View Full Version : Coments these three fireplaces?

Michael Thomas
04-19-2008, 08:39 PM
Post A

To continue my fireplace education, comments from Bob Harper or anyone else on these?

New construction, three "identical" WB fireplaces, no access below any of them for inspection (finished ceilings).

I'll give each a separate post below (B,C,D) so we can keep them straight.

First, a general view of some elements common to all fireplaces:

Nick Ostrowski
04-20-2008, 04:12 AM
Michael, it's hard to tell from the pic but the very first picture of the mable fireplace looks like the hearth extension is laid right on top of the hardwood floor. How did it look from your vantage point?

The interior of those flues is sloppy. Sloppy and gloppy mortar, gaps, and gaps in the flue liner sections.

What's that cap on the back wall of the firebox?

Bob Harper
04-20-2008, 06:15 AM
low resolution pics don't blow up well. Michael, you need to provide a little more info. so we know what we're looking at. For instance, what is that in the firebox floor? What is that duct in the rear of the firebox/ where does it lead, what is it made of?

Aaron Miller
04-20-2008, 07:07 AM

Interesting. Never seen a combustion air vent like that.


David Banks
04-20-2008, 07:38 AM

Interesting. Never seen a combustion air vent like that.


And he saw it from the Segway!!

Bob Harper
04-20-2008, 11:14 AM
Per the IRC, the air intake must be below the level of the firebox so it cannot draft out the air intake. If it is straight out the rear, it is wrong. The duct must have a 1" clearance to combustibles for 5' radius. The duct must be non-combustible and a min. of 6"sq but not more than 55"sq. or roughly 3-8 inches in diameter. The inlet screen must be 1/4" mesh so this cheap aluminum louver does not meet the code requirement. In practice, it is so restrictive, I doubt very little air could flow through it on a good day. Remember, the code also states it must be capable of providing all the combustion air, though they don't provide an equation to calculate this.

As for junctions, they all must be properly sealed-period.

The hearth appears to be laid directly on a combustible floor. While factory built fireplaces have a calculated floor protection, masonry fireplaces do not. It must comply with the code so far as a non-combustible hearth extension, which means a concrete cantilever in this case. Also, that slab will likely break one day when the floor settles or swells.


Bob Harper
04-20-2008, 02:10 PM
Michael, I can't see those low res. pics as I am old and cranky. However, from what you have described, there are gaps. Regardless what gaps look like, they must be sealed. Where you have gaps, you're likely to have other problems.

I recommend a Level II on these fireplaces.

If that air kit was listed, it could be installed to the listing. Since it isn't, it cannot be installed that way per the IRC.


Bob Harper
04-24-2008, 01:24 PM
Michael, I'm a little puzzled by your barrage of seemingly rhetorical questions. If you can see defects, call them out or refer for a Level II. If you are unsure what you are looking at, I cannot teach you the FIRE course online. By your interest in fireplaces, I suggest you click on the FIRE button and sign up for the next course to answer your questions. I don't mean to be blunt but I can't inspect your chimneys for you online, esp. for free.


Michael Thomas
04-24-2008, 07:51 PM

Sorry... it's sometimes not clear to me what you will find of interest to comment on, and what not.

Aaron Miller
04-25-2008, 03:02 AM
And he saw it from the Segway!!

And, did he delete all of those messages while attempting to dismount that trusty steed?


Michael Thomas
04-25-2008, 04:34 AM
They were taking up a space and bandwidth on the server, and if if Bob and others here did not feel there was anything worth commenting on, that's just overhead.

Just to make it clear: when I posted those the report was written, my recommendation was already made based on other aspects of these fireplaces I knew were wrong (min of a level II, proceeding to a level III if required based on the presence of many framing members in contact with the chimney in the location I could see) and I was trying to increase my knowledge of - for example - whether the various conditions depicted in the pictures were significant defects.

Unfortunately, fireplace knowledge is some of the most difficult to acquire in home inspection and fireplaces are one of the few areas where I never have a qualm referring for specialist inspections if I suspect they are appropriate - that's why I feel it's vitally important for me to understand as much as possible about the conditions under which I ought to be doing so.

I take advantage of every opportunity to attend level II and III inspections when they are performed, I've take Dale Feb's (excellent) introductory class, I wish I could afford the time and money to travel to take the full course, and as noted before I'll be the first to pony up for the on-line or DVD version at any reasonable price if and when it becomes available.

I appreciate that the time that Bob and others have taken to answer questions, I've learned a great deal from the responses, I'm sure I'll continue to do so in the the future, and I don't feel anyone has an obligation to answer my questions if they feel they are too elementary and certainly not to "do my inspection for me".

The problem, of course, is defining ""elementary" in advance.

Michael Thomas
04-29-2008, 12:37 PM
Just a follow-up.

Client has the level II yesterday, by a F.I.R.E. certified inspector, and I was able to get out there.

It was VERY interesting inspection - he confirmed what I did see, and found a lot of other stuff as well once he got a really good light up the FP and the camera in the flues.

The developer is going to have to do a lot of very expensive work on these FPs, I saved my client a good deal on money, and more important this inspection allowed them to avoid some really significant risk.

Almost all of my ability to justify calling for the Level II (and a possible level III to follow) at this property was the result of Dale Feb's Home Inspector's class and the comments of Bob Harper and others here, and one thing the developer (actually at good guy, trying to do a good job) said really struck me:

"I've been using these guys for years, but no inspector ever stuck a camera up the fireplace before" (I always try to get a camera above the damper, and then take a close look at the pics back at the office).

Likely, since there were significant problems with three out of three FPs, most or all of the others build for this developer have similar or perhaps even worse problems.

So please: I ask the indulgence of Bob Harper and others here who have generously taken the time to respond to questions in the past, clearly there must be a lot of inspectors who need to know a lot more about the practice and necessity of FP inspections, and unless they can afford the time and money to take Dale's full class in LA, this is one of the few places they can get it.

And while I DO NOT expect anyone here to answer what may seem to some to be basic or even "rhetorical" questions, I greatly appreciate it when they do.

Kevin Stewart
04-29-2008, 02:50 PM

Followed with interest your comments about the F.I.R.E. Course, I personally took Dales course back in 2001, and have never looked back, my opinion for what its worth is simple, chimney inspectors are still a relatively small group, yet the need for quality inspectors is evident, chimney professionals are often unable to separate themselves from their primary functions, namely to sweep and repair. I personally do 'no conflict inspections' where we will not work on the chimney while there is a conflict of interest. Which unfortunately is normally the way in real estate cases, the chimney company's are viewed with suspicion when they inspect and then propose expensive work that they can do.
I feel the more home inspectors are capable of inspecting chimneys, can only be a good thing for the home inspection industry. With the climate the way it is right now more inspections are being called for, which I personally think is a great thing for the housing transfer industry.
The F.I.R.E Course would give any home inspector a great advantage. My good local L&F agents have been asking for no conflict inspections for a while now. Who better to preform then than the home inspector.

Kevin T Stewart
Eurotech Chimney Restoration

Michael Thomas
04-29-2008, 03:11 PM
This discussion has been around for a while - for me the issue is that it would take a number of years for me to see enough chimneys to reach the level of proficiency I believe my clients deserve, and at age 60 (a very health and active sixty, but still...) I'm not sure I would be around much longer once I had reached that point.

Still, that said, I really would like to take Dale's full class when time and money permit.