Today I’d like to share with you a very important design issue with regard to the construction of chimneys and fireplaces.
99% of home builders and masons get this wrong… and the shameful part is that it does not increase the cost, nor does it take any more effort, to get it right.
It’s all about “fresh air vents”. You see, a few years back, the government in it’s infinite wisdom decided to make it mandatory that all fireplaces be supplied with a fresh air vent to the outside… in other words… a hole poked through a fireplace and out the chimney.
We don’t need to get into the merits of “should there be one or not?”. It’s not like we have a choice. It’s the law.
There are pros to having these vents… Some say new homes are so airtight that fresh air is needed to keep a fire going and not smoke up a house, and others say it’s better to draw in outside air and throw it up the chimney than it is to pull heated air out of the house. Both are valid points.
The negative aspects of fresh air vents are many… most people fail to either open the little door to the vent when burning a fire (and thus they are useless) or they fail to close them when a fire is not burning which allows in cold air and all kinds of creatures who decide to crawl through the vent piping. Plus, I have witnessed strong winds blow smoke and ashes out of fireplace into the room (not good at all).
But, my biggest peeve (besides the government once again feeling it has the right to force me to build a home the way they want it to be) is that for some odd reason 99% of builders and masons feel the need to install these vents front and center… as if this piece of hardware is a decorative element.
It’s not! It’s an eyesore. It’s a visual distraction. It’s a pimple on a gorgeous face… why put it on the tip of the nose?
If you go to the trouble of building a beautiful chimney why mess it up with a modern vent sticking out of the face of it? You might as well hang a few hubcaps on it while you’re at it. lol And when you come inside, and you see the gorgeous fireplace that you’ve put so much effort into building… why have a vent cover staring back at you?
You will never find an old chimney with a fresh air vent… at least I’ve never seen one. And, you will never see a fresh air vent sticking out the face of one my new chimneys. Remember, it’s all about the details. So you may ask… “How do I get away with having an unspoiled fireplace and chimney, and yet keep Big Brother happy as well?”
It’s SO simple… so simple in fact that I am stumped why no one else does it. Well yes, I do know… it’s because so few bother to consider all the options when building a house, failing to always strive to build a home as attractive as it can be. The simple solution to not spoiling fine masonry?… install the vent on the side of the chimney… on the side of the fireplace… where it is hardly noticed or seen!
Often I’ll even go one step further… on the exterior of the chimney, I’ll install the vent recessed and then shape a stone that can be put into place to cover it over during those times the chimney is not being used (as I did on the one seen in the photo at the top of this posting).
There you have it folks… if you want it done right, you either need to do it yourself, or be prepared to tell others how you like it.