Cutting to the Chase- Wenatchee and Quincy Home Inspection Service

Home Inspector with NCW Home Inspections, LLC

Cutting to the Chase- Wenatchee and Quincy Home Inspection Service

                                            The Journey

Ah… the journeys we take in the home inspection profession.

As a home inspector we must make these journeys to ensure that we can give the client the best information possible and be particularly diligent in matters of safety.

Here is a particular journey that I have come across on more than one occasion.

When evaluating the attic space I try to pay particular attention to fireblocking.

Fireblocking usually involves the use of field-installed building materials such as 2 inch wood, ¾ inch particle board or ½ sheetrock and so on ( the IRC defines such materials in R302.11.1). This is to prevent the movement of flames and gases to other areas through concealed spaces.

The whole intent is to prevent undetected spread of fire and gases to allow the occupant time to escape in an emergency.

The IRC  (International Residential Code)defines Fireblocking as follows.

R302.11 Fireblocking.
In combustible construction, fireblocking shall be provided to cut off all concealed draft openings (both vertical and horizontal) and to form an effective fire barrier between stories, and between a top story and the roof space.

The IRC goes on to define that Fireblocking shall be provided in wood-frame construction in the following locations;

In concealed spaces of stud walls and partitions, including furred spaces and parallel rows of studs or staggered studs, as follows: Vertically at the ceiling and floor levels, horizontally at intervals not exceeding 10 feet, at all interconnections between concealed vertical and horizontal spaces such as soffits, drop ceilings and cove ceilings, in concealed spaces between stair stringers at the top and bottom of the run, at openings around vents, pipes, ducts, cables and wires at ceiling and floor level, at chimneys and fireplaces, and cornices of a two-family dwelling is required at the line of dwelling unit separation.

One of the areas of concern for me is Fireblocking around chimneys and fireplaces, especially factory built fireplaces that have a wooden chase.

Here is a couple examples of chases that are missing fireblocking. In the one example (right)we have insulation and debris falling onto the firebox. This is of greater concern for the potential of fire.

Missing Fireblocking    Missing Fireblocking and debris on firebox


Here is an example of how this assembly should be performed.


                                          Prefabricated Fireplace assembly

Fireblocking is a very important because of how fires progress through a structure.  Fires produce super heated air and smoke that kill without any flames being present.

Fire safety should be one of the highest concerns in the Real Estate Industry.

A fire can become life threatening within two minutes and engulf a structure in just 5 minutes. 2500 people die and 12,600 people are injured in residential fires each year.

As a former emergency responder I think we all should be more aware of fire safety. Here is a few links that may be of interest on home fire safety.

Home Fire Safety Checklist-Checklist Link pdf.
Home Fire Prevention-Link

“A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.”

John Steinbeck

NCW Home Inspections, LLC  is a Licensed Washington State Home Inspection service located in Wenatchee Washington serving Chelan County, Douglas County, Kittitas County, Okanogan County and Grant County Washington and the cities of Wenatchee, Leavenworth, Cashmere, Orville, Cle Elum, East Wenatchee, Quincy and many more…      

Your Wenatchee and Chelan Professional Real Estate, Home and Structural Pest Inspection Service


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Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Don, it is amazing how often I find these openings around chimneys.  As a builder it seemed that if there was anything the jurisdictional inspector did care about it was fire-stopping.

May 05, 2012 03:45 AM #1
Donald Hester
NCW Home Inspections, LLC - Wenatchee, WA
NCW Home Inspections, LLC

Charlie, Guess the AHJ just did not make it back that far. Does make you wonder though.

May 05, 2012 04:19 AM #2
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Excellent post Don.  As usual!  It is so interesting to compare an older house with the newer as regards fireblocking and chases.  New stuff is so thought out!

May 05, 2012 08:22 AM #3
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

I see this in many older homes, and occasionally in newer ones. 

May 05, 2012 08:36 PM #4
Donald Hester
NCW Home Inspections, LLC - Wenatchee, WA
NCW Home Inspections, LLC

Jay, Thank you. Home have come a long way since the early days. Fire destroyed cities so many standards evolved out of that.

Jim, Very true. I always tell them that this was not even in the thought pattern for many of these older structures. But they should be aware of the risk involved.

May 06, 2012 12:26 AM #5
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Donald Hester

NCW Home Inspections, LLC
Home Inspection Services and Inspection Questions
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