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HELP! Chimney problem in Los Angeles

Dear Members of TOH:
I am new to this community. I am closing on our first home tomorrow. We are very excited. However, we have a chimney challenge. The house is a 1951 stucco, siding, and brick house. On the facade of the house, the planters and the chimney are brick. Evidently, the sprinklers have caused long-term damage, and the brick is deteriorating and the house is settling. The bricks in the hearth are all loose which is indicative of the settlement of the house.

We were told by a chimney doctor that the entire chimney needs to be replaced. He said that when he scoped the chimney he saw a huge crack. I then spoke to a chimney construction guy and he said that although he recommends the replacement of the chimney, he also wanted to let me know that Los Angeles is a unique environment with both seismic activity and lots of litigation (meaning the chimney doctor is extremely conservative in his judgement). He said that perhaps if it were his home he would put a liner in, fix the hearth, and put a cap on it (there was not one).

The estimate to rebuild the chimney is $22,500!!

I am not sure I can put a stucco chimney up which would be cheaper because of city ordinances.

Here is my question: WHAT WOULD YOU DO? Here is a photo of the house

NashuaTech
Re: HELP! Chimney problem in Los Angeles

Masonry/brick chimneys are rapidly being phased out of residential construction---they are rarely if ever built these days in new housing construction.

Instead double-walled stainless steel chimneys are much less expensive to install, less labor, and provide better performance as a chimney for older & newer heating systems.

I suggest contacting some local heating contractors in your area to get an estimate--the old masonry chimney can be left where it is until it's time to disassemble & remove it---usually when the roof shingles have to be replaced.

Re: HELP! Chimney problem in Los Angeles

Thank you for your reply, and I only wish I could do this. As I said in my posting, there are strict city ordinances, and I am VERY limited in my materials. Stainless steel would never be permitted. There are no precedents here.

I guess I was looking for someone with masonry experience to tell me that these guys tend to be dramatic, don't worry, keep the chimney, etc... But so far, no luck!

Best,
Jennifer

cjsand
Re: HELP! Chimney problem in Los Angeles

Did you get bids on rebuilding the chimney, I would guess this could be done in the ball park of $15,000.00?

calcats
Re: HELP! Chimney problem in Los Angeles

If you go with masonary fixes you will end up tearing down the chimney and starting over if there is a crack in the liner! Even though you have strict ordinances, I would be surprised if there wasn't a heating contractor that could re-line your chimney for a reasonable price and still meet the city's ordinance. I would start contacting reputable heating contractors and getting bids and references from them. The reason for the references is to make sure of two things. They are not "fly by night" contractors and they do good work. Good Luck.

Calcats ;)

bob t.
Re: HELP! Chimney problem in Los Angeles

Jennifer, as a resident of Los Angeles, I can tell you a story of fireplaces and the city building dept. But long story short, we live in the Silverlake area of LA, on a pad hill side lot in a house built in 1912. Our fireplace was made of clinker brick. During the Northridge Earthquake, we got lots of cracks in the exterior wall, plus with the age, the morter was flaking badly, it still drew great but honestly, you could go ourtside and see flames through the cracks. We called and called masonry contractors, what we found was the prices kept going up and up. A heating contractor was of no use at all. We called the local chimmey doc and he was at best a joke with his costs. By this time the City of Los Angeles had determined if you wanted a masonry fireplace you had to have a structrual engineer design it.
So we sat and waited. The house was a craftsman 2 story piece of art and the clinker fireplace was just beautiful. So we contacted a local building contractor and had installed a double wall stainless steel box fireplace, (you can see these at Home Depot),and had the box put into a wood studed wall and the exterior wall was stuccoed. But what we did to retain the look was, when the old fireplace was torn down, we kept the clinker brick and had it attached to the new stucco exterior wall. The city buiilding dept. liked what they saw after it was finished. The entire project cost us $7500.
bob t.

Re: HELP! Chimney problem in Los Angeles

Sounds like a great project. Do you have pictures?

Heritage Brick
Re: HELP! Chimney problem in Los Angeles
<a href="mailto:[email protected]" rel="nofollow">[email protected]</a> wrote:

Dear Members of TOH:
I am new to this community. I am closing on our first home tomorrow. We are very excited. However, we have a chimney challenge. The house is a 1951 stucco, siding, and brick house. On the facade of the house, the planters and the chimney are brick. Evidently, the sprinklers have caused long-term damage, and the brick is deteriorating and the house is settling. The bricks in the hearth are all loose which is indicative of the settlement of the house.

We were told by a chimney doctor that the entire chimney needs to be replaced. He said that when he scoped the chimney he saw a huge crack. I then spoke to a chimney construction guy and he said that although he recommends the replacement of the chimney, he also wanted to let me know that Los Angeles is a unique environment with both seismic activity and lots of litigation (meaning the chimney doctor is extremely conservative in his judgement). He said that perhaps if it were his home he would put a liner in, fix the hearth, and put a cap on it (there was not one).

The estimate to rebuild the chimney is $22,500!!

I am not sure I can put a stucco chimney up which would be cheaper because of city ordinances.

Here is my question: WHAT WOULD YOU DO? Here is a photo of the house

I would line the chimney if budget is an issue. This would require a mason to rebuild most or all of the firebox and it is important to coat the throat section where it secures to the liner. Check the plumb of the chimney to make sure it is not too far out of level,or it will be more of a structural risk. Hearths in California are quite often not connected to the fireplace structure so they don't necessarily indicate problems.

Peter Warren
Heritage Brick and Stone
Chimney and Fireplace repairs
Historic masonry restoration
San Francisco and Los Angeles
415-847-1697
[email protected]

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