Condo’s typically have gas insert chimneys. Single family houses can have them too. They look something like this: They use gas, to create the fire in the fireplace. The insert is like an appliance, and goes right into the chimney enclosure. These fireplaces usually have fake logs. Some owners can be confused how to work a gas insert fireplace. The instructions for operation are located underneath the sheet metal removable base panel. The instructions tell you how to light the fireplace. A lot of buyers think because the property has a gas insert fireplace that there isn’t anything that could be wrong with it. This isn’t true. The big risk here is improper installation or defective parts. I recommend having a chimney inspection if the property has one of these.
Appropriate Chimney height varies by chimney type, manufacturer, and the size of your house (two story houses require longer chimneys than single story). To function properly, a chimney should be at least 10 to 12 feet tall. In addition to this length, Los Angeles Building Code Requires that the chimney be three feet above the roofline, and be two feet higher than the roof line within a 10 foot radius of the chimney stack. This prevents backdraft and allows space for any burning embers that escape the chimney to cool off before landing on the roof.
A Spark Arrester helps prevent sparks and embers from getting out of the chimney and landing on your roof. The area around the top of the chimney should be clear of debris, tree branches and leaves, or any other building structures. Chimneys that are too short can cause smoke to get sucked back into the house because of back draft. If your chimney is ‘smokey’ talk to a chimney repair company. They can extend the chimney height.
If you have had a chimney inspection, you can sometimes just send the chimney inspection report to a chimney contractor to get estimates, otherwise you will have to call a chimney repair company and set up an appointment with an estimator.
Common Repairs and Costs:
Complete Chimney Masonry Rebuild- $20,000 to $25,000 for Single Story.
Install New Metal Chimney: $5,000-$10,000. $5,000 just for the stack, $10,000 if the stack and firebox. You can keep cost down by stuccoing the chimney instead of rebuiding with stone veneers.
Install New Spark Arrestor:
Chimneys missing a spark arrestor is one of the most common thing I see. If your chimney doesn’t have something covering the flue- water when it rains will just go straight down the chimney and into your house which is not good. In addition to keeping water out of the inside of your house, spark arrestors prevent burning embers from traveling up the chimney and escaping. Burning embers can start fires. While you may not want to keep Santa Claus from visiting you at Christmas, you definitely don’t want animals looking for a warm, safe, sheltered space to make home. Some common chimney intruders are Birds, Squirrels, Raccoons, Bats, and Roof rats. Spark Arrestors are really easiest to install. Cost $400 – $500
Water Should flow away from the Flue so it doesn’t get inside the chimney
New Chimney Cap: Overtime the cap of the mortar of the chimney can weather and crack since it is outside in the elements. Like drainage around the foundation of your house, you want water to be channeled away from the flue of your chimney, where it can get inside and cause mold, water damage, or wear out your chimney faster. Cost:
Chimney Extension: Chimney can sometimes be too short to get proper ventilation, or meet code, or prevent embers from escaping. extending the chimney adds a few feet of extra feet of height to the stack. If you are on a budget you can extend a chimney with a sheet metal flue extender and save some cost. Sheet Metal Extension Cost $1,000 Masonry Extension Cost $3,000
Parge Coat: The Mortor between bricks in Chimney Fireboxes can wear out over time allowing some of the heat and burning embers to escape the firebox into the cavity in the wall. This is a fire hazard. Resealing the firebox with a Parge Coat gives your chimney new life. Cost $1,000 to $1,500. The cost depends on if the damper needs to replaced (extra $200), and how big the firebox is. A normal size firebox is the $1,250 range- a huge firebox like you might find in Beverly Hills or Brentwood house on a 3 story chimney could be $2,000 or $3,000 to coat.
A note for condos: A lot of chimney repair companies do not like working on chimneys in condo buildings because the HOA can be difficult to work with. There are only a few companies I know of who do them.
Chimneys can sometimes leak. There are a few common places where leaks happen. The most common area of leaking is the connection where the chimney and the roof meet at the roof line, if the area surrounding the chimney isn’t properly flashed or the flashing is damaged- rainwater will funnel inside the house during a rainfall instead of being wicked off the side of the house.
The second most common cause of a roof leak is no rain cap. At the top of the chimney there should be a rain cover that covers the majority of the chimney stack opening from above to prevent rainfall from entering inside the chimney. Water will wear away the mortar inside a brick chimney over time, also aging these chimneys more rapidly. Prevent rainwater from entering the chimney by installing a rain cap.
A great way to spot if you have a water leak or not, is to look for the tell tale waterstain, usually above on the cieling. For water that has been leaking on brick, it creates a white powder substance afterwards that is called “efflorescense”. When you see this, it is a indicator to have your chimney inspected.