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Installing a flexible stainless steel chimney liner

by Kendall Holmes
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Working three stories up in the air at the peak of a steep roof isn’t especially my idea of a good time.

But the old chimney between our kitchen and dining room needed a liner before we could fire up a new pellet stove — and I’d learned I could save $600 to $1,000 by installing a liner myself rather than hiring a contractor.

Contractors were asking $1,000 to $1,500 to line our chimney, while I could buy the materials and do it myself for about $400.


And so I stifled my dislike for steep roofs and tall heights – and then I went to work.  

And as I soon learned, installing a chimney liner is a fairly straightforward job.

OUR CHIMNEY

The chimney we planned to use for our pellet stove runs in a straight line from the floor of our cellar up through two stories plus an attic.  Many years ago, it appeared to have serviced a wood cookstove in the kitchen – so it had a thimble (or, more precisely, a hole covered with a metal plate) facing into the section of the kitchen where we had recently rebuilt an old hearth.

The bad news about our chimney? It’s 135 years old, and made from a single thickness of bricks, without a tile liner.

The good news? The chimney was structurally sound — and it was sitting unused. 

My first impulse was to deal with the chimney by hiring a mason to install a tile liner, or a local stove shop to install a steel flue liner.  

As I did more research, I learned that that I could line the chimney with a lightweight, flexible stainless steel liner. And I realized that if I were to hire a contractor, I’d be spending an awful lot of money on a fairly simple job.

BUYING A LINER

A few years back, I would have had something less than a clue about where (or how) to buy a liner. But thanks to the Web, many products that used to be hard to find are now readily available.

In the case of chimney liners, quite a few web retailers will now sell you the supplies you need. Here’s a list of some of them.

In our case, we needed a 26-foot long piece of 4-inch flexible pipe, along with a cap to hold it in place at the top of the chimney, and a “Tee” at the bottom. Most chimney supply retailers sell kits that include all the parts you’ll need.

I found the supplies online for less than $400 and placed an order with a company in Pennsylvania. Within 20 hours (no joke) the supplies arrived by Fedex in a box that, while impressively large, weighed perhaps 25 pounds at most.

Like I said, lightweight liners are light.

INSTALLING THE LINER

They’re also designed to be easy to install. The liner itself comes in a single piece. You connect the tee (at the bottom) and the chimney cap (up top) are using pre-mounted hose clamps that tighten down with a screwdriver.

Before starting the installation, I used a hacksaw and a pair of tin snips to cut the liner so that it was about a foot longer than I would need.

As for sliding the liner itself down the chimney? Piece of cake. The hardest part, in fact, was getting ladders set up so I could safely work on my steep roof.

Once I got myself to where I needed, I quickly slid the liner down the chimney — with Deb standing by in the kitchen down below, yelling at me up through the chimney to let me know when I’d slid the liner far enough down the hole.

Once the liner was in place, Deb attached the tee back into the kitchen. And then I connected the top plate and cut the liner to its final length, again using a hacksaw and a pair of tin snips.

FINISHING STUFF OFF

With the liner secured, I had a 4″ pipe sticking out through a 6″ hole into my kitchen. So I still had some finish work to complete.

After centering the smaller pipe in the hole, I wedged it in place with some scraps of brick and tile. Then I secured it using some mortar.

And then I covered my decidely ugly mortar job with a plate that I had cut from a sheet of aluminum, sprayed black using stove paint.

The photo below shows the finished installation.

WARMTH

It’s mid-fall in northern New England as I write this.  Our oil furnace has hardly kicked on in days. I like that.

The time I spent up on the roof a few weeks back may not have been my idea of a good time. But I’m appreciating the heat from our new pellet stove.





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