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Didn't we have this post last week? Lot of foolish people cutting holes in the floors?

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by elkimmeg, Nov 5, 2006.

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  1. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    Cutting holes in floors and ceilings is a reduction of safety. today all rough frame inspections include inspecting draft and fire stopping. Just as important to your personal safety, as the structual aspects of homes. Every wire, pipe, or duct penatration is draft stopped. Fire blocking is also used to protect the integrity of structual members, like your load bearing walls and beams.
    It has been proven that, containment saves ctitical seconds/ minutes to safely exit a fire situation. Floors and ceilings are considered natural containment barriers. One would never cut a hole in the floor if they watched the films I have seen, how a fire spreads and the time it can get to critical stages. Ones fire starts the rising hot air finds there holes ( penatrations) as it risses threw that hole due to pressurization differencials it accelerates. the more intense it gets the faster the acceleration cycle. Some holes offer the oxegen source to accelerate the fire while others offer a path for rapid expansion. Its not just the fire, but the huge vollumes of hot potentially deadly gasses and smoke. The holes allow for express pasage into the next floor living space. Speaking of deadly gases the same holes can be an expressway for carbon monoxide, just as deadly.
    The question on should ask is getting a little residual heat to the next floor worth the risk? If you came into my office and applied for a permit to cut holes in the floor. I would deny issuing it
    These holes are being cut to allow heat to rise into the next floor.

    Lets examine the situation: If you want heat from your auxillary heat source then place it within the living space. Basement locations are woefully bad concerning drafts in a negaitive
    pressure location. Usually stoves in basements compete for adequate combustion air need by your furnace / boiler. fuel fired hot warter heater and many times a clothes dryer.
    All this competition leads to, incomplete combustion and reduced effeciencies of all appliances, plus increasing negative presurization. With increased negative pressurization and incomplete combustion is the fromular for increased carbon monoxide risk. Makeup combustion air has to come from somewhere. The negative pressure gradient is there, it is very easy for one appliance demand to suck the exhaust back into that basement. Could it be the reason no heat is moving into the living space, because combustion air demand is sucking that air from the holes cut in the floor, into the basement? That explains one phenomem, Another thing is happening the pressure in the Basement is negative or lower. Those same holes act to allow the higher pressure to to make up the negavive pressure gradient in the basement. This is a chimney effect in reverse. Added to the reversechimney effect, colder heavier air at the floor level also wants to decend. The winner will always be the heavier air. The final piece of the puzzel is supply = returns. Cutting hole in the floor without a well thought engineered location of the return route, is useless.

    The basement its self unless you have well insulated walls, That cold concrete foundation walls suck most of that heat out. the sill contact plate is probably leaking like a sieve. Your rim joist is probably not insulated This stove location was doomed to start. Everything I have said is backed up by studies. There is nothing new I came up with.

    Very few studies favor basement locations as a solution to heat an entire house. Wood/pellet stoves are zone heaters that should be located within the space they should heat
    they were never whole house heaters. Cutting holes in the floors is not improving a bad location. only compromising you and your familly safety.

    The question you have to come to grips with is heat vs safety. Im the forum's worst typer. It is not easy or as fluid a task. as it is for many here.

    I did not take this time to type up this post, if I was not concerned about you and your familly's safety. My home there are no holes. I know the risk, I would never compromise
    my familly safety.

    Note I did not refference any code here, Code at times is to protect the innocent and at times to protect fools from themselves. I'm not ducking of cover here worring about other oppinions.

    Worse would be ones that advocate the increased safety risk. Ones that will tell you to use blowers further removing combustion air, accelerating situations, that have gone bad. Blower that further add to negative pressurization. Very few are qualify as Mechanical engineers, with the knowledge of you home's layout and air flows, to locate the required holes and fan vollumes required to even achieve a positive heat gain. No Mechanical engineer should advocate purging natural containment floors and ceiling without detailing adequate protection.
    There such a safety concern ,for those that advocate some sucess that's ok. You acepted your own personal risk, but it is not wise to endorse others, to compromise theirs.

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  2. fishercat

    fishercat New Member

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    There is nothing else in the basement and the basement is all insulated. Believe me if I had seen your post on holes on the floor it would have scared me enough that I would not have done it. But its in now so I bought 2 carbon monoxide detectors and 2 smoke detectors. If it doesn't work I will likely cover it over. Maybe I should read more before I do things. Although I don't see how it could be any more dangerous for carbon monoxide if its on the main level than in the basement with a hole. The hole is in just about the same place as my stove would have been. If you were worried about carbon monoxide would you even put in a wood stove anywhere? I agree with the fire aspect of it it was was a stupid thing for me to do.
  3. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    The post did not single out any indididuals. The purpose is to educate those that have cut holes and warn ones that are comtemplating cutting them. If any thing, there is a margin
    fo safety that can be employed. There are damper grills, that are spring loaded by a temperature sensitive fuseable link. If a fire condition presents its self, the 140 degree fusiable link melts and the spring load closes the grate. Containment is restored.
    I comemd you for the smoke and carbon monoxide warning system. Possibly with their adequate coverage and fusiable link grates , you have reached a much better safe escape warning system and have restored critical exit time before it is too late.

    In the past poster supplied links as to where fusiable link grates can be purchased. No they are not the $8 home depot types

    I hope To wiki this post and the responders. I re-read my own original post and my typing needs improvement. I'm going to blame it being late and being tired helping
    another member safely install his insert yesterday. I will go back and spell check it as well.

    I did not single out you, nor did I intend to. If a fuel burning appliance inadequately burns its fuel and does not adequately draft its exhaust . and backs drafts.
    Carbon monoxide will follow the heated exhaust and natural air currents within that home. Including finding passage threw holes cut in floors. It will not be contained within the basement,
    as the natural contaiment floors has been compromised. Naturally if the fuel burning appliances and exhaust paths and working correctly there is no problem for concern.
    And I too agree adding wood stoves adds to one's risk. However with proper opperations , proper dectection coverage, proper maintance of the appliances and their exhaust routes
    ,, the risk can be advoided.
    This forum is the best place on the internet to learn about stove opperations and safety of their opperations
  4. seaken

    seaken Minister of Fire

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    There are many old timers who would dispute your reasoning. Of course, you are absolutely correct. But I can only suggest that everyone can decide for themselves. Would removing walls and ceilings be as negative as cutting in holes? These old timers knew that they could get more space heated from their space heater. They also knew that little 12" holes wouldn't do it. They used 24" x 24" or larger holes. They didn't think about firestops. They were just trying to increase the space being reached by the space heater.

    I get asked about this several times each year. I never recommend it and try to discourage it. But I know several folks here in the mountains who do it and swear it works. I prefer to let the homeowner decide. And every house design is different. Some house designs are better suited to this practice than others. Unfortunatly most houses are not designed with space heaters in mind. Yet, I have seen some houses desgined to use the natural draft effects as an advantage.

    I'm not sure which is safer in a house fire - a house with lots of walls and ceilings or a house with a wide open floor plan and vaulted ceilings? I do know that each type presents it's own challenge when trying to heat with a wood stove.
  5. Todd

    Todd Minister of Fire

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    Getting heat upstairs can be tricky. Sounds like you have pressure problems. Here is some info that might help. I installed a ventilator and it helped my negitive pressure in my basement.

    www.condar.com/asv.html
  6. fishercat

    fishercat New Member

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    I know you did not single anyone out and I do realize my mistake so no offence taken at all. This kind of information is why I try to read these forms every day. I somehow mist the topics on vents but now I know. Hopefully this will stop someone else from doing the same thing.
  7. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    I know that moving heat from the basement is an ongoing hopeless dream for most people. And haven't cut any holes to try to make it happen, tempted as I have been over the years.

    But not being a construction, safety or HVAC expert it is beyond me how a little vent hole cut in the floor significantly adds fire danger when that danged basement stairway is sitting there with a a three foot by seven foot or so hole at the top of it when the door is open.

    All of these posts would suggest that the basement door should always be kept closed for fire safety.
  8. BikeMedic2709

    BikeMedic2709 New Member

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    Very well put ELK. You are dead on! I have seen this many times. Fire spreads so incredibly fast, it is amazing.
  9. fishercat

    fishercat New Member

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    Todd if your stove is in the basement where would you put that pressure vent. Thanks
  10. Todd

    Todd Minister of Fire

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    Yes my stove is in a finished walk out basement. I cut the hole to the outside just above the top basement block in my workshop that is in the room next to the stove room, ran a dryer vent down the wall and across to the other wall. I put my ventilator about 3' from the stove and 6"above the floor. I found I had negative pressure in my basement, probably from water heater, dryer, and bathroom fan.

    I'm also not afraid to admit that I cut a 14"x 10" floor vent just off center, above the stove. I thought it would draw cold air down and was surprised to find it rose so I installed a small door fan inside that blows hot air up into my living room and keeps my upstairs within 5 degrees of the basement. My open stairwell has no door and acts as a supply and return, but before the floor vent it wasn't enough to keep the upstairs as warm as I wanted. I have not seen as of yet, any code that says you can't do this, and they even sell floor vent kits with fans at some of the local hearth shops. It makes sense what Elk says about the spread of fire or co2, but my stairwell is open with no way to install a door or fire barrier (is that against code also) which will spread the fire/co2 also. There is a risk in everything every day. Just having a wood stove is a risk. Best to make sure your stove is installed properly and meets required clearances, burn dry wood, and have plenty of smoke/co2 detectors around the house.
  11. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    Todd have you read the code conerning draft and fire blocking? Have you read NFPA 82 concerning containment? Because have not read the code, is not enought reason to advocate your solution is correct or imply to other it is ok. Ingorance is not acceptance to doing as you please and ignorance does not make it any safer or code compliant. Today's code requires a cellar door and if that space is unconditioned it must be draft stopped weather stripped. As for doors closed , yes they enhance containment. It is well documented ,,one is safer with a bedroom door closed than open. To encourage the door to be closed, modern codes require smoke detectors in every bedroom. Studies have proven the door closed issue. Not all areas can be protected and doors are not closed all the time. Stair ways are natural convection passages,that is why smoke detector coverage is manditory within the imediate area.
    Bike medic is a fireman ,he has seen and wittnessed fires , believe me you do not have the time you think, till fire and smoke engulf the home. There are a lot of dead herro the went back in and never made it back out.
  12. Todd

    Todd Minister of Fire

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    No Elk, I haven't read those codes, and that's what I'm wondering, if there is a code that specificly states floor grates are a no no? Not trying to say hell with code and safety or dissing you. I cut my hole before I new anything about this just like many others. I looked up the NFPA 82 and it pertains to Incinerators and waste and linen handling systems and does not apply to 1 or 2 family residential structures??? I don't know what I'm looking at, just alot of mumbo jumbo to me or the average Joe. I'm not doubting you, just wondering what code is? Is it national, state, or local?

    Then there is the question, why would stove shops sell them or encourage them? And like others have stated the old timers did it, or you buy a home that has it. You don't need to call people foolish or ignorant because they don't know about certain codes. It's not like you have to read the code book and have a test on it before you sign your mortgage.
  13. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Todd, during your tenure here on the forum there have been several threads about this. I think that is what gets Elk's concern. This keeps coming up and the prescription is the same: if you're going to cut holes between floors to facilitate heat flow, think for a moment, what if something goes wrong? What if there is a fire on the floor below? A code book isn't necessary, but common sense helps. Seconds count in this situation. Part of the solution is to fire damper the vents. I'm not going to reference old threads here because I've done it at least 4-5 times before. The bottom line is: if you're going to cut holes between floors, do it safely. For more info do a search on "fusible link".
  14. fishercat

    fishercat New Member

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    Todd would a venmar air exchanger do the same job as the ventalator. Thanks
  15. MrGriz

    MrGriz New Member

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    Todd, the difference between you and I on this is that I found the threads relating to floor vents before I cut the two I was planning into my home. Until the containment issues were presented, I hadn't thought about that and was focused only on a way to move more hot air (other than just opening my big mouth). Had Elk and others not started me thinking about this issue, I would be another one of many with floor vents, trying to even out the heat. I'm also sure I would not have thought to put fire dampers in the vents.

    As of this point, I am not going to add floor vents, but it was sort of a close call. One of your points touched on my train of thought. The staircase leading from my basement, through the entry, up to the main level is actually just a big open chimney as far as the transfer of smoke, fire and CO. Like your situation, my stairway is open, no door and no place to really put one. That got me to thinking that two more "relatively small" holes in the floor wouldn't really do much to compromise containment. In the end I would rather stay on the side of caution, code or no code.
  16. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    Todd I'm sorry I gave you the the wrong code sections part of it is Im still remembering the chapter line up year 2000 and the new alignment 2003.

    Let me say, I have not found it yet in the International codes which is the governing code NFPA is not the governing code but up to 2006 it was not reconised by the BOCA/ International codes

    I do not know if NFPA is enforceable it is with wood stoves because their listing list being compliant or tested To NFPA 211. IT's the manufactures that call in the aplication to NFPA.
    Honestly other than NFPA 211 I'm not all that familliar with their NFPA codes. We do not inspect them the fire depts take care of them the fire dept inspects every home for smoke and monixide coverage burner inspections and fuel storage. We do the fire blocking structual and what is required for occupancy. In all the years of inspecting, I have never come acccrost a hole in the
    floor . Holes are not cut in many new homes. Most are cut in by homeowners without a whole lot of thought about the safety ramifications. Nobody applies for a permit to do them
    so far it has not been a big enough issue to require new code language. partly ,because it is done without code official knowledge.
    Common sense also has to enter into doing things not everything can be written as code

    In Turner's case, I have never seen a chimney without a crown cap. Never felt I had to inspect for one. It was common sense that all chimneys were built with caps.
    Unfortunately for Turner this oversite will cost. the top 8' may have to be removed and rebuilt, because the weathering caused due to the lack of the crown being in pla

    I don't want to get into an epic debate here, the original post was to point out increased risk and make others aware of potential dangers

    gva video clip says it all
  17. brian_in_idaho

    brian_in_idaho New Member

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    In principal I agree with everything you say elk. However, many homes have open staircases that will provide a far better, less restrictive path for fire progression than a number of open registers between floors. I can see keeping them out of bedrooms, but how does this increase the risk compared to a stairwell? If you have a closed basement or second floor door, and now cut openings via registers, I can see your point, but not otherwise.

    Bri
  18. suematteva

    suematteva New Member

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    In our case we have a drive in/walk in basement, the other 2/3 is finished completely open stairwell that goes up into kitchen/ dining area, the register is maybe 6-8 ft from stairwell. Will be getting one of the spring loaded registers that was mentioned. downstairs is open on stove side, upstairs is open on other side. Does this mean we should enclose everything??
  19. Todd

    Todd Minister of Fire

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    Not sure exactly how they work. Do they use electicity or gas? Replaces old stale air with fresh outside air. Also keeps equal pressure in house. Some models also heat the incoming air. My stove manual mentions that these make up air ventilators would be a better solution instead of direct outside air to stove for a tight house. Also sounds like it would be healthier. What about cost?
  20. Metal

    Metal Minister of Fire

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  21. fishercat

    fishercat New Member

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    The venmar brings in fresh air heats it and takes out fresh air. Cost is about 700 dollars. I already have one in my house but it doesn't seem to matter. May try the ventalator if I can get them in Canada.
  22. cbrodsky

    cbrodsky Member

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    I tend to agree with some of the other posters highlighting that first, many modern homes are such open floorplans that there is little containment to start. Beyond this, I am sure I am not the only woodstove user that leaves a door open to my bedroom at night to let heat flow up. Probably not the safest, but I'm OK taking my chances with a central linked smoke detector system and a CO detector to alert me to any issues.

    That being said, one might argue that I would be safer to close the door and use my (currently unused) A/C duct system to drive air circulation between the bedroom and living area below coupled with a damper that would shut it down with smoke detection. Maybe some of the people asking about such systems should be educated that there is a way to do it, but you need to integrate certain safety features, and then they would be better off than whatever system they're using now. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of folks are using box fans or other methods trying to accomplish similar objectives, none of which are "safe."

    Point is that instead of taking extreme positions telling people to not do anything, we should be thinking about what is the safest way to do something they are going to do one way or the other.

    -Colin
  23. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    I agree with what you are saying. However please explain to me how ceiling location returns, are an energy effecient application in the heating cycle . Are they not returning already heated air? Returns are suposed to remove cool air? Say a common 8 room colonial home that has an HVAC system. supply = returns there should be probably 12 return duct openings even if one draws in warm heated air 11 others should be removing much cooler air how it that going to supply heat in the furthest remote location? If one draws from the air above the stove code says no return air duct should be within 10' of the stove. and 11 others delute that drawn in air will substantially cooler air what is accomplished Not heat only wasted electricity
    then there is 35% loss during transission . I plain is doomed not to work.
    I have mentioned this many times modern HVAC systems are pooly designed and installed. Think about the use of joist bays for return routes only allowed in residential codes not permitted in comercial codes due to fire safety considerations You have a return route that leaks and is constructed using combustiable materials. Flex ducts the most abused application, that should not be permitted. One can not begin to compare the friction resistance they present, when compared to smooth surfaced metal ducting Every home I built has damper controlled high low return grills in every upstairs bed rooms. I instruct each new owner, to close the upper vent during heating season and to open them during AC and close the lower return. Every take off the has an inline damper used to balance the entire system. All flow rates are recorded and balanced. If a room requires 250 cfm then it should recieve it. Part of the balance, is proper returns in vollume and locations. Adding or cutting extra supplies or returns unbalances the system. It might still work but the entire system would have to re-balanced. The same company I hire for balancing also leak test the system. a good system leaks less that 6 cfm per 100 cu ft vollume. All ducts joints a were seamed with mastic. I only did a few homes this way. Most homes I built using FHW baseboard heating. I live in New England. AC is not that big of an issue but for a hand full of days. FHW is a cleaner heat. I love the arguement. I have a 95% effecient gas furnace but loose 35% of that effeciency in transmission
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