Sometimes inspectors find examples of construction where either the cart is ahead of the horse, or where the cart is actually on the horse.
As you can see in the following picture we have a very nice outdoor fireplace—open on three sides with a patio all around.
I can only guess that the new deck that now uses the fireplace structure for support of one corner was an expansion of the original deck that does not show in the picture (above the point where the picture was taken from).
This creates a problem for use of the fireplace. This fireplace has no flue liner and there is only one layer of brick behind the wood beam of the deck that crosses above the fireplace.
But this is the least of the installation’s problems. If you look back at the first picture you can see that the deck floor joists are sitting on top of the wood beam which puts the rim joist of the deck in the proximity of the fireplace flue as well. Now we have a stack of wood 20” tall that has no separation from the single wall of brick of the fireplace chimney.
That would be the best case scenario. As you can see in the next picture, it is actually a much worse scenario than the one previously mentioned.
There is actually no flue at all—the chimney is way too short to provide any protection from heat, sparks and fire exiting the flue.
So what is the solution? The list is long and none of them cheap. Perhaps the cheapest solution is to wall up the openings of the fireplace and seal the top. Other options are removal of the fireplace, removal of the deck—or possibly converting the fireplace to a gas fireplace.
What approach is taken for improved fire safety is really not my concern—even while I am willing to throw some ideas out there.
I stressed in the report the importance of NOT using the fireplace for wood burning–that is the primary concern.
By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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