A length of rope longer than your chimney is tall, twice as long ideally.
A nose cone.
Gloves, mask, goggles, suitable clothing.
Mugs of tea.
A sense of humour.
How to fit a chimney flue liner is, for the first time installer, possibly the most daunting of the tasks when it comes to fitting a wood burner. The task can be very easy – I have fitted a chimney liner from start to finish in 30 minutes (bungalows can be a doddle, unless they have tall skinny stacks which actually sway and wobble if you do anything remotely gymnastical ).
The task can be very difficult – some liners, usually 6″ rather than 5″, do not like tight chimneys (or should I say that the chimneys choose not to accept the liners). The task can be frightening if you do not like heights.
However, in many cases it can be very straightforward, especially if scaffolding is used (or a cherry picker), or if suitable cat ladder and a harness.
Note that you can always employ a local roofer to fit your liner, who will often be done and dusted withing a couple of hours max. and they are much easier to find than stove fitters (especially in winter!).
Do not underestimate what it’s going to be like “up top”. It is very easy to look up and think “I can stand on that stack and juggle lemons whilst reciting the alphabet backwards” – only to find out that you climb up and find yourself hugging a chimney pot and shaking like a wet Lurcher.
This is the most usual method of installing a chimney liner.
You have swept the chimney haven’t you? This is a MUST. Otherwise the loose soot is still a fire hazard and the person helping fit a chimney liner from inside the property will be covered in soot. The room may also fill with billowing soot dust.
Sweeping from bottom to top also tells you which pot belongs to your fireplace, something you obviously need to know. Shortly you will be dropping a weight attached to a rope down the chimney; you do not want this knocking loads of soot off the walls of the flue and into the fireplace of another room (likely with a beige carpet!).
One stove fitter I heard about swept a chimney from the top down. Trouble was he got the wrong pot and the customer’s lounge was filled with a layer of soot. Full re-decoration and all new soft furnishings was the result (and a new TV).
Before we go any further let’s do a quick overview of what is going to happen. You are going to drag a 10-metre length (or whatever) of stainless steel tube to the top of your chimney stack. You are going to drop a rope down the chimney (with a weight on the end) so your helper can grab it from within the fireplace (your end secured to one end of the liner). You are going to use both hands to feed that liner down the chimney whilst your helper pulls down with the rope. The liner might get stuck on a bend. Then you have to pull it back up a bit, then push it down a bit and even maybe spin the whole lot 180 degrees (remember you might have a number of metres of the liner being dragged around your roof at this stage). Likely you’ll have a TV aerial trying to take your eye out whilst the liner plays rough with one of your nipples (stove fitters will understand that one).
IT’S TIME TO STEP BACK AND THINK OF SAFETY. CAN YOU ARRANGE FOR SCAFFOLDING? WILL A CHERRY FITTER REACH? HOW ABOUT A PLATFORM?
It’s your call. I am happy in some circumstances to use ladders and cat ladders. However I always wear a professional harness and associated safety equipment.
The liner will likely arrive in a coil. Uncoil it. It may have arrows printed on it. These arrows should always point to the sky when the liner is fitted (they show the smoke direction). DO NOT fit the liner upside down. Some brands, e.g. DURAFLUE, can be fitted either way up.
Fit the end cone to the liner (you did order one didn’t you?) using strong tape (gaffer tape) lots of it or self tapping screws. If the cone has no “tie off handle” then you need to drill a hole in it and slip a short length of rope through, tying a large knot inside the cone. See pic “Nose cone”.
ARROWS POINTING UP TO THE SKY?
YOUR HELPER DOWN IN THE FIREPLACE AREA SHOULD NOW PUT ON HIS MASK, GOGGLES AND HARD HAT. YOU SHOULD NOT BE PROCEEDING WITHOUT ENSURING THE FIREPLACE LINTEL IS IN PLACE AND SUITABLE.
Connect your long rope to the short rope connected to the cone. Connect a weight to the other end of that long rope. Take the weight to the top of the chimney and lower it down slowly until your helper has it.
Feed the liner down the chimney. Your helper is pulling and you are pushing. Hopefully the liner will slip easily down the chimney and within minutes your helper is shouting “yeeeeehaaaaaa!” as he spits soot from his mouth and the cone enters the fireplace (more likely a swift outcome with a large chimney or a 5″ liner). It is often good to have a third person running in and out of the house passing messages from you to your helper.
But if the liner stops and will not feed further then stop and take a breather. When ready pull it back and try again, hopefully after a few attempts it will go.
If it will not go then you have to start thinking why? If it is in the first few metres then it will likely be getting stuck in the loft area (where chimney flues often split away from each other and run off to their various rooms).
If the liner does get stuck here then you can try the following to fit your chimney liner:
Try “turning the liner 90 degrees” whilst you and your helper attempt to pull push as before. This works if the liner has turned one bend and is not set up for the next bend (has bent itself to point the wrong way). Then try 180 degrees.
Any “spinning” is a lot easier for a double bend lower down in the chimney than this high up though; due to the sheer amount of liner sticking out of the chimney and lying on the roof.
Most likely you will have to break into the chimney – from the inside or outside of the house although I have, at the time of writing, in 200+ installs only ever broken into a flue INSIDE: in the loft, upstairs bedroom or just above the fireplace. The reasons for this is that this is usually where the bends are. You break into the flue to help the liner on its way.
If stuck in the loft then this can be easy due to “making a mess in the attic who cares syndrome”. It will be a different matter if the attic is a loft conversion with the liner stuck behind little Charlotte’s Princess Pony wallpaper.
Another option is to withdraw the liner and try pulling it up from the bottom to the top (some bends are easier one way than the other). I suggest that this is only a remote possibility and do not really recommend this option except as a last resort. If you do try this remember that any ARROWS MUST POINT SKYWARDS.
You are warming towards the DEFRA approved stove with the 5″ liner now I guess…? As a guide, out of all the 6″ liners I have fitted I would say 60% give no problem, 25% are a fight but we get there without breaking through walls, 10% we break through the wall somewhere and 5% we give up. With 5″ liners: we have never had a problem fitting a 5″ liner (say 10% a bit of a grunt).
Note that it may not be possible to break into the chimney in some stone or rubble built properties. Luckily these usually have large diameter chimneys (we get a lot of these in North Wales). I have never not managed to fit a liner in a stone property.
If you cannot get the liner down the chimney and cannot break through the wall? You may need to put the liner on Ebay and look at having the chimney concrete lined.
Anyway, enough of the doom and gloom. Hopefully you arrive at the stage where you have a little liner sticking out the fireplace and a little sticking out the chimney stack or pot.
What you do next depends on whether you are pouring Vermiculite around the liner or not pouring Vermiculite.
If your flue liner is to be blanket wrapped then you will drag it up the chimney from the fireplace (bottom up). This is because it will all get rather heavy and difficult to manage. You will most likely be blanket wrapping your liner if you have a huge chimney (Inglenook style maybe). See “should I insulate my liner”. Only try this if you know your chimney is of a suitable diameter.
I recommend Chimwrap as it is easy to fit and lighter than some others. It is supplied ready to go with the proper connectors.
I tried Rockwool once and never again. I itched and scratched like a farmer’s dog and it was extremely heavy.
Fitting is straightforward. Instead of feeding it down the chimney you haul it up the chimney. The person at the top has to have a very secure platform (e.g. scaffolding). A cherry picker might work but add the liner and Chimwrap weight to the maximum allowed by the cherry picker. I managed this once on a very sturdy stack that I could sit atop of and strap myself to.
For connections at the top refer to “fitting a chimney liner at the top”.