Perhaps you’ve recently bought a new (old) house, and it came with a crumbling open hearth. Or your grandmother passed along the family woodstove and you’re questioning if your unused chimney could be cleaned up for use again.
Whatever the reason, it’s a question that plagues many people. Can an old chimney be repaired? Can you replace the existing fireplace? Or put in gas or pellet when it was always wood before?
The simple answer is if you’re looking for a repair, there’s usually a way. But depending on your existing setup, it may just be easier to replace it. If you’re looking to switch your fuel source, it’s usually possible.
Determining Your Chimney Liner
The chimney liner (AKA the “flue”) is one of the most essential parts of a working fireplace. If you’re new to chimneys, this is the layer of protection between the extreme heat, smoke, and soot that gets thrown up your chimney and the outer brick that you see from the outside.
If the flue or liner is in bad shape, it needs to be replaced before the chimney can function safely. In fact, the National Fire Protection Association code requires that your chimney liner be free from cracks or holes, so this is a serious matter.
Chimney flues come in various materials:
1. Clay Tile Flues
Found in many older homes, this liner is exactly what it sounds like: ceramic clay tiles. With age the tiles start to crumble and crack, as does the mortar holding it in place. If the liner is starting to deteriorate, it’s essential to repair or replace it. It’s often recommended to replace the old clay tiles with a Cast-In-Place Liner.
2. Cast-In-Place Liner
This process involves a bit of work, but the end result is a solid liner that is perfectly fit to your chimney. Essentially the original clay tiles will be extracted and a round form mold is inserted into your chimney. They will then pour a mortar-like mix in between the form and the bricks, creating an insulated liner that fits perfectly to your chimney. This process also reinforces the structural integrity of your chimney. This is the perfect option if you want to keep an open wood burning hearth.
3. Stainless Steel Liner
An excellent option for wood burning stoves or or inserts, the stainless steel liner offers more flexibility. For instance, if you want to put a wood burning stove on the hearth or partially within the fireplace opening, this liner can extend and curve to meet your stove. Often the stainless steel flue liner includes an insulation jacket to prevent it from cooling off too quickly.
Repair or replace?
If you’re going to use your fireplace for mostly decorative purposes, repairing the old liner can be a great way to have that traditional feel in your living room. But, if your chimney and mantle both need extensive work, or if you’re hoping to use your fireplace as a true heat source in the house, you’ll want to consider replacing it with a standing stove or insert.
Should you get an insert?
If you decide to ‘replace’ your current fireplace, one attractive option is to get an insert. Inserts are basically like a wood-burning stove that can be inlaid into your current fireplace and use the chimney already in place.
Inserts can be wood-burning, gas, pellet, or electric, and the right choice depends on your needs and preferences. Check out our blog all about inserts if you’re considering this for your own home.
If you’re hoping to use your fireplace as a primary source of heat you’ll almost certainly want to get an insert because these stoves are highly efficient at producing heat compared to an open wood fire.
Wood-burning inserts involve the least modifications, as gas, pellet, and electric all require installing an electrical supply to the fireplace. This can usually be run from the basement and up to the firebox through the floor.
If the chimney is simply beyond repair and you would rather not replace it, electric is the most practical option since it requires no chimney.
Finding A Reputable Chimney Repair Service
Regardless of these decisions, if you’re considering repairing or replacing a fireplace and chimney you’ll need to find a reputable chimney repair service. While Mountain Home Fire and Stove is happy to help you select the right fireplace for your home, we do not handle masonry or flute repairs.
Remember that a fireplace is not only a heat source and a decoration but also a serious safety concern. Be sure to check the history and reviews of any company you bring in to work on your hearth or chimney.
Feeling inspired? Interested in replacing your fireplace? Contact us or give us a call to discuss your options. 970-879-7962