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When I first started out, it seemed like I found that on every single fireplace I looked at including those up to 100 years old. A local sweep told me that it wasn't a big deal because they hardly ever caught fire and, when they did, it didn't hurt anything.

I can't say that I've ever seen it cause a problem or heard of it causing a problem. Still, it seems wrong and I'd love to hear from someone like Hearthman for another opinion.

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I seem to recall Chimney Bob, and every other fireplace mensch, saying it was bad, or very bad, or extremely bad. Jimmy had a hot button for this; he insisted it caused fires and had some experience to back it up.

Which is odd, because every fireplace in America is built that way. I don't ever recall seeing or hearing of a problem related to it.

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I can cite NFPA code ref if anyone is interested; temporary wood forms should not remain under the hearth, or the hearth extension. (Sect 801.3, 803.1, or some such; would have to look up.)

I've seen it problematic twice. Once, the charred form under the hearth worked its way into the wood under the hearth extension, the part visible in the basement ceiling; it was one continuous piece of plywood, and a charred, scary-looking piece at that.

Just a month or so ago, the wood was so charred right under the firebox it could have ignited at the next fire; ash-dump chute was 98.36% full, and a fire waiting to happen; again, the form under the hearth and the hearth extension was one continuous piece of ply. (Easily seen with a mirror into/under the ash-dump doorway in that case.) Older fireplaces have continuous wood planks running from under the visible hearth extension to under the hearth itself; argument that if the wood under the hearth ignites won't be a problem since it's *contained* is bogus; can easily spread to the exposed wood under the extension and burn the house down.

Over time, the wood forms suffer pyrolysis from the fire's heat, and the wood can turn into virtual flash paper. Just 'cause "it's been fine for forty years" (or whatever) don't mean squat; the longer the wood has been there, the more the risk. And, concrete hearths can crack, and an ember falling through such a crack can ignite the form.

Reason the wood can't remain under the hearth extension as well is the gap that can form where the hearth extension, under its own weight, tends to often rotate down and away from the hearth surface; again, an ember falling through the resulting gap here can ignite the wood below.

A "fire" guy at a continuing ed class about 20 years ago in St. Louis asked a roomful of us inspector type folk how many of us checked this. One guy raised his hand (liar). After the fire guy took us on-site to see a recent house burn-down 'cause of this, I suspect most of the other guys in that class now flag this as a hazard.

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So that raises the question: How do you get rid of it?

Can't. The couple times I've brought it up, I tell folks it's wrong but it's impossible to fix. I tell them to use a gas log (yes, I know the fire guys' still don't want it).

No one cares anyway. They use it as a wedge to get a better price, buyers and seller argue about it, nothing happens, they still buy the house.

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So that raises the question: How do you get rid of it?

Approx. 7 out of 10 around here are actually quite easy; we use cement block to wall-off the ash-dump chute, chute sides and back being formed when concrete foundation is poured. Removing a course or two of upper block down in the basement lets one easily pry off the forms. Replace block. Couple/three hour job at most.

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Well, the official "mensch" opinion (LOL Kurt) would of course be to call it out. Yes, it does not result in unfriendly fires very often. Neither do the other 100 or so inspection points on a fireplace and chimney but you have to ask yourself what is THIS one does. If it does light off after you inspected it, and people get hurt or killed, how would you feel? Forget the litigation aspect but focus on the ethics and humanity. If you call out things in a home you have some frame of reference, whether code, articles, or anecdotal evidence, then you have something to hang your hat on morally, legally (to a point) and ethically. We get too caught up trying to cover for people's choices. It is far better to pass along as much information as reasonably possible and relevant to assist the client in making an informed decision about a property or matter. Your choice to exclude information, whether an observable fact or opinion must be based upon your perception of the relevance of this information to the client's decision making and whether the inclusion of said information would have changed their minds AND that your refusal to inform your client resulted in an undesireable condition that affected the safety, durability, value or peaceful enjoyment of a property. There are guys who will inspect a chimney and use one sentence to comment on its suitability for use. My Level II inspection reports are narrative with separate Findings then Discussion and Recommendations followed by a separate Estimates. My report averages 13 pages so no, I don't make much money on doing inspections. My reports are the most comprehensive I know of. This is where I am comfortable. I don't look down upon another inspector who uses a computerized program as long as they use it to include the relevant issues. I do look down upon those reports scribbled on an invoice form or some one page checklist form they got from an industry supplier. My clients can see and thank me all the time for how thorough and detailed my reports are. Sellers may not like me but they don't have a leg to stand on to recant my reports.

A recent case involving wood forms included a chimney mason who said it was ok as long as the owners "limited their fires to 2.5 logs at a time". Seriously.

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Well, the official "mensch" opinion (LOL Kurt) would of course be to call it out. Yes, it does not result in unfriendly fires very often. Neither do the other 100 or so inspection points on a fireplace and chimney but you have to ask yourself what is THIS one does. If it does light off after you inspected it, and people get hurt or killed, how would you feel? Forget the litigation aspect but focus on the ethics and humanity. If you call out things in a home you have some frame of reference, whether code, articles, or anecdotal evidence, then you have something to hang your hat on morally, legally (to a point) and ethically. We get too caught up trying to cover for people's choices. It is far better to pass along as much information as reasonably possible and relevant to assist the client in making an informed decision about a property or matter. Your choice to exclude information, whether an observable fact or opinion must be based upon your perception of the relevance of this information to the client's decision making and whether the inclusion of said information would have changed their minds AND that your refusal to inform your client resulted in an undesireable condition that affected the safety, durability, value or peaceful enjoyment of a property. There are guys who will inspect a chimney and use one sentence to comment on its suitability for use. My Level II inspection reports are narrative with separate Findings then Discussion and Recommendations followed by a separate Estimates. My report averages 13 pages so no, I don't make much money on doing inspections. My reports are the most comprehensive I know of. This is where I am comfortable. I don't look down upon another inspector who uses a computerized program as long as they use it to include the relevant issues. I do look down upon those reports scribbled on an invoice form or some one page checklist form they got from an industry supplier. My clients can see and thank me all the time for how thorough and detailed my reports are. Sellers may not like me but they don't have a leg to stand on to recant my reports.

A recent case involving wood forms included a chimney mason who said it was ok as long as the owners "limited their fires to 2.5 logs at a time". Seriously.

I love reading your posts.

Your response on this issue brings up another about whether inspectors should report based on both the possibility and the magnitude of a consequence to the condition in question versus reporting strictly on whether the condition is industry supported or not, giving no consideration to whether there are consequences. I guess you could call this the idealistic/pragmatic dimension.

I don't mean to imply this to be a black/white sort of dimension but one of degrees. I also don't mean that you've taken a idealistic view. Just so I don't mistakenly disappoint someone here.

I'm the type that applies this dimension depending on the particular house. I'm pragmatic if the number of 'little consequence' issues are minimal, but idealistic if 'items having consequence' are numerous.

So for these two houses of Darren's..It would depend on everything else found on the particular house.

Am I making any sense?

Marc

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Approx. 7 out of 10 around here are actually quite easy; we use cement block to wall-off the ash-dump chute, chute sides and back being formed when concrete foundation is poured. Removing a course or two of upper block down in the basement lets one easily pry off the forms. Replace block. Couple/three hour job at most.

Maybe. But I doubt it.

There is the couple hour visit to the site to figure out what the customer is talking about, another couple hours in phone calls and logistics, payroll and payroll related expense, the usual stuff that always goes wrong (plywood stuck in concrete comes to mind), the break down, clean up, and final, etc., etc., etc.

There is no such thing as an easy job that takes a couple hours. You know this.

This is a full day (or more) pain in the butt that no one in their right mind would even begin to involve themselves in because there's lots of good paying work available. We'd give them a "go away" bid; if they're nuts enough to pay us several thousand, cool, we're in....if not, go away.

So, "impossible" is overstated; nothing is impossible. Ridiculously chaotic sounds closer to reality.

We're stuck reporting this stuff because we should. Few will ever fix it.

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How topical.

I could not look up this clean-out today but was able to take some blind pictures. And I only did this was because of the plywood sticking out visibly overhead.

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About 15 yrs ago, I was doing an inspection on a 5 yr old home , found this issue and brought it up. The clients had 'Dad' Present (early 60's duffer) and Dad said.. "You bet your ASS this is a problem.. " He handed his card out.. "Arson Investigator, Fire Dept. City of ____, MA"... Then he told stories.. one of which was a home with a 'center' chimney and where this burned out to the edges and UP THE CHASE... that lack of fire-stops at the chase left a draft rising and just sucked the fire 'out and up'.. I always brought it up and still do. However, there are many 'variations' to this in regards to the degree of the problem and so forth.

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Approx. 7 out of 10 around here are actually quite easy; we use cement block to wall-off the ash-dump chute, chute sides and back being formed when concrete foundation is poured. Removing a course or two of upper block down in the basement lets one easily pry off the forms. Replace block. Couple/three hour job at most.

Maybe. But I doubt it.

There is the couple hour visit to the site to figure out what the customer is talking about, another couple hours in phone calls and logistics, payroll and payroll related expense, the usual stuff that always goes wrong (plywood stuck in concrete comes to mind), the break down, clean up, and final, etc., etc., etc.

There is no such thing as an easy job that takes a couple hours. You know this.

This is a full day (or more) pain in the butt that no one in their right mind would even begin to involve themselves in because there's lots of good paying work available. We'd give them a "go away" bid; if they're nuts enough to pay us several thousand, cool, we're in....if not, go away.

So, "impossible" is overstated; nothing is impossible. Ridiculously chaotic sounds closer to reality.

We're stuck reporting this stuff because we should. Few will ever fix it.

Uhm, no. I personally watched Mike Galasinski (& two laborers) of Arrow Masonry remove a form in about an hour & a half. Like you said, though, toughest part was prying off the form. Other half hour we shot the shit.

Mike L. - use a mirror and a flashlight to check hearth undesides.

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