An Unusual Choice

Home Inspector with JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC HOI 394

Unusual choices, I find them quite frequently while inspecting houses. Sure there is no accounting for some ones personal taste, they may find the bright green walls in the dining room appealing. On the other hand when it comes to the choices made for repairs and construction, personal taste should be extremely limited. While the methods of accomplishing the same task are as varied as the people who perform them, it is the end result that matters.

In construction there is little formal instruction, because in the state of Connecticut contractors are not required to be licensed. The learning is often done on the job and taught by the guy who learned from his father, uncle, best friend, anyhow, you get the idea. Bad methods can and at times do get passed along.

Fireplace smoke chamber with what appears to be caulk used for repairDuring a recent home inspection on an older home with two brick fireplaces, I found an unusual choice for repairs. I routinely check the smoke chamber above the fireplace in brick and masonry chimneys. This area in my experience is at least half the times I check, never properly finished. One should never see bricks, but instead the chamber should be covered with a coat of mortar.

In this particular fireplace smoke chamber, I saw exposed brick and what looked like caulk or perhaps a foam insulation. After pulling myself out of the fireplace I informed my client of what I saw, telling her the fireplace should not be used until it was checked by a qualified chimney specialist. The listing agent, sitting a few feet away, stated there couldn't be a problem, in fact I was surely mistaken, because the chimney was lined and had been repaired by a mason.

She was very certain and shall I say forceful in presenting this information.

Since she hadn't done the work, nor stuck her head up there, I found it a bad choice to be making such statements. One thing was true, of which I informed her and my client of, one flue of the three was in fact lined. That flue was for the heating system, a repair regularly done for heating systems venting into masonry chimneys.

As for the smoke chamber, anything other than a mortar designed for high temperatures would also be an unusual choice for repair.

And potentially dangerous.

Posted by

James Quarello
Connecticut Home Inspector
Former SNEC-ASHI President
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

 ASHI Certified Inspector

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Clint Mckie
Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections - Carlsbad, NM
Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586

Hi James,

I have'nt run into an unlined chimney in a while. Most are on the really older homes. When ever i inspect an older home like 1950 or earlier, I always double check the chimney if it has one.

They can be very, very dangerous if not built and maintained properly.

Have a good day in Connecticut.

Best, Clint McKie

Aug 14, 2012 11:21 PM #1
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Surely you are mistaken sir!  It is obvious a mason already did the work, and appropriately.

Man oh man!  Did you show her the photo of the most excellent work she seems to know about?

Aug 14, 2012 11:57 PM #2
Mark Loewenberg
KW of the Palm Beaches - Palm Beach Gardens, FL
KW 561-214-0370

in the world of disclosure, she did not get it, unless she was a professional mason for her day job!

Aug 15, 2012 12:42 AM #3
Diane Daley
Caron's Gateway Real Estate - Northumberland, NH

Time to run a good liner down this baby...  Fixed by a DIY...  HAve a great week

Aug 15, 2012 01:23 AM #4
Kathryn Maguire (757) 560-0881 - Chesapeake, VA
Serving Chesapeake, Norfolk, VA Beach

Ugh!  This is just inexcusable.  The agent was indeed foolish to make any statements about the quality or scope of the work.

Aug 15, 2012 01:45 AM #5
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

I think I see a gas fireplace in someone's future :)

Aug 15, 2012 02:04 AM #6
Jenny Durling
L.A. Property Solutions - Los Angeles, CA
For Los Angeles real estate help 213-215-4758

It's unfortunate - the property owner may have indeed paid to have some work done that never was. We must rely on the professionalism of many experts out there since we don't have the technical expertise ourselves.

Aug 15, 2012 06:26 AM #7
Donald Hester
NCW Home Inspections, LLC - Wenatchee, WA
NCW Home Inspections, LLC


Those old chimneys seem to never have been maintained. They really can be a hazard when they are not. Ask anyone who has had a chimney fire, like my wife ; )

Aug 16, 2012 10:03 AM #8
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Clint, This chimney is lined, the smoke chamber however is not finished.

Jay, Let's just say she wasn't receptive to seeing the information.

Mark, No, apparently clueless.

Caron, not necessarily, but it could be a repair route. 

Kathryn, Yep. I would have been happy to explain.

Charlie, Maybe :)

Jenny, That is a great point and one I often make to buyers. The homeowner relied on a "professional" to do these repairs. Unfortunately the trust was not honored.

Don, Been there, done that :)

Aug 16, 2012 10:07 PM #9
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James Quarello

Connecticut Home Inspector
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