and M* Diehard before that) under various other names
BIGal
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Re: $4,400 Chimney Repair - Does This Makes Sense?

Post by BIGal »

The "urgency rating" may indeed be that high WHEN you are using your chimney for heating OR if you have another gas appliance (water heater) that vents into the same flue. My suggestion would be to get a second and maybe a third estimate. I too would find it curious that your chimney sweep didn't bring this to your attention unless he was only cleaning the fireplace flue. Another thought would be to have whoever services your furnace take a look and offer his advice. Maybe there is another alternative rather than stainless steel for a liner. Good luck.
BIGal
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Re: $4,400 Chimney Repair - Does This Makes Sense?

Post by BIGal »

One additional suggestion. Make sure you have working carbon monoxide detectors in your home.
elisa
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Re: $4,400 Chimney Repair - Does This Makes Sense?

Post by elisa »

Agree with advice about getting additional estimates. For comparison in 2016 I paid $2000 for 25 feet of 6" stainless steel liner and components in the Boston area. This repair was done prior to replacement of 30+ year gas-fired heating system.
theplayer11
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Re: $4,400 Chimney Repair - Does This Makes Sense?

Post by theplayer11 »

seems very high imo.
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Re: $4,400 Chimney Repair - Does This Makes Sense?

Post by Small Law Survivor »

BIGal wrote: Mon Jul 30, 2018 3:35 pm The "urgency rating" may indeed be that high WHEN you are using your chimney for heating OR if you have another gas appliance (water heater) that vents into the same flue. My suggestion would be to get a second and maybe a third estimate. I too would find it curious that your chimney sweep didn't bring this to your attention unless he was only cleaning the fireplace flue. Another thought would be to have whoever services your furnace take a look and offer his advice. Maybe there is another alternative rather than stainless steel for a liner. Good luck.
Yes, the urgency is for heating season, which sadly is just around the corner here. We'll probably have heat on from time to time starting in late Sept.
69 yrs, semi-retired lawyer, 50/40/10 s/b/c, 70/30 dom/int'l. Plan: 4% WR until age 70, 3% after social security kicks in. Boglehead since day 1 (and M* Diehard before that) under various other names
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Re: $4,400 Chimney Repair - Does This Makes Sense?

Post by Small Law Survivor »

elisa wrote: Mon Jul 30, 2018 3:48 pm Agree with advice about getting additional estimates. For comparison in 2016 I paid $2000 for 25 feet of 6" stainless steel liner and components in the Boston area. This repair was done prior to replacement of 30+ year gas-fired heating system.
Hmm ... not sure what the length of this flu is, and the chimney sweep didn't mention this. However, I would make a guess and say that its at least 25', maybe more. Could you DM me and let me know who you used to do your job?
69 yrs, semi-retired lawyer, 50/40/10 s/b/c, 70/30 dom/int'l. Plan: 4% WR until age 70, 3% after social security kicks in. Boglehead since day 1 (and M* Diehard before that) under various other names
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Re: $4,400 Chimney Repair - Does This Make Sense?

Post by lthenderson »

At least in my neck of the woods, lots of people are ditching using chimneys as vents for various combustion producing things and opting to just directly vent out the side of the house. Sometimes you get lucky if their is enough rise and can just run a pipe but if not, they have power vents that can push it just about any direction you can imagine.
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Re: $4,400 Chimney Repair - Does This Make Sense?

Post by iamlucky13 »

I would hazard to guess that most likely situation is the furnace will generate enough draft, and the carbon monoxide infiltration rate will be low enough that it is not a problem, BUT...

...I don't know of a simple way to establish that as fact for your specific chimney, rather than as conjecture. Basically, what your chimney guy is saying sounds credible at face. I think it might be a low probability, but high severity situation, so it should be taken seriously.

What remedy is he proposing? Repairing the existing flue liner, running a stainless steel flex liner up it, or something else? I could see that cost for the former, but not the latter unless it required significant work to prepare the flue to fit flex liner in it, such as removing the rest of the terra cotta.

For a project of this price, it is definitely warranted to get 2-3 quotes.

One possible alternative - if natural gas is reasonably available to you, you might consider replacing your oil furnace with gas. Modern natural gas furnaces burn cleanly enough and extract enough heat from the combustion process to have simpler exhaust requirements than oil furnaces and older gas furnaces. So in addition to lower fuel costs, you might be able to pre-empt the costly chimney work by routing the exhaust elsewhere. Talk to a gas furnace installer to investigate if this is an option.

If natural gas is not available, I think propane furnaces are the same as natural gas furnaces except for a different nozzle, so they might also be able to spare you the chimney work. However, propane prices tend to be similar in price to oil, so this route isn't likely to save you much if any money.
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Re: $4,400 Chimney Repair - Does This Make Sense?

Post by nhdean »

i am in New England also. I just had my chimney relined and I had to do some minor masonry work to the top of the chimney. my house is 3 stories and it came to $1300.
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Re: $4,400 Chimney Repair - Does This Make Sense?

Post by Grt2bOutdoors »

Pay for a Level II chimney inspection- they will drop an infrared camera down the flue and give you a video of what the status is with the lining. I know the price of materials has gone up, but for the flue liner to cost that much, get another estimate or two.
Last edited by Grt2bOutdoors on Mon Jul 30, 2018 6:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: $4,400 Chimney Repair - Does This Make Sense?

Post by Small Law Survivor »

iamlucky13 wrote: Mon Jul 30, 2018 4:42 pm
What remedy is he proposing? Repairing the existing flue liner, running a stainless steel flex liner up it, or something else? I could see that cost for the former, but not the latter unless it required significant work to prepare the flue to fit flex liner in it, such as removing the rest of the terra cotta. ...

One possible alternative - if natural gas is reasonably available to you, you might consider replacing your oil furnace with gas.

If natural gas is not available, I think propane furnaces are the same as natural gas furnaces except for a different nozzle, so they might also be able to spare you the chimney work. However, propane prices tend to be similar in price to oil, so this route isn't likely to save you much if any money.
He is proposing to use a stainless steel liner, and I don't think he needs to remove the rest of the terra cotta to do that. Gas not available in my town. Not sure replacing relatively new furnace with propane furnace is economical solution.
69 yrs, semi-retired lawyer, 50/40/10 s/b/c, 70/30 dom/int'l. Plan: 4% WR until age 70, 3% after social security kicks in. Boglehead since day 1 (and M* Diehard before that) under various other names
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Re: $4,400 Chimney Repair - Does This Make Sense?

Post by Small Law Survivor »

nhdean wrote: Mon Jul 30, 2018 4:54 pm i am in New England also. I just had my chimney relined and I had to do some minor masonry work to the top of the chimney. my house is 3 stories and it came to $1300.
Maybe I'm in the wrong part of N.E.? I'm in a suburb west of Boston.
69 yrs, semi-retired lawyer, 50/40/10 s/b/c, 70/30 dom/int'l. Plan: 4% WR until age 70, 3% after social security kicks in. Boglehead since day 1 (and M* Diehard before that) under various other names
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Re: $4,400 Chimney Repair - Does This Make Sense?

Post by Small Law Survivor »

lthenderson wrote: Mon Jul 30, 2018 4:18 pm At least in my neck of the woods, lots of people are ditching using chimneys as vents for various combustion producing things and opting to just directly vent out the side of the house. Sometimes you get lucky if their is enough rise and can just run a pipe but if not, they have power vents that can push it just about any direction you can imagine.
Hmmm ... wonder if my oil company would know about this. I do have a good bit of rise ...
69 yrs, semi-retired lawyer, 50/40/10 s/b/c, 70/30 dom/int'l. Plan: 4% WR until age 70, 3% after social security kicks in. Boglehead since day 1 (and M* Diehard before that) under various other names
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Re: $4,400 Chimney Repair - Does This Make Sense?

Post by iamlucky13 »

Small Law Survivor wrote: Mon Jul 30, 2018 5:47 pm
iamlucky13 wrote: Mon Jul 30, 2018 4:42 pm
What remedy is he proposing? Repairing the existing flue liner, running a stainless steel flex liner up it, or something else? I could see that cost for the former, but not the latter unless it required significant work to prepare the flue to fit flex liner in it, such as removing the rest of the terra cotta. ...

One possible alternative - if natural gas is reasonably available to you, you might consider replacing your oil furnace with gas.

If natural gas is not available, I think propane furnaces are the same as natural gas furnaces except for a different nozzle, so they might also be able to spare you the chimney work. However, propane prices tend to be similar in price to oil, so this route isn't likely to save you much if any money.
He is proposing to use a stainless steel liner, and I don't think he needs to remove the rest of the terra cotta to do that. Gas not available in my town. Not sure replacing relatively new furnace with propane furnace is economical solution.
That sounds really high then. It makes me curious if we're missing something.

But if all he's proposing is a stainless steel liner install, you might ask your current sweep if he does liner installs or can recommend someone.
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Re: $4,400 Chimney Repair - Does This Make Sense?

Post by nhdean »

Small Law Survivor wrote: Mon Jul 30, 2018 5:48 pm
nhdean wrote: Mon Jul 30, 2018 4:54 pm i am in New England also. I just had my chimney relined and I had to do some minor masonry work to the top of the chimney. my house is 3 stories and it came to $1300.
Maybe I'm in the wrong part of N.E.? I'm in a suburb west of Boston.
I am in the Portland Maine area. Everything your way is more money.
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Re: $4,400 Chimney Repair - Does This Make Sense?

Post by andypanda »

I had a 39' flue with a broken/falling clay liner. The house was built in 1916 and the chimney is rather large and solid brick. Imagine the chunks of tile or clay piling up in the bottom and blocking the exhaust gases leaving the furnace or boiler. In my case a natural gas boiler.

Anyway, you're quote is way too high - double or triple - depending on what they want to do. In my case, they took a very large drill to the top of the chimney and attached a very large drill bit attachment that consisted of a bunch of chains. By adding sections of rod they lowered the spinning chains down the chimney and pulverized the liner. A vacuum at the bottom removed the debris. Then they inserted a round stainless liner from the top and poured some sort of lightweight insulating concrete-stuff around it and then replaced the chimney cap. They also took pics for the city inspector and left them on the dryer by the basement door to prove the work had been done. The inspector showed up the next day.

They also did some minor work on the chimney for the wood burning fireplace in the living room and that chimney is a full story taller. I'd have to dig out the paperwork to break down the price for each job, but the total was a third of what you've been quoted.

But maybe your job is a bigger pain.
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Re: $4,400 Chimney Repair - Does This Make Sense?

Post by goodlifer »

I had several companies give me estimates before I had my chimney work done. In my experience, I think I trust used car salesmen more than chimney repair. I was told my house is about to go up in flames, I had already had many chimney fires, the chimney is falling down, etc. It turned out to only need a new cap and there never was any fires. From now on, anytime a salesman tells me that this is a huge emergency and needs to be corrected right now, I'm going to assume that he just doesn't want to give me time to think things through and get other estimates.
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Re: $4,400 Chimney Repair - Does This Make Sense?

Post by SquawkIdent »

I would get at least two more opinions/estimates. Do it now as the chimney people get extremely busy as the cold weather approaches in a month and they have hundreds or thousands of chimneys to clean. I needed chimney work done and from the time of the acceptable estimate to the first available work day was 1 1/2 months.
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Re: $4,400 Chimney Repair - Does This Make Sense?

Post by Wellfleet »

Small Law Survivor wrote: Mon Jul 30, 2018 3:16 pm
Thanks in advance for any thoughts or observations.
Always get three quotes, price differences can be absolutely shocking.
trirod
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Re: $4,400 Chimney Repair - Does This Make Sense?

Post by trirod »

That seems like a lot. For a 25' 6" stainless steel liner you are probably looking at $600 or $700 (check out chimneylinerdepot.com). That would put the labor north of $3,500. Unless he has to take out the old tiles, it should just be a case of dropping the liner down the chimney and connecting it to your existing system.

As others mentioned - get some more quotes.
NextMil
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Re: $4,400 Chimney Repair - Does This Make Sense?

Post by NextMil »

Way too high. Chimney companies are notorious for overcharging. Do you still have the card of your home inspector? Mine gave me advice on who to go with, and I paid $3k for a bunch of work on two chimneys including brand new lining inside. Another company offered me $6k for both, and one had the audacity to suggest $8k.
chw
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Re: $4,400 Chimney Repair - Does This Make Sense?

Post by chw »

I would get at least 3-4 bids. As you get other bids, ask about the liner and see what is said(have photos taken). I recently had some work done for a leak around the chimney, and each bid varied a bit with cause and cure- 2 even we're going to do what seemed to be inadequate leak mitigation in order to justify a complete chimney rebuild. Our chimney is only 25 years old, and brick seemed in great shape. The contractor we chose did a cap repair which he felt very confident was the issue, and also sealed the brick with co Mercian grade sealer. He advised that if the leak didn't resolve, some repointing of the mortar may be needed at a fraction of the cost of replacement. I live south of Boston towards the Cape.
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Re: $4,400 Chimney Repair - Does This Make Sense?

Post by jharkin »

Putting an insulated stainless liner inside the flue is often the best solution to these issues, but I agree the cost sounds a bit high. Other options include relining with mortar - there is a procedure they use where a plug just smaller than the existing liner is dropped down from the top on a cable, and then mortar is poured in, then the plug is pulled up and out working the mortar into all the failed tiles and leaving a smooth lining.

Other websites you might want to consult for information on these techniques include http://www.hearth.com and http://www.heatinghelp.com


One point of clarification to a post above - code has prevented appliances from "sharing a flue" for decades. You can have multiple flues in a chimeny, and they can even be different purposes (fireplaces, boilers, etc) but they all must be separate. Now, if you have a really old house (pre-1900) that's never been updated there might be shared fireplace flues, but if that is the case you absolutely need to get the chimney updated.
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Re: $4,400 Chimney Repair - Does This Make Sense?

Post by Small Law Survivor »

Learning a lot from these comments, thank you all. Second estimate tomorrow ....
69 yrs, semi-retired lawyer, 50/40/10 s/b/c, 70/30 dom/int'l. Plan: 4% WR until age 70, 3% after social security kicks in. Boglehead since day 1 (and M* Diehard before that) under various other names
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