Bees lead to serious infractions
So I get a call from a Gentleman in a 9 year old condo who is concerned his fireplace logs are deteriorating I agree to squeeze him in over the lunch hour. The fireplace is a basement direct vent with venting through a mainfloor chase and throught the roof. His fireplace has realistic logs with ember chucks that look like they fell off but thats the look of a good fireplace. I explain how the logs are made and don't burn. Anyway I see a couple dead bees in the firebox and decide to look up at the termination for signs of a nest. To my surprise all I see is a 4" B-vent termination on the roof. I knew this was wrong so I put a call in to the Manufacturer (on speaker phone) so the customer could listen in. It was clear that this was very dangerous so I had to shut it down.
After leaving I take a walk around the whole complex and see almost half or about 15 units with the same B-venting. Some had 7" DV terms and some had no vents. After some thought I realized that if the idiot that installed the B-vent could be soo stupid, who's to say he installed the DV term venting properly. I figure all units have to have drywall torn down from roof to basement to see if venting is continuous.
Anyone see this before? who was held liable? Builder? Technician? Condo Corp?
There are 40-50 Condos and the repairs are going to be $2000-$5000 per unit.
TSSA has been called in.
Down here in the States, it would be up to a class action suite for construction defects and possibly reckless endangerment. Should anyone have been hurt there could be criminal charges filed as well. In general, the condo assn. would prosecute this in civil court and, in Canada, TSSA would follow their own path as well. It would be worth investigating to see if a bond was posted by the builder.
Basically what would happen is the architectural plans on file in the jurisdiction would be reviewed and compared with any contracts written with fireplace installation companies. This would determine where the breach of contract lay. The technician is generally protected by his company's insurance for 'negligence' but not for 'gross negligence'. The municipal inspector generally is proteced from litigation even when they screw up big time.
Who is ultimately liable depends upon the laws of your State or Province. In Pa, there is no state recognized 'builder'. Only registered AIA architects can function as 'construction managers' as well as the 'design professional' of record. They generally hand the actual construction over to a 'builder' who hires a 'site superintendent' to run the job. The Stupidindendent is often a carpenter who can't cut it on their own or even some kid who's related to the builder. No qualifications required. As long as the job passes municipal inspections, it comes out in the wash they think. Other states, such as S.C. require you to hold a state builder's license that is hard to get. It requires a large financial statement, clean credit history, two referrals by prominent citizens, bonding, and passing a very tough 300 question written exam and doing a take-off on a set of plans.
To substitute B-vent on so many direct vents sounds like a very calculated, deliberate act. This could draw criminal charges for fraud in addition to the other charges. Regardless, somebody's butt's in trouble.
When bidding on remediation, check with the codes and bldg dept. for their current requirements on energy conservation and weatherization in addition to maintaining clearances to combustibles, allowable venting configurations, and using only listed components. Often, you will get in there only to find missing insulation, vapor barriers, air barriers, fireblocking, and listed firestops. Often newer energy codes will require caulking or insulating firestops that conflicts with the product's listing.
When you find one goofy thing, you're bound to find more. I would insist on comprehensive level II inspections of each unit complete with a thorough gas service including measuring gas presures under full load, gauging orifices, etc. on every unit.
Want a hand? My manometer and combustion analyzer can travel
Great catch NGTech!
Keep the fire inside the fireplace.
Unfortunately we do not have the job to do the repairs (yet). I suspect the Condo Corp will look for bids and likely go with the cheapest. They will again get someone to cut corners and clearances to save 5-10%. I am going to be profitable in my bid and detailed in what has to be done and why. If they don't accept it this time maybe I'll get a chance to fix it the third time.
If nothing else, I have learned that you should always inspect the outside vent as part of a "routine" service call.
Good catch and good advise
It's a latent defect issue. In Florida there is no time limit on the claim for latent defects. The builder and sub would both be on the hook.