Management firm insists my faulty fireplace not their problem

Firm attempted to fix issue by fitting a stove – but I’ve been told it was installed incorrectly

“When a fire is lit, it hits the top of the opening but as the flue is too far back, the smoke is going back into the apartment.” Photograph: Getty Images

“When a fire is lit, it hits the top of the opening but as the flue is too far back, the smoke is going back into the apartment.” Photograph: Getty Images

 

I am looking for some advice on my apartment which is currently let. This is a ground-floor apartment. We have had ongoing issues with the chimney and damp issues since it was purchased in 2007.

When the management company arranged to have a contractor investigate the chimney in 2014, they found out that the problem is structural. The flue is set about 4-6 inches further back than where it needs to be. When a fire is lit, it hits the top of the opening but as the flue is too far back, the smoke is going back into the apartment.

To solve this issue they put in a stove under their costs. I had someone out to clean chimney pre-Christmas and they wouldn’t touch it as they said the stove was not sealed and it was not installed correctly.

I am now waiting almost two months for the management company to get back to me with a solution. They are saying it’s not their problem. Any advice welcome.

For the purposes of my answer I am going to concentrate on the smoke issue and assume the dampness has been addressed. Getting the fireplace design correct is tricky and requires a good block layer at construction stage. There are basic guidelines that must be followed in constructing a fireplace and throat gathering to the base of the flue and if not done correctly smoke will go its own way and not necessarily up the flue and out the chimney.

The building regulations technical guidance document gives basic pointers which if followed should satisfy the requirements to achieve this exhausting of smoke to the outside of the building.

Basic checks on a smoking fireplace before taking remedial action include:

- Check if the flue was cleaned recently and have it rodded.

- Check for adequate ventilation of the room to facilitate a draw on the flue.

- Is there negative pressure being created by an excessively sealed room or mechanical extract vent in a kitchen or bathroom?

- Try fitting a metal hood to the opening to see if this improves the draw.

Design issue

If none of the above work then it is most likely a design issue or an incorrectly built fireplace and the following should be considered:

1) Check the fireplace opening size to the flue volume. A standard fireplace opening generally requires 200mm (8 inches). However, if the opening is increased by raising the head of the opening, then a 250mm (10 inch) flue is likely to be required.

2) Chimney height relative to ridge line or adjoining roof ridge line.

3) If the only answer is to install a stove this should work by extending the stove flue into the chimney flue. This may require a small bit of structural work to deepen the fireplace opening so the stove flue can line up with the main flue.

There is no doubt in my mind that this is a management company issue as it involves the main structure of the development and it is not a matter for the individual apartment owner.

Pat McGovern is a Chartered Building Surveyor and member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, scsi.ie