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chimney flue issues

Hello - I have a brick fireplace and a chimney that has 2 flues - one for the firebox and the other for the oil heater. I'm told that both the flues are in varying levels of disrepair and have 4 estimates ranging from $1450 - $12000!!!

Two guys said that the problems are with the top 2 tiles of each flue and that replacing them along fixing the mortar and caps would cost $1450 and $2600 respectively. The other two said that metal liners (custom) are needed for both the flues and quoted me $6k and $12k respectively.

What am I to do here? Would appreciate some perspective and counsel on what to do...


Re: chimney flue issues

Unfortunately, chimney repairs and new metal flue liners have become one of the latest scams that are perpetrated against homeowners; the dollar quotes they gave you are much, much too high & you should run the other way away from these scammers.

Your first task is to determine if you actually need chimney repairs or flue liner in the FIRST place; this scenario begins quite often when a homeowner requests an annual routine chimney cleaning or a new heating unit (boiler, furnace, etc.) from a local heating contractor and the local building inspector, who works for the town/city gets involved; there have been NUMEROUS cases where the building inspector is working in cahoots (collusion) with the chimney guys to try & bilk the unsuspecting homeowner out of large sums of money for repairs or chimney modifications that are not needed.

What initiated the visit of these chimney guys to your house??? Did a heating contractor inspect your system & tell you you needed chimney repairs for a proposed new installation, or was it some other reason why you ended up with such outlandish quotes???

If you have a heating contractor that you can trust, by all means start with a call to his office, but by all means get several other opinions from other heating contractors, especially those from another town who can give you an objective opinion.

Try to get SOMEONE ON YOU SIDE who can give you an objective opinion as to if you need any repairs at all---the local building inspector has a valid role in assuring that there is not a hazardous condition in the chimney (such as creosote buildup) that will cause a fire or chimney leaks that will cause carbon monoxide poisoning to the house occupants, but too often in recent times, their function is being abused & they threaten to shut down the heating system for no good reason until the homeowner is forced to pay up----contact your family lawyer & get him involved---metal chimney liners (titanium alloy) of approx 25' cost the repair man $200-$300 plus a usually simple installation process of running it thru the chimney-----I don't know WHERE they get the outlandish figure of charging the homeowner thousands of dollars for these items--other people to call to get a 2nd opinion are roofing contractors (Yellow Pages "Roofing")---the key is to get numerous "2nd opinions" visiting your house so you have an objective, unbiased inspection opinion of what is needed & what is not.

Also check your local state Dept of Consumer Protection, Building Code Commission, or Dept. of Business Regulation in the white pages of your phone book.


Re: chimney flue issues

Dobbs - Thank you so much for your response and links to those articles. I had no idea that this is such a pervasive scam. It all started with a chimney inspector (approved by my township) who suggested that new metal caps be put on chimney and have it cleaned when I bought the house over a year ago. Since I never used the fireplace did not bother with it until now and had these guys come in (all of them also inspect and certify) and got these ridiculous estimates.

I'm indignant and blown away that such disparity and opaqueness exists in these times.

Do you think it makes sense to spend the couple of hundred dollars to have someone put a camera in and show me for sure what is going on in there?

Re: chimney flue issues


I would feel better if you consulted the Yellow Pages under "Roofing" and have a roofing contractor come over to look at it---probably free of charge; make sure you explain over the phone that you want someone to look at the chimney---roofers do this type of work & have the equipment to do a quick inspection; sometimes they recommend installing a stainless steel chimney cap if there is any weather damage evident, but even there, there's a good chance you don't need ANYTHING done to your chimney & it is in good shape.

I tend to favor roofers because their main source of income is roofing repairs/replacement, & they repair/inspect chimneys as only an adjunct to their main source of income; in addition, roofers have no need to deal with city fire/heating code inspectors who sometimes abuse their position as public servants.

Re: chimney flue issues

Never under estimate the importance of 2nd, 3rd or even 4th opinion/bid. In your particular case or in any other trade.

True story: A teenage girl walked into Sears Auto Center with a coupon for a free brake inspection. 15 minutes later she had a $2,600 estimate for a brake job. When she said she wanted to think about it and asked for the keys, the salesman said: "State law doesn't allow me to release a car in this condition to the customer, until repaired".
So she authorized the repair. She paid, got the keys, did not get any her used parts and left.
The next day, her dad complained to the Department of Automotive repair, and a few months later the State found Sears guilty of fraud. Sears paid, are you ready for this, $35,000,000 fine. True story.

Re: chimney flue issues

Similar 'scams' are run in many businesses. One I know of is a nationwide chain of tire stores who offer 'free tire repair'. They pull the wheel off before checking tread depth or visible condition, then tell you they can't put it back on the car nor can they repair it in hopes that you will buy their wares. They could have told you that they couldn't do a repair without removing the wheel but they won't. They want to put you in the pinch :mad: If this one catches you have them install the spare and go elsewhere with your business.

One of the things I pride myself on is my competence and veracity. When I come across a situation where the customer might think I am trying to 'pull a fast one' I tell them to please get several other opinions before calling me back because I know they will find just what I have and their prices won't be any better. Occasionally the result is that some less competent contractor comes along and says that a full repair isn't needed and sells them a 'fix' cheaper than my price. Then a few years down the road that customer is calling me back to do the job right after the patchwork fails and I gain a life-long customer thereafter :cool:

I can't speak of elsewhere, but here in the several counties and cities I work in, the Building Code Inspectors are all quite careful to distance themselves from the work side of the business- they will not recommend anyone for any work to the public, but some of them will help contractors find good local subcontractors for specific trades when we need that. It is the kind of professionalism their job requires. As usual, they vary in terms of what they will pass and what they won't but none of them will fail anything good. This came about when about a decade ago one local inspector was finally caught for graft- he would fail perfect work repeatedly until you greased his palm :mad: We figured out how to work around him by learning the inspector's schedules, then calling in ours when someone else would be on duty. The bad one finally got nailed when he got some knowledgeable developers mad at him over delays in their projects from out-of-state contractors who wouldn't play that game. They hired a well-known engineering firm to pre-inspect their projects then documented when this guy failed good work. Then they filmed him taking cash payments from several local contractors and the lawsuits flew, which cost that county millions :o

In this business it is of absolute importance to get several opinions and quotes then doing what research you can on the work and on the contractors before proceeding with your project. Those of us who are good aren't worried about what you might find. If a Building Code Inspector does anything more than inspecting and showing you what is wrong, chances are that there's something you won't like going on in the background.

If something smells fishy then you're either very near water or you're right!


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