Chimney Liner is Not Always Necessary
LESLIE: Alright. Well, chimney liners. Judy in Pennsylvania wants to know if it’s helpful to use one. And I don’t know much about them. So Judy, let’s talk about chimney liners. How can we help?
JUDY: Well, I recently moved into a home that has a fireplace and a chimney. And I had someone come in to clean the chimney and check it out before I lit it for the first time. And while he was doing that, he also checked the part of the chimney that my oil furnace vents into.
JUDY: He said there was a small crack going up the chimney. And he recommended putting in a chimney liner.
TOM: Was this a chimney sweep guy?
TOM: Yeah, no kidding.
TOM: Yeah, standard operating procedure; SOP. Get hired for a chimney cleaning; recommend and sell a chimney liner. Every time. They don’t make money for the cleaning …
LESLIE: It’s like, do you want the belt that goes with those pants?
TOM: Yeah, exactly. (laughing) That’s the example of did you want fries with that sandwich? (laughing)
LESLIE: So now, what is the benefit of a chimney liner? Or isn’t there any?
TOM: Well, certainly there is a benefit. But I mean it sounds like this … in this case, you have one but they’re saying you have a slight crack. I mean, how old is your house? Let’s start there, Maureen.
JUDY: It’s about 50 years old.
TOM: Okay. It’s about 50 years old. So you probably have a lined chimney.
JUDY: No, there’s no liner in it that I could tell or he told me about.
TOM: Well, when you stand at the chimney and you look at it from the outside, do you see a clay top of the chimney where a pipe inside of the brick comes up?
JUDY: No, I haven’t been to the top of my roof to look at that.
TOM: You know, it would be unusual – very unusual – for a 1950’s house to not have a lined chimney. That would be very unusual. So, we need to figure that out to start. Now, if it’s a fireplace … is this a fireplace or just the oil …?
JUDY: Well, there’s a fire … there’s a fireplace chimney and then, I guess, part of the chimney is …
TOM: Splits off, right?
JUDY: … also connected to the oil furnace.
TOM: Well, if the fireplace chimney is lined, then the oil place … the oil chimney would also be lined.
JUDY: All I see inside the fireplace is the brick wall.
TOM: Yeah, but that’s the wall. To see the liner, you have to look upside into the chimney.
TOM: Upside down. And it’ll look like a clay pipe. And first of all, we need to determine if it’s lined. A fireplace chimney should always be lined. I would not use one if it wasn’t lined. One for an oil furnace … it’s nice if it’s lined; it’s not 100 percent required all the time. I mean my house has got … had an oil furnace for many years and never had a lined chimney. And we always just kept an eye on it and it lasted over 100 years. So you don’t necessarily need one.
TOM: You do need it to be clean and you need it to be functioning. And if you’re going to use a wood-burning fireplace, it’s got to be lined. But you don’t necessarily have to have it be lined if it’s gas or it’s oil. Doesn’t have to be … it will work. There’s more condensation and corrosion on the mortar joints and you have to keep an eye on it; but it’s not totally necessary.
And I’m very concerned because the chimney sweeps out there, most of them that I’m aware of, simply always recommend these expensive repairs and always get you upset and nervous about it and tell you that your house is going to burn down. And they’re just trying to sell you work. That’s all they’re doing; just trying to sell it.
JUDY: Yes, he was trying to sell me a $900 liner.
TOM: Yeah, well that was a bargain. I’ve seen them for two, three grand.
JUDY: Okay. Which I …
TOM: But you know what? If it’s 900 bucks you didn’t need to spend, then it isn’t a bargain, is it?
JUDY: That’s right. And I really don’t need to spend that right now.
TOM: No. I think you’ll probably be okay.
LESLIE: Judy, just make sure. When you go outside, look at the top of your chimney and see if there’s – at the top – if there’s like a little protective grading – a screen. Otherwise, you’ll end up with some unwanted visitors entering through your fireplace.
JUDY: Yes. I do have a chimney cap on.
LESLIE: Okay, good. (chuckling)
TOM: Alright. Judy, thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.