Chimney repairs

Problem with wood stove in Kitchen re cresote or whatever. Old house, although stove probaby only put in by previous owners 15 years ago. Anybody any recommendations, experience wih the problem, experience with claiming on insur policy?

Many thanks

I used a guy to power sweep my chimney. Can’t remember his name but he was recommended by Action Chimneys - you could ring them. I don’t know whether a flue liner was installed at the time of your stove install … or whether the stove was hooked up to an original fire place flue. If the latter then you might have many years of gunk built up there which an ordinary sweep won’t remove just using brushes. Power sweeping is what you’d need.

Having experienced a chimney fire (or better said, the damage caused by the fire brigade in putting it out) due to ignition of the creosote which condenses high up in the chimney I’d recommend you don’t leave it.

If it’s the original flue, you might want to consider a cctv survey. Chimney fires past may have caused damage with bits of flue liner falling away. This is a danger, especially in an old house where upstairs floor joists / ceiling timber work can be built into the chimney breast. A chimney fire can then bring the house down

Action chimneys surveyed post my fire and the flue needed relining. They did good (if insurance-expensive work) I got them to cctv my new (old) house and they recommended relining but there were only hairline cracks in the flue when viewing the cctv - not an issue. They warned me about lack of air tightness due to these cracks potentially leading to fumes into the house - but seeing as the flue is under negative pressure, what with the draw up the chimney…

I also questioned why, if there was an original upstairs room vent leading into the flue (by way of a brick-sized hole), I should be worried about a hairline crack … and he muttered something and made his excuses to leave.

I’d steer clear of Sweepmychimney/ Soot Doctor/master. He did a sweep shortly before the fire and made no mention of the creosote build up - something he should have felt when sweeping and something he should have at least warned of the potential for. What with being a masterdoctor and all.

Thanks York! Unfortunately, I also used Soot doctor a few months ago who noticed nothing! Sorry to hear you had a fire! Of course, accidental fire make it easier re insurance claim, I guess. My position may well be ‘wear and tear’ mate so no go.

Openings of any sort into a chimney flue are to be considered as potential causes of concern.
There are three major hazards:-

  1. Risk of fire spread through the opening to surrounding combustible materials
  2. Risk of exhaust of smoke/fumes/poisonous gasses moving from the chimney flue into habitable spaces of the building (especially to be concerned with CO(carbon monoxide) back flowing into a habitable space during a blockage, initial start up conditions, etc.)
  3. Risk of cooler air being drawing into the chimney flue causing local condensation of exhaust gasses causing build up of said creosote leading to chimney fire risk and the other risks here mentioned.

I’d be very concerned about having a brick sized opening between a habitable room and a chimney flue for all of the above reasons.

How often do chimneys need to be relined?

Do you all get a full chimney inspection when moving into a second-hand house, if so, do you do so before purchase?

Who do you recommend? My worry is that cctv person will always want to sell their relining service…

How much does a power sweep/relining, etc., cost?

Lots of people seem to be claiming the cost of relining on insurance. Is anybody getting it done on moving in and paying for it themselves?

Thanks!

I thought it a bit strange when I saw it myself. About 3ft above the the upstairs bedroom fireplaces but not in the downstairs ones. I’d guess the reason was to vent the rooms where the danger of CO poisoning would be increased with sleeping occupants.

You’ve updraught (produced by the normal fire) producing negative pressure in the room. In the case of a chimney fire I can’t see a mechanism for fire coming out the vent given updraught. We must remember the gaping hole called a fireplace which we merrily leave open to the room - reliant on updraught to keep the flames under control.

These strike me as conditions that would also be reflected at fireplace level a few feet lower if they (e.g. a blockage / backdraft) occurred. If enough updraught to draw smoke from a starting fire, then enough updraft to be tapped into the relative small vent above it to produce negative pressure there too

Theoretically, yes. I think though, in practice, the relatively short flue height of the upstairs bedrooms means comparatively high flue gas temperatures (compared to downstairs) making the addition of some cooler air less of a problem. As it happens, the flue that went up on me was a downstairs fireplace flue (without a vent). The gunk condensed about 3 ft from the top of the chimney pot (of a two storey house).

On first sight yes. But they weren’t idiots, the folk who designed these flue systems - they were folk who could be expected to be conversant with the practicalities and dangers of open fires - perhaps moreso than us. They did what they did for a reason. Presumably a good one.

After a 104 years in my case - but only after a significant chimney fire. The 106 year old house I live in now has only a few hairline cracks in the flue which I wouldn’t worry about. If I look after it, it’ll outlive me.

I did, after purchase. I was doing a total refurb anyway so relining would have only been a small addition to the total. I’d certainly get a CCTV check done pre-purchase (if I could) if suspecting (old house) the flue could be an issue. It’s expensive enough to reline a flue and you’ll probably find the chimney needs repointing whilst at it. Then there’s the intrusion: hole (think: open heart) in the chimney breast downstairs (and possibly upstairs depending on the route taken by the flue up through the roof). Very messy with dust and debris all over the place

Note: that was in the case where the flue had fallen apart in sections due to the fire. If the flue is in reasonable shape but past useful life, they have a simple solution which (I think) drops in from top to bottom without opening up the breast and which is pumped up to expand to the size of the flue then steam-cured.

Note: they don’t change the flue with earthenware - that’d take a complete chimney opening up. Rather, the line it with a metal liner. You have to be careful with subsequent brushing as it’s far more delicate than earthware.

Note: beware someone saying they’ll drop in a corrugated metal liner (like the type they use with a wood stove). A normal flue is say 8". The flexible liner will be 6" - in order to get it down the existing flue. It won’t produce the same updraught (which is okay with a wood fire). One contractor tried this one on (I’d done some checking out online first). I went with Action Chimneys because they told me what I’d already learned was the case.

I found Action Chimneys did a good job the first time (even if insurance-loaded price) but tried (in my view) to sell me something I didn’t need second time (see above). Perhaps they’ve no choice. They pass a damaged (in any way) flue and they open themselves to lawsuits?

Can’t recall: €100-150 or so for the power sweeping perhaps? Many thousands (4-5?) for the reline/pointing work (you’ve scaffolding up etc). Plus the mess.

Insurance. But a small part of the total cost of the claim (due to keystone Kops … I mean … fire brigade damage). I don’t imagine you could claim a reline simply because the flue reaches end of life) anymore than you could do that for anything else in the house that reaches end of life.

That’s about the only easy bit of it. If anyone want the experts guide to making a chimney fire insurance claim then PM me. Tip No. 1: gird your loins for battle

You’ve only mentioned a creosote problem. Can’t that be power swept for a hundred € or so? Power sweeping involves flailing chains on a rotating head stuck up the chimey which simply bashes all the build up off. Your flue might be fine (but only a CCTV check will tell you that: think that cost 250-300€). You have to get the chimney power swept before the CCTV, otherwise you won’t see anything as it’s covered in gunk.

Good information from york, but just some observations on the above post.

  1. Is the creosote a new problem? There has been some very heavy rain recently and it is not unlikely that rain has come down the chimney and caused staining. A simple remedy would be to have a ‘Chinaman’s Hat’ or similar installed on the chimney pot/flue.

  2. Creosote build up is caused by burning wet timber. To reduce the problem stick to burning well seasoned fuel and store it in a dry place. It’s well worth the extra effort to store a large amount of wood (more than 2 years worth). The calorific value of well seasoned timber is massively better than ‘green’ damp timber and it reduces the risk of chimney fires.

  3. It’s awkward to clean a stove flue and it’s expensive to get someone to do it for you. Might be worth buying yourself one of these.

I think BPM in Baltinglass, Co. Wicklow stock something similar for about €100, but they’re available on Ebay etc.

Thanks Coles 2. Agreed, very good info from Yorkie lad. Cresote was dripping all over the stove back in April one evening so stopped lighting fires then. Only burned BNM briquettes in it and not wood (but no idea waht previous folk burned - only bought gaff in Oct '13).

I’ve also heard that the creosote build-up can be caused by smouldering/slow buring fires? Believe it or not I had it constantly on from Oct to April.

I don’t think, given that it’s a potential fire hazard, that I’d be comfortable with a machine for DIY soot cleaning but thanks for the info nevertheless. Do you use one or intend to?

I think I’ll give Action Chimneys a call (have already called Hamilton roofing in Irishtown as recommended by the Georgian Society? anybody any experience with them?) and at least get a power sweeping as recommended by York and then CCTV report and take it from there, hoping that flue lining is not required.

Being sold something I don’t need is really just part of life (a part I fuking hate-who doesn’t but York’s right in thay they’re not going to leave themselves open to lawsuits…).

Will keep thread updated for info for others.

I haven’t used one yet, but mainly because I have a set of the usual chimney cleaning brushes. I clean my stove flue every year and it’s a complete pain. I hate it, but it’s an essential chore. I’d probably clean the flue a lot more often if it was easy to do.

I had intended getting that ‘Soot-Eater’ thing a couple of years ago but I never got around to it. It was only after dealing with BPM that I discovered that they stock it (or similar?), and I’ve heard enough about it to believe that it’s easy and it works.

In your case where you have an uncertainly about the flue and it’s condition I think you’d be best to get it professionally cleaned and inspected. After that you might be more comfortable maintaining it yourself.

If it’s an old house then it’s worth noting that the fireplace was far more central to house operations than it is today. All and sundry went on the fire - both as fuel and as waste disposal. I can remember my mam stacking a load of veg peelings on top of the fire to act as slack. I myself have used thoroughly soaked newpaper for the same purpose.

I’d include chimney inspections as a critical element of any new house purchase

The advice from Action Chimneys was to only burn coal in an open fire. It produces only soot which is easy to remove. Okay to burn a few sticks to get the thing going. This probably more important with a delicate metal reline - which you don’t want to be powersweeping

The deposits will condense high up in the chimney, like I said earlier. If you’ve a head for heights then head up onto the roof yourself when the guy finishes the cctv and have a look down with a torch. You could also post the video on youtoob and lettuce all have a look see.

Thanks all, especially York, very helpful information.

York, called Action Chimneys and they recommended a guy called Tom Stack who’ll power sweep on Friday (€ 60). I’m sure he’ll recommend then that a CCTV report be carried out (to cover himself as much as anything). Then, I guess it’ll be back to Action Chimneys to have CCTV report carried out (€ 280). Will report back then after that.

Oh and definitely no head for heights. Would be glad to post up CCTV on youtube if i knew how to (49 year old bean counter who’s not very tech savvy) and assuming Action gve me CCTV report in a form suitable for uploading?

Thanks to all.

Oh and just to add that Action said up to € 5K! possible and involving opening-up just over the brace if a damaged flue has to be removed, as to dangerous to insert a narrower new flue into exisiting flue. If no flue in there, then dropping in from chimney top possible.

Best of luck.

The cctv will tell if a narrower (6") flue can be dropped down since I gather a 6" is sufficient for a woodburning (according to Action, iirc)

Thanks for your help York! I assume BNM briquette burrning is more or less the same as wood burning re the 6". Anyhow will see. cheers

Didn’t get chimneys inspected prior to purchase but a little late for regrets. We have a total of 2 chimneys that I am concerned with.

Chimney 1 is open in the front living room and closed in the top bedroom. We may be interested in actually using this in the future, and it shows no signs of serious damage, so hoping power sweeping will sort that out.

Chimney 2 is closed in the back living room, but open in the back bedroom - which we are currently using as our main bedroom. The fireplace has piles of rubble in it, and is clearly in need of a power sweeping at the very least. Am thinking it may be that the flue has actually totally collapsed in on this fireplace.

If the flue has somehow disintegrated (our survey didn’t mention anything about this fireplace specifically), do you only need to have it replaced if you actually intend on actually lighting a fire? Or is it the case that if you intend on having it capped, it’s enough to just have it power swept? I’ll be getting on to a few places over the next few days, this has to be sorted in the short term whatever the cost…

I’m a bean counter and no engineer…but if I had no intention of lighting a fire, then I’d do nowt apart from clean out the rubble. Anyhow, York or somebody else will probably come along and give you more informed advice.

A few years back we’d a chimney fire. My wife phoned me to tell me there was this strange VUUUUUU!!! sound coming from the chimney. “The chimneys on fire” I said. “Take the big bath towel, soak it in water and drape it down the front of the fire closing it off as best you can - that’ll cut off air to it. Close all the windows and doors too! Then call the fire brigade” She did so (or rather a neighbour did so, having dropped in, after seeing the fireworks outside).

“The sound has stopped” she said, once the towel had been hung up.

The fire brigade arrived, took down the towel, opened all the windows and proceeded in the attempt to douse the again-air-fueled fire from below for the next two hours (in which time I’d arrived back home). It would have been comical were it not for the damage being caused. They tried rodding the chimney dragging heaps of smoldering embers from above. They’d fill buckets with this stuff, haul it through the house to the back to dump it. The sweep head melted off the rods and came down to terra firma. Then they tried a stirrup pump (a hand operated unit with a water spray head on a rubber hose attached to rods inserted up the chimney. After a few minutes, the head landed in the grate.

After the two hours, the main man decided “we’ll have to take this from the top”. It took them a half hour to get a ladder up to the roof and after about 10 seconds of gentle, garden hose-level dousing, the fire went out.

They took it in turns to sit on my couch whilst they watched proceedings - in their firemans gear.

The damage didn’t look like much initially but soot/smoke damage was everywhere throughout the house, including the attic - which they’d opened to check no fire coming out up on high.

I’d have kicked them out, hung the towel back up and shinned up onto the roof to place a dinner plate over the flue if I’d had my way - but the fire brigade rule the roost in times of fire.

We were out of house and home for around 4 months: the fight with the insurance company helping to drag things out considerably. It’s only during such times that you find out that there’s little by way of short term accommodation around Dublin and what there is costs 3-4 times normal rental cost. We moved a total of 7 times in that time - not being able to foresee how long things would take so as to book a block of time and finding too that slots were already booked ahead for places we could get right now.

An immensely stressful and time consuming time (something which I charged the insurance company handsomely for given their attitude and intransigence contributed significantly to that state of affairs)

A chimney survey costing a couple of hundred euro is something I’d recommend to anyone who doesn’t know the state of their flue. Power sweeping might take out built-up crud, but it won’t remove debris lodged in the gaping cavities that exist behind a typical flue (on opening our breast to reline, we found the space between brick breast and flue had been backfilled by the original builder with random rubble - plenty of space to fill up with fuel deposited over time through a flue with chunks missing from it. If that goes up and you’ve a fire **in **the chimney breast then anything at all can happen. Bear in mind that upstairs flooring / ceiling / roof joists can be set into the chimney breast structure so a fire in the breast can spread to your house proper.

If capping from above then you might want to consider powersweeping as debris can drop from time to time into your room. If capping from below then why bother? I use a childs soft fooball, a couple of inches bigger than the flue (8" in my case) pushed into the throat of the flue to block off the fireplace when I’m not using it. The same thing could be used to more permanently block off the fireplace.