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What’s a fair price for replacing fireplace?

Your Home Improvements

Posted: October 3, 2008 9:42 p.m.
Updated: December 5, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Hello Mr. Lamoureux,
An inspector came out and said we have a crack inside our fireplace on the flue. A contractor wants $10,000 to take the brick down and build a new one with a new flue. Is this necessary? Is this a good price?
Henry J.

Hello Henry,
It would be well worth your time to get a second opinion, just like you would with a medical evaluation. First of all, I would talk to the contractor and find out more information about this crack and have him give you specifics. Where exactly is it located?  Is it on the north, south, east or west side? Then call another contractor and see if his inspection corroborates with the first. If so, now you know you there is a crack.

Most times, the demo/rebuild of a chimney is not necessary. You could instead go to a tin knocker and have a stainless steel flue fabricated and then have that inserted which will only cost you half the amount.

Hi Robert,
This may be an old wives tale, but I heard once that someone was having their wooden floors worked on and whatever chemicals and rags they were using self combusted and burned through the floor. Is this possible? I’m working on our floors now and was just wondering. Many thanks,
Kenny H.

Hello Kenny,
Yes, that is true. It’s called pyro combustion. This is one of the reasons proper cleaning is so important. An important part of any job includes cleaning the workplace and tools.

You have to be very careful when using wood oils, especially linseed oil which is extremely hazardous, when finishing a wooden surface. Other oil and hardwax mixtures including sunflower, soybean and thistle oil can suddenly ignite without spark. When the oil and a cotton rag oxidizes, it can spontaneously combust. You mostly hear about this happening when someone leaves a bucket of wax covered or oil soaked rags inside of a closed closet. The lack of ventilation and fume volume will self-ignite. There are also instances, depending on the quantities and conditions, where it will also combust outside. 

Always check the safety and warning labels on any products that you. When finished for the day, especially with oil based products, immerse oil-soaked materials in water and store in an air-tight container.
Hello Robert,
We live at the base of a 300 foot knoll. In our lower crawlspace, at garage level, we have a retaining wall that has water staining, white spots and always smells musty. There are no broken sprinklers in our backyard and no standing water anywhere.
Is there a way to solve this problem?
Charlotte P.

Hello Charlotte,
When the people at the top of the hill water their lawns, the water percolates down through the soil until it meets your retaining wall.  Since you’re at the tow of the hill, the water sits there and saturates.  As it travels through the porous wall, it dries and calcifies creating those white areas. 

You need to pump the water out and away from your wall. Excavate on the other side of the wall and wherever the water is settling put in a pumping station. This is a self contained drum with a pump inside. 

Lay down a leech bed — rock and blankets. These are soil separators. You are also going to need some perforated pipe covered with about one foot of gravel. Most people think to put the holes up, but the holes need to be on the bottom. Put your pump in, set your electrical up, and put a discharge line in. The water will now filter through the leech bed, travel through the perforated pipe and into the drum with the pump which will discharge the water away from the wall.

To finish, put in the equivalent of an attic fan in your crawlspace to get the air circulating. Make sure you have exterior vents and run the fan as often as necessary until that area is completely dry and the smell has dissipated. 

I serve on a BOD and at our recent meeting, someone brought up the point of a Reserve Study. Do you know what this is?

Hello J.J.,
Reserve studies are done by outside companies that come in and assess the longevity of different components on your properties. They usually provide this information in book form when finished outlined in different sections. For example, lighting and light poles. What is the life expectancy of that pole?  How often do they need to be painted? If they are powder coated, how long will that last? How long will your irrigation last? How long will your roofs last?  What is the life expectancy of your windows before they need maintenance or replacement?  With concrete sidewalks, even if there are no existing problems, they will estimate, based on the canopy size of nearby trees, that the roots could lift a section and create a trip hazard in X amount of years. All of the various elements of your property are put into a reserve study that tells you when they will have to be maintained or replaced. Based on those findings, it is your fiduciary responsibility as a board member to keep the necessary amount of money in your reserve account to properly maintain your property. This includes raising dues to keep with cost of living increases.

I serve on the board where my business is located. I’m in the business so I understand. Several years ago I made it very clear that in eight years we would have to change the roofs to a cool deck system.  We had to start saving money back then so eight years later I don’t have to go door to door asking for $10,000 from each owner. So, we made an incrementally small increase in dues to cover this expense and put money away in the reserves to pay for that roof when the time came.

These are the kinds of situations that will be brought to your attention in a reserve study.

Robert Lamoureux has 25 years experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contacting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia. His opinions are his own, and not necessarily those of The Signal. Opinions expressed in this column are not meant to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor, after that contractor has made a thorough visual inspection. Send your questions to


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