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Question DetailsAsked on 7/7/2017

Does anyone know if a 1961 brick chimney, with a 360 crack, can be repaired or if it has to be replaced new?

I have one quote for $10k, that states building code requires a new,lightweight, steel frame chimney ($10k). We have another quote tha says it can be repaired for $1875, with a 10 yr warranty. I don't know who to believe.

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2 Answers

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This is in the city of Los Angeles

Answered 1 year ago by Shawnpascale

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Both are probably right - though the $10,000 number sounds on the high side by maybe a third or so if this is a free-standing exterior chimney (built basically "against" the house) - but if an "integral chimney" where it is built "into" the house with only typically a foot or two stickout from the siding, or in "interior chimney" totally interior to the house (fireplace on interior wall), $10,000 range can be in the order if that includes the total pakcage of teardown, framing replacement as required, new steel chimney, and the associated siding and flooring and roofing and such to repair any holes left by the existing chimney tearout.


There are several alternatives - see the following document, which is from SLO but is basically verbatim from the LA County/City requirements, which I could not get to download properly.


http://www.seismic.ca.gov/HOG/Chimney...


Options:


1) IF the crack is only a surficial crack (exterior course of bricks mortar only) and not a structural failure of the entire chimney, then it can be repointed WITHOUT any rebuilding of the chimney. THis assumes the cracking was not the direct result of an earthquake - if it was, it is presumed to be a structural crack and the reinforcement or replacement per the code is required per below several items.


2) IF the crack basically penetrates the interior of the chimney or cracks through the flue too, thenb it is a structural crack and you have two options as your contractors stated:


3) Option 1 - rebuild the chimney per the guidelines (with seismic reinforcement), which depending on where the crack is located can be relatively easy or can be essentially as serious as a total rebuild


4) Option 2 - reinforce the chimney with structural wrap or structural concrete encasement


5) Option 3 - tear down and rebuild the chimney with a lightweight steel or "ready set" type chimney - basically a double or triplke-wall stainless steel metal flue pipe encased in steel or wood (depending on design) framing, with a steel firebox and smokebox inswide (which will commonly be lined with firebrick).


6) Option 4 - which they did not give you the option of but is commonly the cheapest if the repair is major - is to tear the chimney down (commonly leaving the base and foundation intact below the firebox or floor level) and install a direct-vent stove which has its air intake and flue direct through the wall behind the stove, with no chimney. Wood/pellet stove allowed in only some areas - not in most high level sair pollution control districts, though natural gas can be used.


7) Option 5 - which they also did not give you, is to have the chimney abandoned in place (this presumes the overall exterior brick is relatively intact, after a bit of repointing. This is usually done by either putting a steel pipe down the flue (a pretty tight fit) and concreting the chimney up, or putting rebar in the flue, a mortar pad in the smokebox or firebox (as a seal), then incrementally cpumping concrete or grout into the flue to fill it up, typically a few feet ot as much as about 5-6 feet at a time (depending on engineer's findings) to avoid overstressing it and causing a blowout of the wet cement.


Your best bet, in my opinion, because of the seismic laws and problems reselling homes with brick chimneys, and the generaly undesireability of a house with a chimney which does not work, is probably to eliminate the chimney entirely (at least down to the bottom of the firebox) and go with a direct vent stove if you actually still want a fireplace. A LOT of people in California have gone to great expense to replace or reinforce their chimney only to find come resale time that it is still flagged as a problem during the home inspection, or causes people to turn away because their insurance company denies coverage (typically right before closing, too) because it has a brick fireplace.


If you are committed to keeping a chimney (which honestly does not make a lot of sense in LA unless you are in the colder eastside hillsides like up into the Angeles Crest or Angeles National Forest area), then you need a Structural Engineer to assess the situation and design the repair, AND to inspect the repair as it is being done AND issue a certification of design and inspection that it was designed in accordance with the California (and your local city or county) building and seismic codes (with specific reference to the current code section and revision year it was designed/reinforced to), AND that he inspected it during repair and in his opinion it meets the building code and the requirements of his design. That engineering input alone is likely to run $1000-2500 to get all that, IF you find one willing to certify a chimney at all (many firms shy away from that because of the high risk compared to the small $ amount of the fee they earn).


Teardown and replacement with a direct-vent stove likely needs a Structural Engineer analysis as well, but only with respect to what temproary support and structural repair is needed to support or replace any framing which currently is supported by the chimney - and of course a building permit will be needed for the demolition and the reconstruction of the hole in the wall and roof - including installation of the new direct-vent stove as well if you still want a "wood stove" (though it will likely be a gas one with fake logs).


Or teardown and replace with a totally fake fireplace if this is for looks only, or even a very large screen TV inset into a mantle with a "wood fireplace" screensaver, but also usable for watching TV, gaming, projecting other soothing nature scenes or such on it as if it were a tuneable window on the world, etc.


Google this search phrase for a lot of articles on the issue, and add your city/(county if outside city limits) name for specific references to your locale's requirements regarding brick chimneys.

Answered 1 year ago by LCD




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