What I'm Seeing Now

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Cracked Fireplace Firewall

A cracked fireplace firewall is not terribly uncommon in a metal fireplace insert, AKA the zero-clearance fireplace.

You've seen them - they have the metal floor and surround, with the cement panels in the fireplace.  Those panels are made to deflect heat into the room and make for more efficient operation.

However, those cement panels can crack.

Hairline cracking is not rare and often is not a problem. 

Severe cracking can be more problematic however, as heat can escape into areas of the assembly it is not intended to.  The framing around these fireplaces, all the way to the chimney cap, is usually wood with some form of siding.  It is not made for too much heat.

This fireplace was converted from wood burning to gas.

And in this house the gas is Liquid Propane.

While there is nothing wrong with that, they did crack the firewall severely when they drilled the hole for the gas line.

There is something stuck inside to seal the hole, but I don't know what it is. 

What is the best course of action?  Have a professional look at this to see what should/could be done.

It might be that with a proper sealer all is well.

My recommendation:  fireplaces are a critical item in the house, wood burning or gas.  They have to be right!  If they are not right, they can surely be dangerous.  It's always best to be on the safe side and have a professional look at them when they are suspect.   And this one is suspect!

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 16 commentsJay Markanich • June 27 2014 03:50AM

Comments

Good morning Jay,

The alternative would be more costly than the repair!

Make yourself a great day.

Posted by Raymond E. Camp, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson Greater Rochester (Howard Hanna Real Estate Services) over 4 years ago

Alternatively, just don't use the fireplace.  I do see plenty of carpets and flooring ruined by sparks.

Posted by Women of Westchester Working Together, Women helping Women get ahead (Women of Westchester Working Together) over 4 years ago

Certainly Raymond.  Caution is always best.

Debbie - hence the need to always use the screen and/or glass doors.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Just a few bucks now can save a lot more later not to mention lives. 

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty AR LLC) over 4 years ago

Something like this is always worth a call to a professional, James.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Mmmm.  I have damage to a rug from sparks.  Got to remember to close that screen when I go for wood. 

I love my fireplace.  Fortunately, I'm not at all persnickety about things like sparks.

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) over 4 years ago

Lenn - for those occasions you forget to close the screen you can buy a hearth rug which resists sparks.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Jay, I agree, it is important that fireplaces be sound and safe for use!  Have a great day!

Posted by Tony & Darcy Cannon, The C Team (Aubrey and Associates Realty) over 4 years ago

Jay.  Good idea.  I'll get one before winter

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) over 4 years ago

T&D - never forget that!

Lenn - they are everywhere, rectangular and half moon.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Jay, I had seen the fire brick almost disintegrated on a few. Yeah they can be an issue.

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Don - I think once they crack in a big way they begin to get worse more quickly.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Good morning Jay. Some installers are not all they are cracked up to be. I know that there is a secondary shield. However, it is best that the ceramic refractory plates are in good condition.

Posted by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc., Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029 (Complete Home Inspections, Inc.) over 4 years ago

That is always best, Michael.  Cracking indicates lots of things, but reducing safety should never be acceptable.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Looks like it would be safe to use if they filled hole with furnace cement or something equivilent. But if someone ever switches it back to wood, I think I would want some serious repairs done or even a new fireplace installed.

Posted by Jeff Pearl, Full Service Full Time Realtor (RE/MAX Distinctive / LIC in VA) over 4 years ago

You may be right Jeff.  I think if they put in a new panel it would have to be cut in half with a hole anyway to surround that pipe!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

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