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  1. #1
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    Default strange fireplace configuration

    1978 home.

    Masonry surround. Masonry hearth extension. Masonry chimney.

    On the left and right sides in the masonry surround, there were 4 vent grills. The two lower vent grills at the hearth extension face to the left and right of the fireplace had fans in them.

    Above left and right of the fireplace in the masonry surround, were two apparent 4" intake ducts. In the fireplace around the throat area were metal tubes.

    I'm suspecting that the fans are taking the heated air out of the fireplace and blowing into the living room. Am I correct? I haven't seen or heard of a system like this before.

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: strange fireplace configuration

    Brian, you really need to post some photos with something like that.
    From your description, it sounds like a fireplace common in our area during the 70's and 80's that was commonly refereed to as a heatilator. Of course that is also a brand name just like Coke and used as a generic catch-all for a fireplace with an outer chamber that was supposed to capture more heat for the house, some had blower assist and some could be connected to duct work to provide heat to remote areas.

    Jim Luttrall
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  3. #3
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    Default Re: strange fireplace configuration

    Ditto.

    See the set up quite often, some work really well and others not so well. Some have fan assist while other work solely on convection.


  4. #4
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    Default Re: strange fireplace configuration

    Quote Originally Posted by brianmiller View Post
    1978 home.

    Masonry surround. Masonry hearth extension. Masonry chimney.

    On the left and right sides in the masonry surround, there were 4 vent grills. The two lower vent grills at the hearth extension face to the left and right of the fireplace had fans in them.

    Above left and right of the fireplace in the masonry surround, were two apparent 4" intake ducts. In the fireplace around the throat area were metal tubes.

    I'm suspecting that the fans are taking the heated air out of the fireplace and blowing into the living room. Am I correct? I haven't seen or heard of a system like this before.
    Brian,

    Did it have a metal firebox? The metal tubes? When you look up through the throat damper, do you see these tubes?

    If so, this sounds like a "Heatilator" fireplace. The metal firebox is built-in with the masonry. Generally used as a passive heat-recovery, fans can be installed in the intake grills.

    Problems that I have seen related to these are typically due to a lack of a cap/spark arrestor. The interior of the metal firebox may corrode, which can introduce carbon dioxide and smoke into this passive recovery system and the vents at the front can belch smoke.

    Just noticed, same city, different state.

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    Cool Re: strange fireplace configuration

    If the firebox is steel as Gunnar described, it would be referred to as a "steelform" fireplace. Within that classification, there were several brands including the "Heatform" from Superior and others from Majestic and numerous others but the most common was the Heatilator Mark C. Heatilator is a brand and not a generic term although it has become synonymous with a blower incorporated into a fireplace. The Mark C was produced from 1927-1987.

    Problems with steelform fireplaces include rusted out dampers on piano hinges, rusted out fireboxes, rusted out everything. The breast will buckle over time and there is no field repair or cure that is recognized. Many have newspaper and other combustibles packed in around them by the mason during construction. Also, these units typically were a nightmare for access to inspect or sweep. The transition from steel to masonry invariably became compromised. Often the steel was all that was supporting the entire stack of flue tiles. Typically, they must be torched out and the fireplace rebuilt.

    There are all masonry versions of this design that are just site fabricated by the mason. There are a few "Leggo" fireplace kits around that have had these and these kits are making a comeback.

    HTH,
    Bob

    Keep the fire in the fireplace.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: strange fireplace configuration

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Harper View Post
    ... it would be referred to as a "steelform" fireplace.
    ...rusted out everything.
    Bob,

    I knew that Heatilator is a brand name, but I never knew the generic name. Thanks for the info.

    You are so funny. "rusted out everything". Yep, that about sums it up.

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    Default Re: strange fireplace configuration

    Brianmiller (and anyone else that is interested),

    I just inspected a home with one of the "steelform" fireplaces that we just discussed. Oddly enough it had a split up the rear of the firebox, just as Bob mentioned. Problems with the chimney as well.

    I told 'em get a can of bondo and light 'er up! No, I didn't really.

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  8. #8
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    Default Re: strange fireplace configuration

    I have run across a few of those in South Florida in years past and every single one was rusted out.

    I forgot what my comments were, but it was basically something like "Be glad you are in South Florida where YOU WILL NEVER NEED OR WANT TO USE THAT as you could burn your house down, good thing you have heat, not that you even need that either very often. DO NOT USE THE FIREPLACE - IT IS A FIRE HAZARD. The fireplace will need to be de-constructed and then re-constructed with a new fireplace.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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    Exclamation trouble brewing

    Look at Gunnar's first pic. Those vertical slots across the breast correspond to a convection chamber in the steelform. Now, how thick is that masonry btw the combustible wall ( which is probably in direct contact instead of maintaining clearances)? Now, that's with a brand new undamaged unit. So, what about those clearances once the unit rusts out or fails as in Gunnar's other pics.

    great pickup Gunnar!

    Keep the fire in the fireplace.

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    Default Re: strange fireplace configuration

    Here's mine from today. Not sure of the design, but it is a rusted mess, 30 yrs old. No budging that damper either. A chimney cap might have saved this.

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  11. #11
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    Default Re: strange fireplace configuration

    Thanks Bob. I didn't think to take pics of the tubes that run from front to rear below the damper. There were more problems, like the chimney.

    John, looks like the same kind of fireplace.

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  12. #12
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    Default Re: strange fireplace configuration

    Quote Originally Posted by Gunnar Alquist View Post
    like the chimney.
    And like that chimney cap.

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    Default Re: strange fireplace configuration

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    And like that chimney cap.
    Yes well... I think the cap is the least of the problems.

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  14. #14
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    Default Re: strange fireplace configuration

    Quote Originally Posted by Gunnar Alquist View Post
    Yes well... I think the cap is the least of the problems.
    It is, but you might as well start at the top and work down.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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    Default Re: strange fireplace configuration

    This site is like a virus. I don't know how many times something is brought up and within days I see the same thing.

    Here are a couple of pic's of "steel form" from the other day. Damper hing rusted out. Never had a fire built in it but did have a gas line for gas logs that had been removed.

    I haven't seen one of these since I was a kid. We had one and burned pine, berch, and anything my dad could find. Was still in good condition when I left in 1970. He would get a hot fire going with oak to clean it out every now and then .

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  16. #16
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    Default Re: strange fireplace configuration

    Vern that virus is eating your picture,

    Gunnar is that man made shake roof. Shingle roofs are the common thing around here. Don't get roofs like that.

    Mike Schulz License 393
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    Default Re: strange fireplace configuration

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Schulz View Post
    Gunnar is that man made shake roof. Shingle roofs are the common thing around here. Don't get roofs like that.
    Formed steel "shake". Probably Decra.

    DECRA Shake

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  18. #18
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    Default Re: strange fireplace configuration

    Another heatilator today, this one draws air through grates on the inner sides. This unit is in perfect working order, 30 yrs old and guess what? There's a cap on the chimney.

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  19. #19
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    Default Re: strange fireplace configuration

    Wow, you guys are good. This is the first one of these things I've seen since reading this thread. I'm glad I read it

    edit - I almost forgot the best part. Just in front and to the right of the red candle was a big wide tall candle, coincidentally in front of the crack. I'm sure the seller will be relieved that I found it so that he didn't pass on this dangerous appliance to the new owners.

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