Expensive chimney repair quote

20 Replies

Hi all,

This is my first time posting. I own a small 2 bedroom bungalow near downtown Sacramento that was built in the early 1900's. It is rented out and the rent covers the mortgage. The tenants asked that I call a chimney sweep to clean and inspect the chimney before they use it for the winter; no problem. The chimney sweep visited the house today and sent me the quote. I am surprised by the cost estimate, because the house is a very simple bungalow and when I had the home inspected during purchase, most of the house only needed simple repairs and I had assumed previous owners had kept up with most maintenance issues. So, I want to check to see if anyone else has any recommendations. 

Here is the cost breakdown: 

  • Install chimney cap: $1,630
  • Crown coat: $380
  • Waterproof chimney exterior: $495
  • Flash seal: $599
  • Install 16 ft of insulated stainless steel flue liner: $8,308
  • Smoke chamber parge damaged area: $1,361
  • Rebuild firebox: $2,610
  • Install mount damper: $736
  • Install approved heath rug: $215
  • Total: Approximately $16,000. 

My options:

  1. Shop around for other quotes and go ahead and pay for the repairs. 
  2. Seal the chimney and install a gas or electric fireplace. 
  3. Do nothing (would probably at least install the chimney cap to prevent anything falling in), and ask the tenants not to use the fireplace and make it decorative. 

Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks, Sean.

@Sean Anayah

Get a couple quotes for sure. If it turns out to be that expensive, I'd spend some time researching and do it yourself or pass some of this on to a handyman. Chimney cap, crown coat, waterproofing, and flashing are all fairly low in technical requirements and material costs.

@Sean Anayah you’re on the right track. I definitely suggest getting a second or third estimate before making any decisions. If the cost is truly going to be thousands then my first instinct is to uniform the tenants it is no longer for heating use, solely decorative. Put that in your lease. If it is month-to-month, serve a 30 day notice of lease changes. If they’re on a year lease, try to get them to sign an addendum. The only reason to put in a gas fireplace is if there’s no other heating source within the home.

Absolutely get another estimate and inspection. I have a quote for about 4K to install a stainless steel liner with firebox cap (whatever it’s called) for a 3-story chimney. Waterproofing brick is usually considered a waste. Of course, I don’t know how degraded the mortar is on your chimney... but yeah, it all sounds way too high.

this guys trippin! I can send you my contact who does my chimney work if you would like. thats insane $1600 to install the cap!?!?!

$1,630 to install a chimney cap?  You mean like the $40 part that takes 5 minutes to install?  

And what is "install approved heath rug"?  Isn't a hearth rug basically just a rug that costs $60-70 and literally lays down in front of the fireplace?  Lol.

Definitely get more quotes.

The guy you called is a con artist. This is the most dishonest quote I think I've ever seen, unless he doesn't want the work and is just looking for a Christmas bonus.

This is highway robbery, designed to take advantage of the uninformed.  A chimney sweep usually is qualified to do this type of work, but the real question is - does any of it need to be done?  This is a quote for a complete gut and rehab of what is essentially a decorative/convenience item.  

My suggestion - meet a second chimney sweep or home inspector at the house and look at it together.  Have them show you where the failures are that need to be addressed, if any actually exist.  

Install chimney cap: $1,630 - this should be around $100 total for parts and labor, unless your chimney is extremely large or unusually sized.  Then MAYBE you'd be looking at $350 to $400 tops.  What's wrong with what is there now?

Crown coat: $380 - Why? what's the condition now?  (this should be around 50 bucks, and is 100% cosmetic).

Waterproof chimney exterior: $495 - What does this even mean? it's stone or brick...are we spraying it with Thompsons water seal?  Never even heard of this before, there's no reason for it.  

Flash seal: $599 - Seriously?  this is enough to buy 5 - 5 gallon buckets.  Chances are that you need a touch-up on the roof, but it should be under $50.  Inspect the roof with the home inspector or sweep, look at the condition of the flashing and make sure the sealer hasn't started to break down yet.

Install 16 ft of insulated stainless steel flue liner: $8,308 - WHY? You can scope the chimney from the top and see if the current liner has deteriorated or isn't safe to use (evidence of pervious chimney fires, cracked/pitted/missing tile or exposed grout, etc) This should run around $4k all in (including removal of tile liner), unless this is an extremely odd shape or size.  It should also include a lifetime warranty after install as long as it's cleaned every year and you keep receipts.  

Smoke chamber parge damaged area: $1,361 - About double the actual cost to parge an entire new build, but a definite safety concern if its not addressed.  Creosote buildup is bad.  Inspect this - chances are you can do it yourself for under 50 bucks.

Rebuild firebox: $2,610 - WHY? This is just removing the old and installing new fire brick - it's a non-structural interior layer usually set with very little mortar.  While this is probably an all-day project for an inexperienced DIY, for a pro with 2 guys this is about 4-5 hours, assuming setup and breakdown.  Honestly it's probably a 3 hour job start to finish if they are good.  Unless there are broken bricks and visibly damaged mortar joins with ash/soot/creosote collecting in them, you don't need to do anything with it.  Cost should be about $1000 including the bricks, mortar and labor.  

Install mount damper: $736 - Again...Why? Is the one that's there rusted/rotted/broken? (this would be a red flag on a home inspection, if so)  Hope this includes the parts.  $150 is a fair number, parts and labor, unless the bracket needs replacing as well...probably closer to $400-$450 in that case.  Parts are around $250 or so and it's a pain in the neck to do.

Install approved hearth rug: $215 - Seriously? It's a $75 dollar item - it's a good idea and your insurance carrier will thank you.

Total: Approximately $16,000. Try $5,500 or so, all in.

I buy houses from the early 1900's and most originally had fireplaces for heat.  When they need major repairs, often complete rebuilds as the mortar wears out, I just close them up, cut the chimney off below the roof and roof over it.  The bricks within the house may be removed (sort of expensive) if they are at risk of collapse.)  the fireplace itself is covered up with a decorative cover made for that purpose. If the fireplace already had a gas line, I put in a gas decorative, not heat, with no venting requirement, element instead of covering it up. 

I would not put that much into fixing a fireplace as you will get no return at all. 

Also, your price quotes are way too high from what I saw, even for my personal home in a rural area of CA.  Maybe your area is just super high, but at least get another inspection and quote before deciding anything.

Sean

Definitely get a few more quotes.  As mentioned before chimney caps at Home Depot or Lowes will run under $100 and very easy to install.  Not sure what shape this fire place is in but for that price you can demo and build a new one.  Its contractors like these that make it hard for the rest of us.  If you post some pics I can give you ball park of what it should cost to repair.  Good Luck Brother.

Thanks everyone for your tips. I've asked the tenants not to use the fireplace until things are figured out - I'll see about an addendum to the lease, they are month to month right now. I am local to Sacramento, but living in the Bay so I could find a time to do the work, but with Covid the tenants might not want that. Fortunately there's a heater in the house. I posted pictures, the photos of the chimney are on top and on some the Chimney sweep put photos below to show what it should look like. Thanks 

You could do the crown coat and chimney cap yourself for less than $200 and 2 hours of time maximum. The cap just sets to the liner (poking up from the masonry) and you paint the crown sealant on. I bought a bucket of it online for maybe 40 bucks and had enough to do probably 3 chimneys. This quote is so abhorrent that guy should have been embarrassed to give it to you. 

I just replaced my chimney cap and crown sealant myself in my primary residence this summer. As others already said, it's under $200 and took me less than a day. 

If you're worried about carbon monoxide, put a CO detector. To avoid creosote buildup, avoid using firewood that has not been seasoned at least 1 year. 

$8300 for a chimney liner in a bungalow is crazy. I’ve had liners installed in 3-families here in CT and the cost wasn’t even half that. I’d get more quotes. 

I had a similar problem & our Insurance Carrier was not pleased about a wood burning fireplace, board it up or we cancel. So I installed an old display model Napoleon gas insert from a local fireplace store. 

I ran the gas line & they installed the double intake/exhaust Al pipes to the top of the chimney & added a metal chimney cover/cap with a separate vent cap. The entire cost was $2800. The unit has a two-speed blower (I ran the electric) & heats that 1200 sq ft ranch like crazy. I have since corrected some chimney to roof flashing, painted the chimney cap they installed & re-pointed some of the old outer brick work. Between tenancies I re-tiled the hearth & insert surround & it pops. Our new tenants & the Ins Carrier love it, no mess, no smoke, no fire hazard. 


@Sean Anayah option 3 is best here. Tell the tenants and future tenants that the fire place is non-functional. Have them put some candles in there or some other decoration. It is not worth even spending $1000 let alone $16,000 in a rental property for a wood burning fire place - unless you are doing vacation rentals in the mountains... Beyond the cost, wood burning fire place is a liability hazard and ongoing maintenance expense. 

As far as the inspection, most home inspections are not thorough. Home inspectors take a 40 hour class and they are not experts in anything. 

I am not sure the company is trying to scam you, as much as trying to upsell high end services. Some may argue it is the same thing. Whenever you ask for a quote and end up with a detailed PDF containing a bunch of pictures and in depth explanations, you pretty much know the company is trying to up sell you. They are using that document to cost justify their work.

@Sean Anayah

Definitely get more quotes, we just had a similar repair needed at a job and we got 3 quotes: $16,000, $8,900, & $6500 all for the same work... 

*But I would encourage you to avoid the repair as much as possible and put that money toward a nice electric or gas insert like you mentioned. I have to imagine this is less maintenance, less risk overall, and super high value for tenants or future buyers. I just bought a large propane tank and install a cheaper propane insert in my own home which we intent to rent or sell in about a year and it cost under $2,500 to buy a propane tank, get it installed, filled, and for the insert itself (I installed the propane log-set myself which saved some money)

Pay a little extra and get a nice remote controlled insert, and you should be very happy with the result.