Fireplaces and human exits (residential)

In the absence of Code… use Common Sense!!
When have you ever seen a fireplace in a non-habitable basement?
Never… it would be pointless!!

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Actually my daughters 1870 blacksmith house has a fireplace in the basement. Now sealed up it has the furnace flue plumbed into it. Original stone foundation and rough hewn log floor joists and barely six foot headroom. Definately not habitable.

Plenty of coal furnaces in Baltimore row home non-habitable (hand dug - low headroom) blind (single access) basements (cellar)

Common sense is fine for making a recommendation but the OP was looking for documentation -as in code reference.

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Lets clarify this. I frequently see fireplaces in unfinished basements of houses built in 1955 thu say 1980.

Is an unfinished basement with a furnace BUT no registers to supply conditioned air AND the only entry or exit the stairs up to the garage. The only basement windows are the typical steel frame hoppers about 18" to 22" tall by 30" to 32" long AND installed about 5’ off the floor.

Is that a habitable space ?? Would a competent intelligent inspector tell a potential buyer that the basement has to have another method of egress ?? On a 40 to 65 yr old house was a secondary egress required ?? To be honest this is really a dumb question AND not anything that I’ve ever seen reported on BUT hey its only been 35-45 yrs now that I’ve been inspecting

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What is wrong with you?
Apples and lemons!!
Stop thinking like 40 years ago and get with the times.

Based on the limited info provided, I would have recommended the door be returned to service for additional safety.

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Not so … And when it was built also changes REQUIREMENTS

What I find so totally humorous is inspectors thinking modifications are REQUIRED on existing homes


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From ICC that Minnesota uses it says only One means of egress is needed.

R310.1Emergency escape and rescue required.

Basements, habitable attics, and every sleeping room shall have at least one operable emergency escape and rescue opening. Where basements contain one or more sleeping rooms, emergency egress and rescue openings shall be required in each sleeping room, but not be required in adjoining areas of the basement

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Your IRC reference speaks of EERO. That is different and in addition to normal egress. The IRC only requires one means of egress (normal) for the entire dwelling.

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Jeffery, Hi and Happy 4th

Fireplaces… Great customer question, but why?

Here is my approach to this part of the inspection. I stick my head in the firebox, use a potent flash light (1000 lumens), sometimes one of those snake-fiber optic cameras. I check for proper operation of the damper (open & close). I look up for excessive creosote accumulation in the walls of the chimney flute. That’s it…!

Then I document what I saw and include a strong recommendation in my report summary advising the owner/new owner to-be, “before you start your FIRST Fire, before you even move-in, you should have a licensed/experienced Chimney Guy come to A) Inspect the whole fireplace/Chimney system and B) at the same time, even if the Chimney Guy finds everything in order, have him perform a regular annual cleaning/maintenance task of the flute and the ash pit.

I recommend this task to be done once a year in September/October before the cold weather arrives. I also recommend using ‘the right burning wood’ and a protective screen on the hearth area to prevent fire-sparks from jumping/flying into the room. ALL this done and the home owner should not need to be concerned about an egress strategy. Fireplace Management is serious business, just like having a fire-weapon in your home, everybody in your household should be properly trained in it’s proper use to avoid careless regretful accidents. Think about this: “a fireplace burning temperature can range from as low as 500 F to well above 1100 F”, and it is located ‘at the center’ (customary) by design of a dwelling built 95% of dry wood sticks.

Even if the Listing Agent claims that the fireplace/chimney was recently maintained/clean, every new owner should have his own ‘primary-care’ chimney guy on his phone directory perform the annual check…! :sunglasses:

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Fireplaces in the basements used to heat up the whole house.
Then some of them turned into coal burners, etc, etc

I didn’t feel the need to specify this, but now I must with a question…
"What exactly is your definition of ‘Fireplace’, and where are you located"??

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