When one thinks of fireproof materials, metal, stone and brick readily come to mind. Wood definitely would not. So one has to wonder, why would anyone build part of a fireplace using wood. There is no doubt wood belongs in the fireplace. But as a part of the structure?
While inspecting a not very old colonial style house, about 45 years, I arrived at the second fireplace in the house located in the family room above the garage. The smoke stained mantel grabbed my attention first. Often a sign of venting issues. I snapped a picture and moved in closer.
Something else was not right my brain nagged.
The mind is a funny thing, when our consciousness can not grasp something because it so absurd, the unconscious mind is busy screaming to wake up and smell the coffee.
I finally heard the shout.
The mantel, a very large timber, was not set above the fireplace separated by bricks the required minimum distance. No, instead the wood had been made a part of the actual fireplace, set right inside the firebox.
Was this some insane experiment concocted around a dimly lit table in an altered state of consciousness from some distorted brainstorming session. A plan that once set in motion became like a runaway train, unstoppable.
Or a more plausible reason could be simply plain stupidity.
The buyer was more than a little taken aback by this discovery. Questions immediately followed like, how could anyone build a fireplace like this and hadn't anyone realized wood inside the fireplace was not safe.
Good questions, none of which I could answer. A call was then made to the building department. An inquiry regarding permits and inspections was made. The building officials reaction was disbelief. Like myself, he had never seen or heard of a fireplace built in this manner. He stated emphatically it was not right or safe.
Not a surprise to anyone in the room.
Oh, and those permits, none were found. Again no surprise. Further the chimney that served this new concept fireplace also was discovered to have other questionable construction techniques and other deficiencies during the inspection.
Innovation occurs typically through experimentation while mindful of long established principals.
Wood plus heat equals fire. Someone apparently forgot about that.