Chimney Repair Frequently Asked Questions


REPAIR FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

WHAT DO I NEED TO DO TO PREPARE FOR YOU COMPANY DOING A REPAIR AT MY HOUSE?

First, if we are doing any outside work, especially tuck pointing your chimney, close your damper and the glass doors to the opening of the fireplace and tape the open seams shut.  Also put a towel around the front of your hearth.  If you have a top closing damper, or you do not have glass doors, cover the front opening of your fireplace with plastic and seal tight.  Make sure that all windows are closed on the side of the house the chimney is on, as well as the front and back of the house, while we are there doing work.  If there is not an outside socket for us to plug into for power, then please run an electrical chord out through the mail slot or under the garage door.  We need power to do out work.  Make sure that if you have the water turned off to the outside water hose to turn it on as we need water to do our work also.  Also tell any neighbor whose house is next to the side of the house the chimney is on to keep their damper and windows on that side, rear and front of their house closed as well while we are physically at your house working on the job.

WHY DO YOU CHOOSE TO EMAIL A BID AND NOT LEAVE A PAPER ONE WITH US DURING THE BID VISIT LIKE OTHER COMPANIES?

I like to give a detailed bid with as much information as possible to tell you of exactly what the problem is with your chimney, and what work we are bidding to fix it.  Additionally, sometimes I need to call for prices on parts and various other items needed for the repair and this way I can give a fair and correct bid for the work needing to be done.

IS THE WORK DIRTY?

Most times we are taking a grinder and grinding something out to fix it, but chimney repair is never a clean process.  We take steps to mitigate the work area, but unfortunately a chimney is outside on a roof and any work we do is susceptible to the wind and other external factors.  The short answer is, unlike what is shown on HGTV where they clean up the work before the camera crews arrive and continue working on the repair as if it is a clean process, chimney work is not a clean process at all.  By the nature of the work it is a messy process.  We do our best to clean up the site when the job is completed and return it to pre-repair condition as best we can.

HOW COME YOUR BID SAYS “WORK IS WEATHER PERMITTING” ON IT?

The fact of the matter is that when we work with mortar we must mix it into a liquid substance to lay bricks, tuck point and tool it.  It hardens through drying and that drying process is the mortar shedding the water to harden, and that takes some time to do.  Rain is a detriment to this process if it is a constant hard rain and we can not tarp off above the area we are working on.  Also, because we mix mortar with water, and that water has to be expelled to harden, we can not do any mortar work on days where it is below freezing.  Doing so would mean the water will freeze before it is expelled causing the mortar to crack during curing, causing us to have to redo it all over again.  We do have tools to speed that process, but we can not work in days below 32 degrees.

WHAT IS AN ACID WASH?  WHY IS IT A PART OF THE BID AS COMPLEMENTARY?  WHY DOES IT NEED TO BE DONE AT LEAST 7 DAYS AFTER THE REPAIR WORK IS COMPLETED?

One of the elements of mortar is lime.  When working with mortar, it is hard not to get lime on the surfaces we are working on like the bricks.  It is invisible when wet, but when dry it gives the appearance that someone has come with chalky hands and smeared chalk on your chimney.  The Acid Wash dissolves surface lime and efflorescence (is the loss of water (or a solvent) of crystallization from a hydrated or solvated salt to the atmosphere on exposure to air indicating a leaking chimney that is not shedding water properly and needs to be waterproofed) so that the chimney has a cleaner appearance.  It must be performed at least 7 days after the repair work is completed as one of the components of mortar is lime.  If an acid wash is done before 7 days, the mortar has not had enough time to cure to the hardened state it does, and the acid that we use in this process can dissolve the lime in the mortar that we don’t want dissolved, weakening it and causing issues down the road.  7 days is enough time for the mortar to cure to a state where this is not an issue.  If we have to set up scaffolding or other equipment on the roof to do the work, we need to leave them up for the 7 day duration so that we can do the acid wash.  Some cases we can tear the scaffolding down and access the chimney with a ladder, but most will need the scaffolding to stay up.  We will also clean off any white lime streaks or stains on the windows or exterior walls near the area near the chimney we are working during the acid wash.

IS THERE ANY INFORMATION WE NEED TO GIVE YOU WHEN CALLING UP FOR A BID?

I need all the important information on exactly what is going on with your chimney to give a proper bid.  Also, this is very important – PLEASE GIVE US YOUR CORRECT EMAIL ADDRESS AND CONTACT INFORMATION.  Without a correct email address we can not get the bid to you.  We have have done a few bids recently this year where people gave us the wrong email address over the phone and the emails came back undeliverable.    Also, know that we may have to contact you by phone before sending the bid if there is added work that needs to be done for either structural, code, or safety reasons to the work that you initially called us about.   Also, please understand that we get called out to do a lot of bids for repair work, and usually have to end up working on them at night after doing a full day of repair work.  Depending on the season, we may need some time from when we go to your house to do the bid to actually emailing you the bid.

WHY DID YOU SEND A LIEN AND OTHER FORMS WITH MY BID?

The Oregon State Legislature voted that Contractors must send 3 forms along with the bid to the homeowner on any contract work where the total cost of the bid is $2,000.00 or more – Consumer Protection Notice, Information Notice to Owner about Construction Liens and Notice of Procedure.  As contractors licensed in the state of Oregon, we do not have a choice in the matter.  This chart at the following link summarizes the three notices a contractor must give to the homeowner when contracting for residential construction work based on price of the work being bid.  We have no choice and must do this.  You just have to acknowledge that we sent you the form with the bid by signing and dating on the bid that we sent it to you.  If other contractors are giving you a bid for $2,000.00 and over and not providing you with these forms, or making you sign acknowledging that you received them from the contractor, then they are operating illegally under Oregon Construction Contractor Law.  You can see the chart here – http://ccbed.ccb.state.or.us/WebPDF/CCB/Publications/RN-chart.pdf

WILL YOU INSTALL A CAP I BOUGHT FROM HOME DEPOT?  WILL YOU JUST PUT A SCREEN OVER THE TOP OF MY GAS FIREPLACE CHIMNEY?

No.  We will not do work that is against code, or with substandard products that are not made to last, nor come with a proper Manufacturer’s Limited Lifetime Warranty.  The reason we will not install a cap bought from a Local Hardware or Big Box Hardware store is that they are made with thin gauge, regular steel that will rust within a few years time.  They also do not come with a Manufacturer’s Warranty, and we do not want to have to be responsible for a substandard product.  We only use quality parts in our repairs that have been tested to last.

We will not install screen over the flue of your gas stove as if that screen gets covered by leaves, and your gas shut off valve goes out, the gas (which produces carbon monoxide due to not burning properly) will not be able to escape and cause a severe health hazard and kill to all those in the house.  It is why when you have your fireplace converted to gas, they lock the damper open so that the gas can vent out if the cut off valve fails.  It is also illegal to do and we do not perform illegal work.

CAN YOU REPAIR OR REPLACE THE LINER FOR MY WOOD BURNING STOVE, ZERO CLEARANCE FIREPLACE, PELLET STOVE, OR GAS STOVE?

No.  The Construction Contractors Board separated Chimney Contractors from performing that type of work back in the 90′s.  You will need to contact a licensed Wood Stove Installer for that.

CAN YOU REPAIR ANY OF THE COMPONENTS OF THE GAS SYSTEM IN MY GAS FIREPLACE OR FURNACE?

No.  Again, the Construction Contractors Board separated Chimney Contractors from working on anything involving gas fueled heating systems back in the 90′s.  You will need to contact a licensed Wood Stove Installer or Gas System Repair Person for that.

ANOTHER COMPANY GAVE A BID WHERE THEY SAID THEY CAN USE AFTER MARKET PARTS FOR REPAIR ON MY ZERO CLEARANCE FIREPLACE.  WHY ARE YOU SAYING YOU CAN ONLY USE ORIGINAL MANUFACTURED PARTS?  AREN’T THE AFTER MARKET PARTS JUST AS GOOD?

If you have a zero clearance fireplace or wood stove, those systems are sent to United Laboratories for testing for each new model unit that a Manufacturer produces.   Zero Clearance Fireplace must sent to United Laboratories for testing for each new model unit that a Manufacturer produces.  When the units pass U.L. testing and are cleared for mass production, they are manufactured with a placard denoting Manufacturer, Model Number, Serial Number and Date of Manufacture that is affixed somewhere at the front of the unit.  Some are silver with black, others are copper with black, but they resemble the one see in the example picture below.

UL plate

The unit is tested as one unit (with liner, damper, cap and everything installed as one complete unit that makes up that model number) for safety rating and insurance purposes.  If a part has gone bad, it needs to be replaced with the original Manufacturer’s Part (if available) to comply with UL testing and for insurance purposes.  Only if the manufacturer is no longer in existence, or they no longer make the original replacement part can we replace it with an after market part ON SOME PARTS ONLY – Caps, chase covers, dampers, storm collars and refractory (ceramic heat shield) panels on the interior of the firebox IF AVAILABLE.

NoteIt also may take a bit of time to track down the Manufacturer as many have changed hands or sold themselves off to other larger heating companies and are hard to find.  Depending on the age of the unit, some Manufactures may not stock replacement parts for that model number anymore.  Some Manufactures have gone out of business but sold their existing replacement parts stock to another company and parts may only be available in the stock they have left in the warehouse.  Many Manufacturers have gone out of business entirely and replacement parts of any kind are not available.  At that point, only some parts may be replaced with after market parts, specifically caps, chase covers and storm collars.

IF I GIVE YOU THE MEASUREMENTS FOR A PART I NEED, CAN YOU JUST USE THAT AND ORDER THE PART?

No.  We have been burned on people giving us measurements for caps and other parts in the past and have had to eat the cost.  As company policy we can not take descriptions on parts replacements over the phone.  We need to come out and look at it first hand and take our own measurements to make sure we have everything correct.  Many times you will not realize that other necessary parts that need to be there to make it work are not there, or are giving us the wrong part name, and we need to find that out too.

DOES YOUR BID REFLECT ALL THE WORK THAT IS NEEDED TO BE DONE?

In most cases. There are rare cases where when repairing a chimney you find out there are other issues that are hidden from the exterior of a chimney such as code or structural violations that are only visible when you get into the repair.  In those cases, a new bid with the added work and change in price (if any) will be sent and the customer must sign this bid (and resign the forms section of the bid if the bid price is $2,000.00 or over stating that you have received the necessary forms mandated by the Oregon Construction Contractor Board) to accept the new extra work for us to continue with the job.  If it is a very small issue, chances are we will just fix it and not charge anything more.  But any major changes to the bid must need a change to the Work Order Bid per Oregon Construction Contractor Board rules.

WHY DO I HAVE TO SIGN THE BID?

The Oregon Construction Contractors Board states that any bid with the total price of $1,000.00 or over must be signed.  However, we want to make sure that everyone is on the same page with the scope, price, conditions and terms of the work and that signing the bid states that all parties have agreed to them.   Company policy is that we do not do any repair job, no matter what price it is, without a signed bid.

WHY WAS YOUR CHIMNEY REPAIR PERSON NOT THE UNIFORM THAT THEY ARE SHOWN WEARING IN THE COMMERCIAL

Repair work is far too messy for a uniform.  They get destroyed easily and not cost-effective for this type of work.  Your repair person will be wearing jeans and a t shirt in the summer, or jeans and sweat shirt or used winter weather gear in the winter depending on conditions.

THERE ARE WHITE PATCHY AREAS ON MY LAWN AFTER YOU LEFT.  WHAT IS THAT AND HOW CAN I REMOVE THAT?

The stains you are looking at is lime stains from the mortar we use.  Mortar is in a liquid state when we work with it, and it does get on the grass.  The lime does nothing to your grass.  There may be some areas of your lawn that are effected.  Again, this is a messy job and the part of your yard near the area will be effected.  No matter how much we try to prepare an area for the work, there are some factors that are out of our control.  Let your neighbors know that if anything gets on the side of their house that is close to the chimney, we will hose it down too at the end of the day as best we can and acid wash any lime stains that gets on their house as well during the acid wash.

WHY CAN’T YOU PUT A TARP OVER THE LAWN AND BUSHES, OR ON THE FLOOR AREA OF WHERE YOU ARE WORKING ON THE CHIMNEY?

In some instances we can do this, but in most cases it will make no difference and cause further issues about final clean up.  Also, tarps block the sun and kill grass.  The best we have found is to hose off the working area of the yard or at the end of the day.  Again, we are many times grinding out mortar with a grinder, and the wind will carry that debris in your yard.  There is nothing we can do about this except try to clean it up as best we can after the job is completed.  It is also a good idea to tell any neighbor near you, especially next to the side of the house the chimney is on, of this.

WHY DO YOU HAVE TO LEAVE THE WATER HOSE ON WHILE YOU ARE DOING THE JOB?

As we said above, we need to work with mortar in a liquid state, and that liquid is unruly and will get everywhere.  If we do not wash it off, it will harden in place.  And we are constantly washing areas off during the job.  We also need the water to mix mortar, and for various other aspects of the job.  This is just a part of doing chimney repair.