HELP-fireplace insert not up to current codes

steelskiesFebruary 1, 2013

Please HELP! We moved into our house about 30 years ago, and it had a Concept II fireplace insert. We used it sparingly the first 5 years, but have not used it for probably 20 years at least. I just started using it, and it works fine. I just had a professional company come to clean and inspect the unit and the chimney and he wouldnt touch it; said it was out of code. He said about 5 years ago, the new codes came out requiring SS liners on all inserts. (which we do not have a liner)

He said we need to buy a new unit, (Regency) with a SS chimney liner for a cost of about $4,000 installed. We shouldn't use our current inserts again. Plus it would cost us $450 to remove our insert and dispose of it. This makes me sick! Our perfectly functioning wood insert that heats well and has a wonderful blower has to be thrown away?

Can't we find a SS liner and have someone install it for us? the opening on the top of the liner is rectangular, and they say that the liners are all circular? The insert has several slats that open up and let the smoke out.

What can I do. PLEASE HELP!!!

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The liner they speak of runs the entire length of the chimney. You can use the fireplace all you want, but do risk having a fire. I don't think that's an option. You must understand as well if a fireplace/woodstove is not to code your homeowners insurance will not cover a loss due to fire, call them. As for retrofitting your fireplace with a SS liner the cost is pretty well the same as replacing the entire unit in my experience.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 9:03AM
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Bumping this up again. Also, I heard you should only use SPLIT wood in inserts or wood stoves, never whole logs, even if they are seasoned. I never heard this before.

Any comments are appreciated. Please help!

    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 1:23PM
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There's nothing illegal about using your current insert the way it is, if you're in the US. The current installation may be just slammed in or it may have a liner just to the first flue tile past the smoke shelf, in which case it's legal to CURRENT code anyway. Either way, if the chimney is kept clean and you burn seasoned wood with hot fires (no smoldering fires) you don't really have a significant safety issue.

Find another sweep, he's trying to take you to the cleaners for 4k.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 3:58PM
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Re: Only split wood.

I've been heating with a woodstove since the early 80s and use whole pieces on a regular basis. Split wood is great to get the fire started, but whole pieces are completely fine as long as they fit.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 9:50AM
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The caution against unsplit pieces is an attempt to keep newbies from burning way under-seasoned wood. IME it takes the whole pieces far longer to season than splits and folks new to burning want to cut/buy wood and burn it next week.
Advising them to use only splits increases their chances of burning correctly and not gunking up their chimney.

Any noob considering burning should invest the $20 or so in a moisture meter until they learn how to properly season wood. You've got to stay at least a year ahead of things and two is far better for dense hardwoods.

An annual inspection and cleaning is a great way of tracking how well you are burning. My sweep always hands me the bag of ash and I can tell by that how good a job I did that year. Also the quality of the wood I burned.
I rarely get handed more than a cup or so.

OP- I would try my darndest to find someone to line your chimney and keep your current insert. Someone with experience in the field should be able to fabricate a connector piece if a prefab one cannot be found. I have found much help of this sort over at the hearth dot com forums- I urge you to ask there.

Here is a link that might be useful: Hearth forums

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 11:21AM
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This black stuff seemed to appear after only 4 days of using our insert. Before this, we hadn't used it in probably 20 years. It does look like shiney, very hard, creosote-looking stuff and I see it on the insides of the insert, and also on the inside of the door. I did use some very dry split wood, and also some whole logs from a maple that had been dead for a few years. Why do I have this????

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 2:46AM
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The black stuff is creosote. It results from insufficiently dried wood, running the insert with too little air or a combination of the two.

Not wishing to be overly alarming, but if you're getting creosote in the insert itself where the fire is hottest, you're very likely getting even more in the chimney. The $4k quote does seem high, but burning wood into an unlined chimney is not a safe practice. Even in a lined chimney, chimney fires are not fun.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 5:28AM
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how do I get rid of it? Or how would a chimney sweep get rid of this. Its a very hard substance.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 2:11AM
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you need to build a decently hot fire for a length of time. If you try and use your stove for a fire with just a small evening fire that never gets the stove or flue up to temp, you will have that light creosote buildup on the stove itself; as soon has you build a large, hot fire for a day (or at least half a day) that will disappear. This stove isn't meant to be used like a yuppie's fireplace - throwing a few splits in for an evening fire or building a tiny, cool fire for ambiance isn't what it's meant for and it will not burn cleanly. Burn it hot (GET a stove thermometer - available at lowes etc. - if you don't have one and use it), use seasoned wood and keep the fire burning for more than a few hours - your problems will go away.

Based on when your house was built, your chimney has a liner- a tile one; with wood a full stainless liner may potentially be safer in an oversized flue, but, operated properly, there's no problem using the stove. If the insert is used occasionally (and used hard - brought up to temp when it's used) dry, seasoned wood is burned, and the stack is brushed once/ season your will be more than safe. get a stove thermometer and use it.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 4:43PM
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Without going I into a several page dissertation on the causes of refractory degradation which will allow carbon to build up in cracks in a residential chimney, I will guarantee you that there will be a generous amount of creosote in an older chimney that can't been seen by a chimney sweep.

The repeated heating and cooling, heating and cooling as well as moisture infiltration into a standard residential construction stack causes cracks in the original ceramic flue in which tar will infiltrate. If you don't have a stainless steel,( unless you have a ceramic liner of a minimum of 70% alumina,) insulated sleeve in your chimney around these parts you don't get fire insurance, simple as that. Stainless is used to minimize the damage moisture can cause thus not prone to cracking where creosote can accumulate. When new a double brick chimney with a ceramic flue was safe and worked fine, after years of the repeated use and introduction of moisture the thing breaks down and isn't fine anymore. I remember someone saying to me, heck the brakes on my car need to be repaired and the car's only 2 years old.

There are refractory (heat insulation) companies that will install an airbag down the chimney from the top, pour a refractory grout into the chimney then inflate the bag creating a new ceramic liner.

And I repeat you are not OK to continue to use the fireplace, maybe 20 years ago not today. Especially with that build up in the fire box.

I don't know what your burning to cause that tar build up so quickly but it's not good. You say you are burning seasoned Maple, I doubt it. It could be what we call around here Manitoba Maple which is a type of Poplar that looks just like Maple.

You might try taking a propane torch to it, will work faster than repeated fires and you can stop when it catches fire.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 9:01PM
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I talked to a well known handyman who suggested having someone come in and line our chimney with SS. Anyone done this. I really don't want to throw away our nice insert that seems to blow out such good heat. Our electric bills (electric heat) are monstrous in the winter, and we have unlimited wood to burn (l0 acres of woods).

What do you all think about lining the entire chimney with SS? Wouldn't that be a solution?

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 2:04PM
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You already said,

"He said we need to buy a new unit, (Regency) with a SS chimney liner for a cost of about $4,000 installed"

A SS chimney liner is lining your chimney with stainless steel.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 11:29AM
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The SS line for the Regency is a smaller circular pipe. The handyman I talked to meant to line the entire chimney, which is rectangular (unless I misunderstood him).

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 1:22AM
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I believe you may have misunderstood, the liner would be a 8" circular pipe.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 8:25AM
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I found a company that makes an "adaptor boot" that would connect from my rectangular Cemi concept II fireplace insert to the round SS pipe. Made out of cast iron for $120-$140. This sounds better than scraping my insert and having to buy a new one, accessories and installation for over $4000. Here's the info (although the picture didn't turn out): COMMENTS PLEASE?
Rectangle to Round Insert Adapter Boot

Make connections between round flex liners to inserts and stoves with rectangle or oval exhaust openings. The collar is angled back toward the damper. Low profile clears most fireplace openings. Made of cast iron. Collar and base can be separated to adjust to 10 degree or 30 degree tilt. It is recommended that you use a chimney liner appliance connector to connect the liner to the insert boot.

Boot Dimensions
Outside Dimensions: 17.25" wide x 10.25" deep x 5.5" tall.
Inside Dimensions: 14.75" wide x 9.25" deep x 5" tall.
Wedge shaped.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 5:51PM
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sounds good, be sure to have the stack thoroughly cleaned before a liner installation, a fire between the liner and the tile liner can be much worse than a small fire in the tile liner alone.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2013 at 2:15PM
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Here's the link to the place that has the adapters that go from the Concept II insert to the round SS stack that goes up your chimney. It think its quite inexpensive. I think its cast iron. Good alternative to having someone take out and dispose of my Concept II for $450, plus buying a new inserts and SS piping for over $4000.

Any comments?

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 10:39AM
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CanâÂÂt agree entirely with Mr Berlin. Codes, standards, listings, and changes to any of the a foregoing- itâÂÂs a really big and interesting conversation with nuances that are sure not going to be covered in this space. âÂÂLegalâ is a term used kind of loosely buy almost everybody and is determined in a court when itâÂÂs argued anyway. May I suggest focusing differentlyâ¦.

The sweep is reasonable in not wanting to have anything to do with that fireplace stove installation. Even if not precisely illegal, itâÂÂs still a terrible installation and now universally recognized as such. New codes, standards and listings are all going to say put a liner all the way to the top when thereâÂÂs stove in the fireplace. (If your use of the word âÂÂinsertâ does not mean âÂÂstove in fireplaceâ weâÂÂre talking about two different things.)

And this: IâÂÂm assuming this is a masonry fireplace. If itâÂÂs not, the conversation changes entirely because generally speaking you canâÂÂt put a liner inside a factory built chimney, and maybe not an insert in factory built fireplace. That is another very large subject with caveats galore, but something you look at carefully.

So said, Regency does make a unit that can go into a factory built fireplace, and DuraVent does make a liner product that is listed for use in factory built chimneys (albeit difficult to get so far- itâÂÂs new) And to give some perspective, $4000 for both stove and liner installed is actually a decent price. WeâÂÂd be maybe $500 higher than that (depends on what stove of course, options etc.) and most of our competitors charge more than we do.
You may decide not to go with the sweepâÂÂs recommendations, but it sounds from here that your sweep was not a crook, just a conscientious guy. FWIW, and I donâÂÂt want to sound offensive, we(as a chimney sweep company) wouldn't service that unit either because of the potential liability of that installation. Whatever you decide, do keep in mind that a fire in the living room is inherently dangerous to begin with and you want to be as sure as you can itâÂÂs going to stay where it belongs!

    Bookmark   May 22, 2013 at 1:28PM
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"...generally speaking you canâÂÂt put a liner inside a factory built chimney, and maybe not an insert in factory built fireplace..."
We had an Avalon stove installed into a zero clearance fireplace back in 1991. They put a 6" liner down the 8" chimney and lined it with Kayowool. The stove was rated for a ZC installation.

And the $4000 figure sounds awfully high. We had a Regency installed in our current home and the complete price including installation was $2,400.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2013 at 7:54AM
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