THE MASONRY MONTHLY
2005 Lincoln Ave., Pasadena, CA 91103 | 626-296-7700 | www.bostonbrick.com
The Importance of the Fireplace Specialist A JOB WE STAND BEHIND
I ’ve been in the fireplace and chimney business for about 25 years now, and if one thing has stayed the same in all that time, year after year, it’s the number of bad installations. I see bad installations all the time, and it almost always comes down to the same reason. Whether it’s a renovation or new construction, general contractors bring on the wrong people to install the fireplace and chimney. They might rely on a carpenter to handle the project, top to bottom, rather than bringing in a fireplace specialist. People ask me why it’s so important to bring in a fireplace and chimney specialist, and I tell them it’s an installation that’s easy to get wrong. As a company, we go to training seminars whenever we can. Not long ago, we attended a seminar being held by Napoleon Fireplaces’ contractor. There were 60 contractors in the room, including ourselves. The Napoleon rep asked the group, “Who here reads the manual?” The question was in reference to the manual that is included with every fireplace they sell (and every fireplace on the market). Only our guys raised their hands. This surprised the Napoleon rep, but not us. We encounter poor installations often enough that we know contractors aren’t reading the manual. They’re making mistakes that are easily prevented when the installer takes the time to look at the manual. But it also goes a step further than that. When we read through these manuals, we spot some of the most asinine typos — words or sentences that make absolutely no sense. When we find these, we call or email the manufacturer and let them know. Their response is just like that of the Napoleon rep: surprise. Some of these manuals have been on the market for years and no one has said a thing. When a fireplace is installed incorrectly, that doesn’t necessarily mean something will go wrong, but the chances of something going wrong do go up. I’m talking about risk of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning. In California, the law requires a carbon monoxide detector in every room with a fireplace, and for good
reason. If anything goes wrong with the fireplace or chimney, and carbon monoxide leaks into the home or business as a result, the consequences can be dire. It’s gotten to the point where we all know someone who has been affected by carbon monoxide poisoning — a friend, a neighbor,
a family member. It may have been a minor incident where the symptoms were recognized and quickly taken care of, and the source of the leak was fixed. Or it may have been more serious — someone may have died. This is the unfortunate reality of poorly installed fireplaces and chimneys, and the importance of proper installation cannot be overstated, especially when people lose their lives for no reason. This is one of the many reasons why we stand behind the general contractors who use us. We protect them when something goes wrong, even if it’s just improperly installed flashing where the chimney meets the roof. Ordinarily, when something goes wrong and a subcontractor makes a mistake, the general contractor is the one who takes the blame. We consider it our duty to take responsibility. Fireplaces and chimneys are a complex system. Each element of home construction is involved with the chimney, from foundation to framing to masonry and everything in between. We don’t expect the contractors who hire us to know every detail of the fireplace and chimney. That’s our job, and it’s a job we stand behind.
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