Thursday, May 24, 2012

Just Shoot Me

Basically, my house is in pretty good shape.  Really and truly.  But for some reason, this past year, when I could least afford it, I've had to throw big chunks of money at all sorts of things that had nothing to do with tile or a new kitchen floor or a new bathroom or anything fun and sexy and visible like that.

No.  First the water softener ruptured and after living with scary hard water for several months I admitted I needed a new one, and a water filter as well if the job were to be done properly.  Then the attic insulation went bad and the only feasible way to replace it was with spray foam.  At the same time, I found out I had all sorts of things wrong with my roof and flashing, and that had to be taken care of.  As it was being taken care of, I was informed that the wet place on my chimney breast is due to my having no liner in the flue for my hot water heater.  OK, I got a decent bid from some plumbing and heating guys to come put one in.  But up the ladders they go, and down they come-- they couldn't get the liner in, due to the bend in the chimney, they said.  Call a chimney sweep/technician, they recommend.

I've been calling chimney firms on and off the past month, but only two have actually come by to take a look at things.  And only one has actually gotten up on a ladder and looked down the chimney.  That was today, and just shoot me, it doesn't look good, it looks expensive, and it looks like the kind of thing that can't really be put off.

I want to get the water heater flue lined so I can get the chimney breast dried out and hang the wallpaper in the living room.  But the chimney repairman who was out this evening tells me the real problem is birds' or squirrels' nest material that's practically blocking the flue and sending not only condensation, but also carbon monoxide, back down into the house.  Worse carbon monoxide, since the HVAC guys knocked out the cement that used to seal the WH pipe into the wall of the flue in the basement in their futile attempt to install the liner last month.  I'd wondered why I seemed to get a whiff of gas down there, even when the furnace was off.  And maybe I should wonder why I've been feeling stupider than usual these days.

So it won't be enough just to shove an aluminum liner in there, I'm told.  The chimney must be cleared, then I really should get a stainless steel liner, because aluminum will pit and corrode out in three years or so.  If I was to be really, really pessimistic about my employment chances, I'd say who cares, I'll be selling the house before then anyway.  But what if I don't?  Then I've got the same problem again.

And, says the chimney tech, it won't be enough for me to run the liner in then slam the existing cap with the cute fins back on.  Those cute fins have way big gaps, 2" or so, that let all those birds and/or squirrels in, and nothing to stop them building their nests in the new liner.  So I would have to get new caps for my flues, and no, it wouldn't work just to stretch some wire mesh over the top of the flues under the existing cap.  That would just mean the birds would build their nests at the top and block it up there.

I know this is no hypothetical situation.  I dug around three 13-gallon trash bags worth of birds' nest material out of my eaves last October.  And their handiwork is in my WH flue right now.

Crap.  He's given me a ballpark estimate, and I thought if I ever would spend that much on the chimney, it'd be going well towards covering the cost of a pretty new gas fireplace insert.  He's willing to work out financial terms, but crap, crap, crappity crap, why does all this have to come up now?

Hey, Lord, don't You realize how broke I am?  Or maybe I should just let the house moulder and go to ruin, in the good old-fashioned style?

Meanwhile, I've cracked open a window in the basement.  And a CO detector is on my shopping list when I go to Home Depot after work tomorrow.


dynochick (Jan) said...

Would it just be cheaper to put in a direct vent water heater or better yet use this as a chance to install a tankless water heater.

Both options do not use your chimney.

Good luck.

I understand about the chimney guys. I have 3 fireplaces and it is like pulling teeth to get them to show up. It's either too cold, too hot, or too windy. Frigging wimps....I tell you.

Shasha Kidd said...

We replaced our water heater with a tankless variety and were able to remove the chimney altogether, freeing up some valuable floorspace. Though, the venting for the water heater is not attractive, it might be a cheaper option than repairing a whole chimney liner.

dynochick (Jan) said...

We were lucky with the tankless that we installed. The vent is covered with a tan plate and grill that is about 6X12 inches.

Kate H. said...

Yeah, I wondered about the tankless . . . though the way things are, it'd cost more than the liner.

Removing the chimney not an option-- the pretty fireplace is one big reason I bought this house! ;-)

Actually, considering the water heater's been in the old furnace flue literally for decades and the wallpaper wasn't waterstained when I moved in, I wonder if I should just get the flue cleared and see if it dries out.