Flue replacement at Virginia Tech
Chimney flue replacement is no easy science. When smoke billows from a chimney, it’s venting safely from a home or building through a flue encased inside the stone. Modern flue liners are generally made of stainless steel or aluminum and like everything else, must be replaced through the years. When a chimney flue deteriorates, it becomes a building fire hazard, which must be dealt with immediately.
So how do you replace a flue in a chimney?
Simply put, the new liner is lowered into the chimney from the top to someone at the bottom. Tradespeople can climb up the rooftops using ladders, bounce around in a hydraulic boom lift, or glide smoothly into position, in a basket hoisted, by a crane.
Southern Air’s sheet metal mechanics recently found themselves replacing two 65-foot long flues at Virginia Tech. After weighing the safest and most cost-effective solutions, our team chose to utilize two cranes for the lift and installation; one to lower the flue pipe into the chimney, the other with Southern Air personnel in a personnel-basket. Safety attended the lift to provide guidance about the criteria which must be met before picking up a person with a crane. It’s a very dangerous operation if safety is not the first consideration.
We held a safety stand-down to ensure everyone clearly understood their task from the men in the basket to those directing traffic. Southern Air Safety checked, double-checked and triple-checked body harnesses, cross-armed straps, and lanyards securing the tradespeople to the steel cage. This lift also happened at Virginia Tech in November, meaning not only was the wind whipping, but it was cold wind! Safety monitored wind speeds and gusts making sure they never approached 25mph, making it too dangerous to be swinging around 80-feet in the air. Gusts at 18mph are ‘easily handled’ bundled up with cold weather gear.
The personnel basket itself must undergo on-site testing prior flying tradespeople into the air. Crane operators must hoist the basket with a 1,200-lb steel plate attached allowing it to suspend for 15 minutes. This test ensured the basket and cables could handle the winds and load rating of our team.