This question has a number of facets to it â€“ let me ask a few questions and then answer each of them.
1. Does the chimney truly need to be replaced?
If the chimney is a masonry chimney (brick or concrete block), and is severely cracked, it should be replaced. However, if there are only minor cracks in the flue, then a fireplace insert and metal liner are typically all that may be required. Make sure that the chimney is significantly damaged before you go through the hassle of tearing it down and rebuilding it.
2. Who made the determination that it needed to be replaced?
A Property Inspector may make a determination that a chimney needs to be replaced, but he/she cannot be the final authority for a chimney. A licensed chimney inspector can give you an idea of what the true condition of your chimney is, along with various options and pricing. Do not rely on a chimney sweepâ€™s assessment or the opinion of an insert dealer hoping to sell you an insert. Iâ€™ve seen more than a couple of fireplaces â€œcondemnedâ€ by an â€œun-reputableâ€ â€œinspectorâ€ whose goal was to secure a sale for their products. In many cases, the fireplace was actually fine and only needed minor repairs.
3. If the chimney truly needs to be replaced, do you need to replace it with a masonry fireplace and chimney?
If the fireplace is on the front of your home and constitutes a part of the decorative faÃ§ade of your home, then replace like with like. However, if it is in a less visible location, you can actually remove the existing masonry fireplace and replace it with a wood-framed chimney and zero-clearance insert. The exterior surface can be T-111 plywood that can blend with most structures. If needed, stucco can be applied to the exterior. Add a decorative metal cap to the structure and you now have a chimney that not only costs less to build, it also conforms to local building ordinances for new structures and is more environmentally responsible. It can also look very sharp if built by a professional contractor with an eye for design. In addition, it can be built buy a carpenter instead of a mason. As a bonus, since a wood-framed chimney can support itself if built correctly, it is also possible that you may be able to use the existing foundation or get by with no foundation at all. You will need a permit and city approval.
4. Is your chimney 1-story or 2-stories? Is it a single or double flue? Does the entire structure need to be replaced, or just the upper portion of the chimney?
If there is a large crack near the top of your chimney, it may be possible to correct the problem by repairing only the top and then adding a roof brace. If it is determined that the entire structure needs to be replaced, Iâ€™ve seen replacement costs as low as $8,500.00 and as high as $40,000.00 depending on the type of chimney, location, height, type of materials used, decorative features, cap style, city restrictions, etc.
If you need the name of a reputable chimney inspection company that can provide you with accurate costs for repairs and/or replacement, we can provide you with contact information upon request.
If it is a Rampart General product with a cracked insulator plate, then replacement is the only practical option. This type of chimney is not rated for an insert or a metal liner for the flue. We have found that American Chimney Services in Hayward are very reputable, have integrity and can give accurate estimates on all the options. We highly recommend them and use them for all of our inspection and service needs.
The fireplace/chimney is in the house I am planning to buy. The chimney inspector came and recommend to tear down and rebuild. It has the insulator plate cracked and it is thermocrete chimney built by Rampart general which was out of business long time ago. This type of chimney is pretty common in the southern CA. Both buyer and seller agent are the first time running into this Thermocrete. I have searched the web regarding this type of chimney, many recommend to tear it down. For safety (fire hazard/ CO2), I want it replaced. My agent are negotiating this issue w/ seller. She has a contractor come and estimate soon. I just want to make sure either I have it rebuild or get a fair credit to have the work done later. The fireplace is in 1 story family room which is in the back of the house, but the chimney is taller than 2 story bedroom part of the house.