Because fireplaces contain the precarious element of fire, certain government regulations were created to protect the safety of the home’s occupants and the community at large. Without such regulations, more houses would become fire hazards. With regulations in place, 36 percent of residential fires are due to heating fires each year, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.
Permit and Insurance
Since you must obtain a permit, check with your local code officials for the process and fees required to obtain these. Generally, you will be required to provide your name, address, and measurements and details of your fireplace and chimney. You will need to indicate the location of the fireplace in your home, which is best shown on a plan drawing.
For your insurance, confirm with your insurance company that they protect fireplaces. If not, take action to obtain coverage, perhaps with another company. If you have coverage for your fireplace, look into the details and check to see if it requires professional installation for damage coverage or to validate the manufacturer's warranty.
The chimney must be a non-combustible material such as masonry or stainless steel (class-A) insulated chimney. The chimney must reach a minimum of 3 feet above the roof and 2 feet higher than all other roof elements within a 10-foot radius.
Floor and Walls
You must also use non-combustible materials for the flooring below the fireplace. Use materials such as concrete, brick, marble, tile or slate. Typically, you are required to place this flooring 10 inches beyond the sides and 16 inches in front of the fireplace.
If the wall is combustible and unprotected, do not install the fireplace closer than 36 inches to an adjacent wall. A rule of thumb is that the walls should never feel uncomfortably warm. If you find they do, or if you wish to place the fireplace closer to the wall, add a non-combustible wall protector. Check with your local building codes and insurance company to know which wall protection materials are approved.
- Photo Credit fireplace with iron lattice image by Nikolay Okhitin from Fotolia.com
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