month I would like to discuss fireplace inspections. I know
it is summer, but we all inspect both masonry and factory-built
fireplaces year round. Additionally, the fireplace system
controls a fire in someone's house; it is critical that it
be fully inspected to the best of our ability.
fireplaces should be visually inspected both interior and
exterior for unusual cracks or other defects. Whenever possible
I prefer to get on the roof and closely inspect the chimney
and flue. If I am able to reach the top of the chimney I like
to look down the flue. A powerful flashlight will illuminate
quite a bit of the flue interior. On a sunny day I use my
mirror to reflect light down the flue and inspect what I can
see. Any solid fuel chimney should extend at least three feet
above the surface of the roof and be at least two feet above
anything within 10-feet.
inside I check for proper size of hearth; 16in. deep and 8in.
to each side if the opening is six sq.ft. or less, 20in. and
12in. if larger. I inspect the firebox and hearth for deteriorated
masonry and/or mortar. If the fireplace is full of debris
or in use I note in my report the condition and the firebox
was not fully visible for inspection. Once I have inspected
the firebox and clearance of combustibles (minimum 6in. with
additional limitations depending upon projection of the combustible)
around the fireplace opening I like to stick my head in the
firebox and look up the flue. Of course open the damper before
you stick your head in the fireplace. I once found a roll
of type 30 felt paper in the flue of a factory-built fireplace.
the attic check the chimney structure for proper clearance
to combustibles (two inches) and look for deterioration of
the roof sheathing around the chimney, this is a popular location
for damaged wood from flashing leaks. I always try to get
in the attic first before walking the roof to check for any
damage where I might stick my foot through the roof (not that
I ever did that). I have found several factory built chimneys
that had separated and some of the products of combustion
were escaping into the attic.
built fireplaces are required to be installed per their listing.
There are many types; I try to annually review the specifications
for the most popular ones. Another good resource is pages
25 and 26 in our book Code
talk next month,
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