Chimney Relining: The reasons and the options

The chimney lining serves the important function of keeping heat inside the chimney and away from the combustible areas surrounding it. In addition to confining the high heat of a fire, the chimney lining also serves the purpose of keeping your home protected from carbon monoxide, water, soot, smoke, and other fire by-products until they are able to pass into the atmosphere. But what you may not know is that liners can be damaged.

Water, sudden overheating, freeze/thaw cycles, movement (from earthquakes or poor foundations), and other factors can all contribute to chimney liner damage. Once breaks and cracks form in the liner, it will no longer be able to contain the byproducts of combustion, and it will need to be repaired and restored for safety reasons. We refer to chimney liner repair and resurfacing as “chimney relining.” We also use this term when we’re installing a liner in a chimney that’s never before had one.

What’s so dangerous about a damaged chimney liner?

If your chimney lining has cracks or holes, carbon monoxide, smoke, soot, moisture, and other elements have a free entryway into the air you and your family breathe. Exposure to these harmful elements can cause allergies, asthma and other respiratory problems and can even be life-threatening. According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, as many as four thousand Americans die annually from carbon monoxide poisoning. In addition to these deaths, countless other individuals have suffered permanent brain and organ damage or other ailments as a result of exposure to carbon monoxide. For this reason, it is imperative that you have your chimney lining inspected and repaired or installed (if needed) by a professional.

Can factory built metal chimneys be relined?

Metal chimneys are not designed to be relined, so if you have a freestanding wood stove or factory built fireplace and your metal liner is warped from heat, the entire chimney (and possibly fireplace) will need to be replaced. The exception is when you are replacing an older stove (with an 8″ non HT — high temperature — rated chimney) with a newer stove (with a 6″ HT rated chimney requirement). In these instances, if the chimney itself is free of defects, cleaned, and properly installed, we may be able to simply downsize with a listed liner, as opposed to replacing the whole chimney. This is typically only recommended for multi-story, steep roofs when replacing the chimney would be both difficult and costly, and the existing chimney meets our strict requirements.

How is relining done & how do I know which liner is best for me?

The majority of masonry chimneys have clay-based liners, which inevitably crack and crumble over time. Other traditionally-popular liner materials are aluminum and stainless steel. When having your chimney resurfaced, we will help you decide on the best material for your needs and location, so you don’t have to worry about trying to figure it all out on your own. But here’s a little bit about each option and what it entails:

  • Clay-Based – One option for chimney relining is to simply tear down the chimney and rebuild it, installing a new clay tile liner, tile by tile, as we go. This is a great option when the masonry chimney itself is damaged and in need of repair as well.
  • Stainless Steel – When a full replacement of a metal liner is needed, a stainless steel liner is often recommended. These are pipes that are sized to fit the flue and the fireplace opening. We prefer these over aluminum liners because they’re corrosion resistant and they carry a lifetime guarantee when professionally installed and maintained. For more on stainless steel liners, click here.
  • Ceramic Coatings – For mortar/clay flues, a ceramic coating relining system can be a great option. These coatings simply fill in holes and cracks in the tile liner, repair and resurface the clay-based liner, and leave it insulated and restored. They can also sometimes be used in chimneys that were built without liners. One thing that makes these systems great is that they can last decades (they carry a twenty year warranty) and they’re resistant to heat damage. There are a number of products that fit this category, but here at White Glove, we use HeatShield by CeCure Systems. Find out more here.

Not sure which is best for you? Don’t worry. A White Glove professional will be able to evaluate your chimney lining and identify your needs and options.

Variations

Another option that some homeowners choose is to simply install a new insert liner. An insert is a wood, gas, pellet, or coal burning stove that’s inserted into an existing fireplace. During installation, an insulated stainless steel pipe is inserted in the chimney and connected to the insert. Often, these stainless steel pipes don’t require original clay liners to be torn out, because they’re already properly sized for the appliance. This design allows for homeowners with damaged chimney liners to enjoy a better performing, more efficient appliance, without worrying about the cost and labor of tearing out their clay liner and replacing it.

How efficient are these types of liners? Well, a mid-80s wood burning insert that’s attached to one of these stainless steel liners will burn on average 25% less wood for the same amount of heat than it did without the liner attached. If the stove itself is replaced with a modern insert and a liner is added, fuel consumption may be cut by as much as 50%.

Another benefit to these liners is that they are easier to clean because less soot is produced (because of high efficiency levels) and the stove itself won’t need to be pulled out during the cleaning.

Have Your Liner Inspected Today!

Regardless of your chimney’s age, it is important to have it annually inspected for any damages or leaks in the lining. Neglecting liner problems can cause chimney overheating and fires as well as potential exposure to dangerous fumes and byproducts. Give us a call to have your chimney lining thoroughly inspected!

Call us today or click here to schedule your appointment online!

 

Installing a fireplace, stove or insert is a job that’s best done by experienced, knowledgeable technicians. If you want to add one or more of these appliances to your home, call on the team at White Glove to provide the necessary hearth system service.