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Question about chimney liner and new equipment

04090
04090 Member Posts: 142
Regarding an old (post Civil War era) house in New England with a center chimney.... the chimney is an estimated 44 feet and is spalling in the basement and shows signs of severe weathering (flaking) in the unfinished attic especially where it twists through the room between the floor joists to meet the roof rafters. We had a cap installed when we bought the house awhile back, and had the chimney coated with a fibered cement product (FSP?) by a chimney company to fill the voids caused by the spalling and flaking in the attic and basement. Having once been a two family house, there is a 20 year old steam boiler and two 40 gallon gas heaters also being fed into the chimney. The cost to repair the chimney exceeds the price of a liner.



We need to upgrade the ancient oil fired hot water boiler.



A Buderus 115 has been recommended. The oil company says it's "no problem" to use the chimney unlined and as is. Others have seen it and recommend an 8" corrugated liner, however the capacity with four appliances in a twisting (in the attic) chimney has also been questioned. Abandoning the chimney and installing side vented gas equipment has also been recommended.



Can the questionable chimney be used as is? The oil company is large and well established. I don't believe they'd intentionally give bad advice, but this is one time I need to question that.



What can happen to an old brick unlined chimney with a Buderus 115, or even similar, boiler?

Comments

  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    Old Chimneys in MA

    If you replace ANY of the gas appliances, you will be required to bring the chimney up to code. That means a liner. From my experience, these old center bay multiflues that are doing what you describe, are shot. And beyond reasonable repair. Oil burners are not exempt. Just not covered under the plumbing and gas code. But the different boards have all been combined under the Department of Public Safety so regulations are coming. These old chimneys are really bad and unsafe. They may often have holes in them where it can't be found. I often see one brick that has turned to powder and the others around it are fine. They were probably under fired in the pallet when made. Unless you use a SS liner, you may put a lot of work in and it still not work well. Consider Power Venting.
  • World Plumber
    World Plumber Member Posts: 389
    Outside chimney

    Have you considered putting a new chimney up on the side of the house. Often that can be done for the price of a stainless steal liner. With twists and turns in those old chimneys I've seen they often changed the width in the turns making it next to impossible to get the right sized liner in.  Have you had a chimney company look at it to determine if it could be lined? What is the structural stability of it like?
  • kcopp
    kcopp Member Posts: 4,006
    I'm not far....

    from you in NH. I installed a Buderus in my 200+ yr old home into an interior  chimney and installed the liner. The low stack temps are murder on an old unlined masonary flue. since it was just the boiler 5" was fine.

    I had Merrie Sweep out of Greenland do it... They other option would be to use a product called Supaflu to cement line it. http://www.supaflu.com/

    It would be stonger but I don't know about the price.

    kpc, Dover
  • 04090
    04090 Member Posts: 142
    update

    Adding a second chimney isn't an option.... interesting thought, though. And it's a single flue chimney that constricts itself in the attic where it twists around.



    I didn't know the unlined chimney would be doomed when the 15 year old gas water heater needs to be replaced. We've decided it's not worthwhile to invest 6k plus into the chimney, so based on that anticipation alone perhaps it's best just to abandon the chimney now and go with side venting appliances.



    Appreciate your pointing that out -- we've been so focused on the ancient boiler we never gave updating the water heater and related requirements a thought.



    Question still stands, though, if only for curiosity on the integrity of an unlined 1850's chimney and a Buderus boiler. Was the engineer correct in stating it's fine, despite it not being recommended?



    And can someone else just confirm the need for a lined chimney to meet Massachusetts code with a replacement gas hot water heater?



    Appreciate the support, thanks.
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,216
    Stainless Steel all fuel

    you can install an all fuel chimney. The home in my add had to do that as the chimney would not even allow a 6" liner with the twists and turns. We found two closets one above the other and ran the chimney up through them. the chimney was sound proofed and inspected by the gas inspector, Fire chief, and building inspector. We used all fuel chimney even though the boiler is firing on natural gas as it can be fired on fuel oil if the burner is changed. The code calls for a liner for oil and I am sure it does for oil if in the condition you say. Big oil does not mean done properly or safely. If it is the pioneer valley or Berkshire county I can name a dozen large companies that should not be allowed to install boilers of any fuel type.
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/charles-garrity-plumbing-and-heating
  • Jack
    Jack Member Posts: 1,046
    Perhaps...

    Given the cost of a liner, new boiler,etc and given that you have gas in the house all ready, perhaps it is time to ask for pricing on a modcon gas boiler. That would eliminate the use of the chimney. You have to deal with ALL of the appliances as a system, but you are in for some major expense anyway. Look at all of your options!
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,216
    Burnham makes

    The Independence side wall vented gas fired steam boiler. They can run indirect water heaters or powervented water heaters can be used. http://www.usboiler.burnham.com/pdf/Independence_lit.pdf
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/charles-garrity-plumbing-and-heating
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,216
    Around 83% efficient and not having

    to tear out the steam system would be more effective use of funds. Where are you located in Mass?
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/charles-garrity-plumbing-and-heating
  • 04090
    04090 Member Posts: 142
    answer

    We're just west of Boston.



    Having inquired a bit more, it seems that many "pros" aren't too concerned about feeding new appliances into an old unlined chimney. There's the oil company that'll install the Buderus 115, and I was talking with a seemingly reputable plumber who'd happily just replace the gas hot water heater with both venting into an unlined ancient chimney with four appliances.



    So much conflicting information....
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    Unlined Chimneys:

    That "seemingly reputable plumber" isn't a plumber in Massachusetts because what he is willing to do is completely illegal to do in Massachusetts. Unless he doesn't get a permit for his work and has it inspected.
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,216
    We are licensed and insured

    I am second generation with the same phone number for 46 years. I guarantee they are incorrect to vent into that chimney. You can listen us or you can go with the guys who have no regard for the code that is written to protect people from shoddy installations.
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/charles-garrity-plumbing-and-heating
  • Jack
    Jack Member Posts: 1,046
    An unlined masonry chimney does not meet code

    NFPA 211 which covers masonry chimneys states that a "masonry chimney shall be lined with an approved fire clay flue lining" On residential systems approved alternate liners are acceptable. Now the only copy of the code i have here at the house is the 88 edition and it is section 3-2.2 I'm referring to. We all know that venting codes, other than oil, have become much more stringent. In 92 the gas codes began requiring lining. Today, it is basically universal with Cat I gas appliances that the chimney be lined with the appropriately sized liner. This is due to the problems associated with dew-point, condensation in the flue, which creates the spalling the original poster referred to, with resulting poor draft. Masonry chimneys are almost universally oversized, which further exacerbates the problem. Attempts have been made to include relining requirements for oil, but so far the nearest has been Appendix E in NFPA31. 31 defers to 211, which it must.



    Charlie is right on the money!
  • 04090
    04090 Member Posts: 142
    Thank you

    This board has been invaluable.



    We're planning to abandon the chimney and install a side venting gas system in the spring.



    I don't understand why the oil company would be so adamant about installing a Buderus 115 without requiring the chimney to be lined, or how an independent plumber (who interesting declined to install a boiler) was ready to install a new gas heater into the unlined chimney. Nevertheless, thank you again for your help. We'd really be up the creek if a new system was installed and we then had to pay another 6k to improve the chimney.



    I guess the next chapter will be how to consolidate a second floor steam system with a first floor hot water baseboard system..... am thinking of pex lines and wall mounted hot water radiator panels for the second floor. Always one more thing.



    Regards.
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    Chimney/PV

    How old is the boiler?

    How close is it to a wall you can Power Vent out through?

    What condition is the steam system in? Does it work?

    Do you have an oil boiler and gas DHW heaters or are you all gas? Arre you LP gas?

    Getting the biggest bang for your buck may not mean starting from scratch.
  • 04090
    04090 Member Posts: 142
    edited January 2011
    To answer your questions....

    Two systems now; one steam Burnham boiler about 18 years old and a 29 year old Burnham hot water boiler. There are also two aged gas 40 gallon hot water heaters. All feed into the same unlined chimney.



    Steam system works great; does everything it should. We typically run it only one cycle in the evening and it's enough to get through all but the coldest and windiest days. Some days it doesn't run at all. A lot of heat travels from the first floor to the second if we let it.



    We have two aged 275 oil tanks (one for each boiler) and ample gas from the street. New equipment can be placed by the foundation. The chimney is centered about 11 feet to outside walls, however, low ceiling clearance and a maze of pipes make side venting from the chimney area impossible.



    A system that vents quietly is of prime importance. Because we can set back the thermostat almost for the full day, and can run the heat once per day on the second floor, our consumption is minimal. I'm not sure a super efficient system is called for. The first floor is on two loops, one's at 70 and the other 55, each loop is about 50 feet so I'm not sure a condensing boiler would have a chance to condense. The house was professionally insulated and air sealed, original windows were restored and are tight as new ones. The house was used as a two family, built mid/late 1800's and in good condition, slate roof and all that fun stuff.



    I think that covers your questions, and then some.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,502
    If you go with sidewall venting

    make sure you can exit the building at least a foot above the highest recorded snow accumulation for your area. Otherwise a heavy snowfall can block the air inlet and exhaust, which will cause the boiler to either shut down or run unsafely.



    And with that much snow on the roads, service trucks won't be able to reach you.



    Maybe fixing the chimney is the best way to go. Plus, a chimney has no moving parts to break.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
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