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Solution needed for costly chimney repair

jdp Member Posts: 18
Please help.

My steam boiler is not working properly; it's shutting off prematurely. I had someone out to check the boiler and he didn't see any obvious issues. He suggested I get someone to check the chimney. The chimney guy is suggesting that there are major issues with my chimney and it would be cheaper to bypass the chimney and directly vent the boiler. Can I use my existing boiler or does this require a new boiler? The current boiler is fairly newish, I don't know how old it is. I had the header redone on the boiler last year and that really improved the heat in the house. Please help.


  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,396
    Did the boiler guy tell you what was shutting the boiler off (pressure, LWCO, spill switch)? Did he perform a combustion test?

    What exactly did the chimney guy say was wrong with the chimney and did he show you? If you didn't see the problem with your own eyes I'd get a second opinion.

    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • Steamowner
    Steamowner Member Posts: 19
    Is the chimney falling down? I would think you could just use a liner.
  • jdp
    jdp Member Posts: 18
    The boiler guy suggested that pressure was shutting the boiler off. I normally press the button by the flames, please excuse my ignorance as I don't know it's proper name, in the front of the boiler to get it going again. There was no combustion test.

    The chimney guy did a visual check of the chimney outside and advised that the chimney was leaning and it didn't look good. Also, there are areas where the mortar is missing. Inside, he disconnected the flue from the boiler to the chimney and found a lot of debris obstructing the passage. He was unable to see any light from the top of the chimney with a periscope type mirror device which he said could mean that there is a bigger obstruction in the chimney or chimney's lean is pretty bad. He did not get on a ladder to check the chimney; he said he didn't want to cause any further damage.

    I will definitely be seeking a second and third opinion, but I wanted to run this by the board because you guys are so knowledgeable and give great advice. This is such a great resource for the clueless like myself.

    Thanks for your time.
  • jdp
    jdp Member Posts: 18

    Is the chimney falling down? I would think you could just use a liner.

    The chimney isn't falling down ... but I do see a slight lean ... I definitely don't know how much of a lean would indicate a bigger issue
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,398
    Do you have to "push the button" often. Generally a button is a reset of a safety, meaning you have had a problem. Need clarification on that. Pictures of what you are pushing would help, but yeah it sounds like you have some things to take care of. Also is the chimney leaning or was it built that way? Some of these old chimneys have some pretty funky offsets built into them. Also I might add shutting down on pressure isn't a chimney problem.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • John Mills_5
    John Mills_5 Member Posts: 945
    Sounds like a rollout meaning the burner area is getting too hot. This can be from a chimney drafting problem. What is the current boiler? There's a chance it can be power vented out the side wall.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 20,855
    If you can't see daylight from the bottom of the chimney, there are three possibilities:

    One, there is an obstruction in the chimney. Have you ever had it swept by a professional chimney sweep? That should be done every year! The sweep will also clean out the area at the bottom at the same time, and often will inspect the boiler's breeching ("stove pipes").

    Two, the chimney was built with an offset. It's amazing how many chimneys are. The sweep will be able to check that, too; an offest chimney is a bit of a pain to sweep, but not that bad.

    Three, the chimney leans so much that it behaves like an offset. Usually it will also fall down at that point...

    A leaning chimney -- usually due to loss of mortar -- should either be rebuilt or taken down.

    However, a chimney with an obstruction can be swept, and can then be lined. Most offset chimneys can also be lined, although there are some where the offset is so much that they can't. A competent professional sweep will know.

    A chimney with an obstruction will also cause draught issues, such as what you may be experiencing.

    Get a sweep out there.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • j a_2
    j a_2 Member Posts: 1,801
    Well what is the draft measured at....when the boiler starts up do the flames kinda jump back out at you....is the front cover on the boiler appear burnt a bit...Was this perhaps a oil boiler converted to gas....troubleshooting a condition like this should take an onsite tech approx 10 min...Totally understand the owner being scared....But think with your heAd not your wallet
  • jdp
    jdp Member Posts: 18
    Thanks so much for all the advice that I've received so far.

    I've had a few chimney guys out to the house and no one wants to touch the chimney. They all have been pretty much saying the same thing; they don't want to chance a cleaning because it looks to be in bad condition.

    The boiler continues to shut off prematurely. The below are pics of the boiler's specs and the button I press to get the boiler going when it shuts off. Any idea what this button is and what it does? Thanks.
  • Bob Bona_4
    Bob Bona_4 Member Posts: 2,083
    edited December 2015
    That's a safety flame rollout switch and if it's tripping, the boiler needs to be shut down ASAP and red tagged until the the reason it's tripping is fixed. Extremely dangerous condition.

    Resettable roll switches are absurd. A lot of boilers have a one shot, burnout switch that gives pause and hopefully forces the owner to save their lives.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 20,855
    Did you get a professional sweep? If that chimney needs repointing or repair it could be a really serious fire hazard.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,537
    If three chimney specialist are all in agreement. It's safe to say the chimney is not salvageable. Unheard of unless it was totally neglected for its life span.

    We just had my moms un lined 105 year old chimney pointed it looks like new for a coal burning fireplace.

    On the other chimney it has a slight lean, and only services the DHW heater. Believe it or not the lean was built into it in original construction.
    How old is it?
    Is it lined at all with clay flue tiles?
    Or just brick?
    What do the three sweeps want to do about it?

  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,537
    I'll will reiterate what @Bob Bona just said that reset button is for the roll out sensor. A roll out is the flames from the burner wanting to escape from the enclosure due to lack of proper chimney draft. This is due to chimney blockage.

    Heed the warning keep resetting, and you may lose a life, or the house. Both more costly than a chimney.
    Mark Eatherton
  • Paul48
    Paul48 Member Posts: 4,469
    If the chimney is built on the outside of the house, and is leaning, it has to be taken down and rebuilt.
  • Mark Eatherton
    Mark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,840
    If you don't have fresh carbon monoxide detectors near all sleeping areas, you NEED them. You have a potential CO poisoning situation on your hands that needs to be addressed immediately if not sooner.

    Check National Comfort Institute's contractor list and try to find someone close to you to correct the situations you have.


    There was an error rendering this rich post.

  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,895
    If the roll-out switch is tripping the problem may not be in the chimney. I'd look for a burner problem or plugged flue passages in the boiler itself. Mark is spot-on about a possible Carbon Monoxide situation.

    Where are you located?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,537
    edited December 2015
    Steamhead said:

    If the roll-out switch is tripping the problem may not be in the chimney. I'd look for a burner problem or plugged flue passages in the boiler itself. Mark is spot-on about a possible Carbon Monoxide situation.

    Where are you located?

    Im hoping the pro that looked at the boiler verified all that. Who knows, I have doubts especially if he knew the roll out was being constantly reset. How do you walk away from that in good conscience with out locking it out. Seems more than one person is saying the chimney is blocked.