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Thread: fireplace

  1. #1
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    Jan 2011
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    Default fireplace

    new homeowner wanted me to take a look at a fireplace upgrade that was under contruction and after sheet rock was removed, he found brick rubble. can anyone give me an opinion of why this condition exist.
    please see photos.

    thanks in advance
    steve

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  2. #2

    Default Re: fireplace

    Quote Originally Posted by steve mcgown View Post
    new homeowner wanted me to take a look at a fireplace upgrade that was under contruction and after sheet rock was removed, he found brick rubble. can anyone give me an opinion of why this condition exist.
    please see photos.

    thanks in advance
    steve
    Without understanding what the whole situation was before the tearout began it's hard to speculate, but based on the picture it looks as if those are bricks from when the chimney surround was originally built. You might be amazed at what some contractors don't clean up after they spill a stack of bricks down a hole that has since been made inaccessible.

    George Hallaron: Owner primary inspector
    Bienvenue Home Inspections LLC
    www.bienvenuehomeinspections.com

  3. #3
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    Question Re: fireplace fire loss?

    Well, besides the zero clearance to combustibles and lack of "solid masonry units" and questionable wall thickness, I see what appears to be charring at the ceiling framing.

    Tear out damaged framing
    remove combustibles from contact with fireplace and chimney per local code clearances
    rebuild fireplace and chimney per local code

    Oh, yeah, don't forget the level II inspection. I'm sure there are a LOT more defects on this one. Was this an insurance claim for an unfriendly fire loss?

    Keep the fire in the fireplace.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: fireplace

    I knew a few contractors that found it cheaper and easier to stuff the waste in the walls (etc), rather than cart it away.

    Steven Turetsky, UID #16000002314
    homeinspectionsnewyork.com
    eifsinspectionsnewyork.com

  5. #5
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    Cool Re: fireplace

    Most people's paradigm of masonry chimneys is one of being solid as if it was poured concrete. In reality, this is virtually never the case. Masons will dump loose rubble and old mortar down inside a chimney as it rises up. However, dumping trash is a whole another issue. That is what they do to factory buiilt fireplaces during construction.

    FYI, some masons get paid by the thousand brick they 'lay'. Therefore, if you construct a large chimney, you can fill it with thousands of loose brick and make a lot more money.

    This Fp though, does not have an intact outer wythe wall to contain the rubble but rather the rubble is the wall. Would certainly jive with the apparent fire damage seen at the ceiling. When you see one goofy thing, ....

    Keep the fire in the fireplace.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: fireplace

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Harper View Post
    Most people's paradigm of masonry chimneys is one of being solid as if it was poured concrete. In reality, this is virtually never the case. Masons will dump loose rubble and old mortar down inside a chimney as it rises up. However, dumping trash is a whole another issue. That is what they do to factory buiilt fireplaces during construction.

    FYI, some masons get paid by the thousand brick they 'lay'. Therefore, if you construct a large chimney, you can fill it with thousands of loose brick and make a lot more money.

    This Fp though, does not have an intact outer wythe wall to contain the rubble but rather the rubble is the wall. Would certainly jive with the apparent fire damage seen at the ceiling. When you see one goofy thing, ....
    Bob, I am not doubting you, but if I am understanding what you are saying, well then, that is the most ridiculous thing I have never heard of.

    My vision of a chimney is a flue pipe (could be clay, or metal, etc), encased in a brick chase (brick set in morter). Usually the brick being set on a base/footing and rising through the roof, or alongside the building, past the roof.

    I can comprhend a mason dropping (hopefully accidental, sometimes not) a brick or 2 into the flue. But "thousands"?????

    Are you stating that in this case the flue is simply surrounded by loose bricks? From the top of the fire box up? Up to where? What does the chimney look like above the roof?

    So now when I look at the picture I really get confused. All of those loose brick on top of the box? If so, I am supprised it hasn't collapsed.

    Steven Turetsky, UID #16000002314
    homeinspectionsnewyork.com
    eifsinspectionsnewyork.com

  7. #7
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    Default Re: fireplace

    the brick chimney looks good from foundation to chimney cap (exterior). discoloration you see at board members appear to be water damage from previous roof leak/s at chimney flashing.

    thank you gentlemen for you input.
    steve


  8. #8
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    Cool Re: fireplace

    Steve, envision a brick chimney obviously larger than the dimensions of the flue tiles plus one brick wythe wall surrounding it. You therefore have a potential void btw the flue tiles and the outer perimeter wythe wall. This void is what gets filled with loose rubble, brick bats, mortar and God knows what. However, the case shown here appears to not have an intact outer wythe wall facing combustible construction. Now, think about some of those really oversized chimneys you've seen. Do you really think all that void is filled with solid masonry units with full head and bed joints and cores push-filled with mortar? You are supposed to have a 1/2-4" air space around the flues unless you live in Calif, where they insist on encasing their flue tiles in mortar, rebar and tying this into a bond beam at the attic level. This allows occupants to escape the home during a quake without being swatted by a collapsing chimney.

    If that dark staining is from a roof leak, just give it time and after using this fireplace a few times, those stains will become char ;-)

    Steve, what about that combustible header in proximity to the chimney? other clearances?

    Keep the fire in the fireplace.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: fireplace

    First off, I note expanded "yellow" foam insulation and a white masonry unit in view amongst and adhered to rubble, mortar and brick. Presence of same a red flag. I further note blue foam insulation board, poly, "tar paper" and poly or clear packing tape behind the 2x furring/sleepers. I see what appears to be older parging behind foam board just to the right of the larger yellow expanded foam insulation chunk just above the exposed face and mantle nailer. Pattern of some of the brick suggests to me a corbeled chimney front with a niche which was originally parged and exposed to room.

    This suggests to me a less than qualified encapsulation/enclosure of what once was exposed interior facing brick or previously plaster parged brick above the mantle and no spacing between that facing brick and the combustible materials, wrong materials and deterioration, and not the first fireplace, chimney, or masonry modification of the past. IOW the previously exposed to the interior- brick facing/veneer was wrapped in plastic overtop foam board, then had nailers/furring attached and was covered in wall board, likely painted (further VB). I would not consider 2x furring to be structural or "framing".

    I note location of OP listed as "Houston", I reasonbly assume the location of the pictures to be reasonbly nearby same. This suggests to me hot, humid summers, dehumidification and air cooling on the interior, incorrect thermal breaks needed, and wet condensation trapped issues, if anything ever-expanding likely not ws exterior grade brick.


    Sheer wall not properly constructed/braced when the window/door openings expansion remuddle/remodel/changeorder project was performed. distance between multiple openings, supports, and clearances questioned.

    What is the distance/elevation between ceiling/floor and the roof surface?
    Views through fan lights above suggests 2-story min. projections either side of this porch/entry wall suspect entry wall is protected/covered by roof.

    Height of ceiling and distances between openings and depth suggests other than structural masonry dbl or triple wythe walls and chimney. Should the chimney have been structural masonry, the exterior of same required spacing/clearances to combustibles & framing from the exterior of the flue; applied foam insulation board and wood sleepers/furring and mantle nailer with fasteners directly into the apparently previously exposed to the room facing brick suspected remodel at time of window/opening expansion project.

    I also agree with B.H. regarding suspected fire/breach btwn fire box and chimney behind/below nailer and surround. Whether collapse and water intrusion was before or after or both fire events is a chicken and egg question best determined by experts in the field, in the careful, well documented, directed excavation.

    Ultimately suspect the enlarged openings for door/window installation was contributory. Unknwn soil type or foundation type. IIRC Galv/Houston area has varing soil conditions.

    The insulation board, furring, and mantle nailer installation may also have contributed to damage leading to collapse with remodel/remuddle/change order/ fireplace, window & wall project.

    Further deconstruction at some point after immediate structural engineer consultation, under guidance of structural engineer for structural stablization during same and forensic investigator, analysis by same and and minimum Level III, not merely Level II already warranted by evidence and status shown in photoraphs.

    Expect near total deconstruction/removal and structural remediation of entire wall & openings. Curious to know vintage of original construction and the history of additions/remodels/permits building authority, also clue reports and local fire protection district/department calls, and news reports regarding hurricane and tropical storm history and flooding.

    Last edited by H.G. Watson, Sr.; 07-08-2011 at 08:31 AM.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: fireplace

    I have seen this one time - enough brick in envelope to make a chimney. In that case -all the loose brick was removed and the chimney itself was found to be okay. We were left to speculate as we are here. My believe was that the original chimney was built wrong ( uneven, slanting, not enough mortar or too much in places,forgot the flue, wrong brick, etc.) (but paid by the brick is one I hadn't considered) and was torn off down to the place they could fix from and replaced from that point. Too much work to clean used brick and too much work to haul away - so they hid it in the wall along with any leftover bricks. But never knew for sure. Have it inspected - that's all that really matters. Tabb Jensen


  11. #11
    Darron Clark's Avatar
    Darron Clark Guest

    Default Re: fireplace

    Perhaps they were attempting to increase the mass of the fireplace and thus increase the heat given off after the fire is put out for the night.


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