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Gas Furnace in bedroom closet


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I am currently in a dispute over old gas furnaces and water heaters I found in the closets of duplex's and four-plex's I inspected in Thurston County WA. The Building/Fire Plans Examiner for Thurston county says they were legal when the buildings were built in 1973. Also, since the bedroom closet is full of the furnace and water heater, no cloths closet exists for the room. The building examiner is also saying this is a legal non conforming bedroom. Basically saying everything is ok.

I called the installation as a safety hazard and recommended it be changed. I also included the fact of no closet. These rooms look like they were originally family rooms and have been advertised as bedrooms to get higher rents.

People are sleeping in these rooms and they are packed with junk. Could hardly access the furnaces for inspection.

I am trying to help my client do two things; 1) make these bedrooms safe for the occupants and, 2) get the seller of the property to do the repairs. Typical for a commercial property the seller is unwilling to do repairs which are not code violations.

Any ideas or codes would be appreciated.

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The building geek has the authority to be stupid and ignorant. You can't change that. If the muni signs off, that's their prerogative.

All you can do is point out to your customer why it's dangerous and what they should do about it.

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The county plans examiner is probably in a better position than you to make the call on whether or not these things were legal when they were installed. But surely those appliances aren't from 1973. What does he say about that? Is he allowing the continued use based on the past allowance? It seems like he'd be on very shaky ground, particularly if something bad were to happen.

Also, where to they get their combustion air from?

I was involved with the rehab of some 1960-era apartments where they originally had gas furnaces in the bedroom closets, but over the years, as those furnaces crapped out, the city made the owner put the new furnaces in the attic because the new installations had to meet the new rules.

Bedrooms don't require closets. (I'm not sure where that myth started.) So there's no argument there.

All you can do is point out the conditions. I don't think you can "make" anything safe or "get the seller" to do anything." You have no authority.

If I were interested in buying that property, I'd make sure that I had the resources to address this problem or I wouldn't buy the property. It would never occur to me to get the seller to change this crap. That would turn into a mess.

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The building geek has the authority to be stupid and ignorant. You can't change that. If the muni signs off, that's their prerogative.

All you can do is point out to your customer why it's dangerous and what they should do about it.

Absolutely.

And to the closet to bedroom thing, in an area with septic systems the engineering is based on population which is based on the number of bedrooms. Many times people will install a room with no closet or entry door and disqualify it as a bedroom. This allows them a smaller and cheaper on site wastewater system. Emphasis on the cheaper. Later they add the closet and door and voila. I live in an area with a lot of OSWT systems and have seen such a thing more than once.

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He's trying to sell you wolf tickets, Brad.

I bet if you go back and do a little research you'll find that the building was originally heated with electric heat and was later converted. Electric heat was dirt cheap here in the 70's and I see a lot of conversions that look like they were done by Charlie Manson.

He's just trying to avoid getting in a howling match with the current owner. Ask him if he's at peace with this decision. If he says yes, ask him how at peace he'll be later on if someone's kid or infant dies in that room for lack of oxygen or due to a backdrafting flue.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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I like the Gas Company angle, I had not thought of that. I have an independent furnace expert going out to the buildings on Monday to render an opinion. Yes, about half the furnaces are original 1973. Some have been updated with minimal attempts to correct the combustion air and one was permitted in 2006 and installed correctly. My client will fix the problems if they have to but they are trying to get the seller to fix it first.

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Direct vent for exhaust but no provision for combustion air.

If you're saying the furnace needs to have something installed for combustion air, it is not a "direct vent" appliance.

The definition of a direct-vent appliance:

"A fuel-burning appliance with a sealed combustion system that draws all air for combustion from the outside atmosphere and discharges all flue gases to the outside atmosphere".

Now, if you meant combustion air for a gas-fired dryer, please ignore my comment.

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He's trying to sell you wolf tickets, Brad.

Congratulations cousin Mike, I had to go to the Urban Dictionary to learn what the hell wolf tickets are. Two years of marriage has civilized me to the point that my slang is now lagging behind TIJ's. I'm not sure what to make of that, but there it is.

Mr. O got street cred.

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I agree with you guys on this one not being safe,and would not pass on new construction.

Problem being that if it is actually origional equipt from when building was constructed theres not much that they can do to force it to be changed untill a permit is filed to replace it then the current codes can be brought into play.

Its like gfi's and arc fault breakers if they were not required when a house was built the city cannot just make everybody install them unless the property was tagged for electrical code violations in that area or a permit was pulled and wiring was altered,if the property is condemmed then all the old rules can be tossed out the window and the city inspectors can go by current building codes around here anyway.

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