Scary fireplace

Was soing an inspection for a friend of mine. He, along with his brother and sisters own a very reputable HVAC company. Condo unit in a gut rehabbed building originally built in 1929. Cosmetics were wonderful.

But, here is the fireplace.

Looks like a regular solid fuel modular unit with a log lighter (which I do not like because too many people wind up loosing their eyebrows lighting them.

The problem?

It was a ventless fireplace!!!

Code inspector (Chicago) was there and totally missed it.

That is why I do not put too much stock in local municipal inspections.


Are ventless fireplaces permitted in your area?

Yes. Special gas log units with oxygen sensor and all that. The way this was configured, it should have had one of those, not a freakin’ log lighter. Sometimes, the owners just put a couple of ceramic logs in the fireplace and use the log lighter as the flame. This is also not a good idea.

Just goes to show you what non-professional “builders” will do.

So it’s not really a ventless fireplace but instead a total hack job.:shock:

It is a ventless fireplace (because it has no vent) equipped with a log lighter (which should ony be installed in a solid fuel fireplace, which must have a flue.

The client, the HVAC guy (and his Dad, the 35+ year experienced HVAC guy) could not believe it. They tried to take off the inside top plate, looking for a flue. No chimney or metal vent. Seems like the builder went out and got a modular ventless fireplace, then installed it with a log lighter.

The builder (properly licensed by the city, but formed as an LLC) kept asking (in broken English/Polish) what the problem was. He had no idea what he was doing.

But, more to the point, the city inspector didn’t even look at this. He was off looking at the lack of humidifier on the furnace. Never mind that the furnace was a cat 4, with no exhaust air vent, installed in a drain pan that was not properly drained. Just that the furnace had no humidifer (which is not required, but he believed it was).

Go figure.

Ease up Will.

A real ventless fireplace will have an O2 depletion sensor.

And yes the inspector should have found it first.

I agree. I am just venting because of all the times I am told by the agents and the builders and even the code inspectors that I am wrong and the city code inspectors are right.

I just write it up, explain it to my clients and hope that they listen.

Funny. The three times that I was sued by my clients (none of which succeded) they were all about issues that the agent and the builder said was OK, but that I defected, but they still tried to sue me.

Remember, in Illinois, local code inspectors are immune from lawsuits and liability.

Yep I remember that that 3 fireplace job Joe had and always check plates very close since.
Also had a nice 2000 build with split block today.
Lots of mortar openings and may be missing weeps and moisture barrier at some spots.
Back to the fire place my client asked if he could use those ceramic logs in the manufactured solid fuel model.
( Had log lighter) and metal venting to roof.
Is that permissible as I do not believe so but need to check into why not?

Because the log lighter is meant to light logs, not to provide a flame for the ceramic logs. Log lighters (at least around here) have no safety features, no thermocouple, no oxygeb sensor. Just turn that valve and gas comes out. If they want a gas log unit (which is what they are saying) then they should have a proper one put in. Fairly inexpensive retrofit.

Hope this helps;

Will, great pun: “I agree. I am just venting because of all the times I am told by the agents and the builders and even the code inspectors that I am wrong and the city code inspectors are right.”

Good information for all!


So the fact it is vented does not decrease the fact it is dangerous to leave lit longer than the short period of time it is used to light a organic log.
I will make the suggestion of looking into a conversion kit.

Correct, Bob. You have to look at what the fireplace is designed to do. In this case, it is obvious that a log lighter is not meant to burn ceramic logs. Nor is that the case with a vented fireplace, which is designed to burn wood. Sure, there woukld be little safety hazard (maybe the heat would not be enough for a good draft) but a log lighter is designed to light logs.