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ZC Fireplaces: Is an access panel/door on the outside chimney for FP inspection/maintenance purposes

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by Woodrow, Jan 17, 2012.

  1. Woodrow

    Woodrow New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2012
    Messages:
    63
    Loc:
    Virginia
    I'll be installing a high efficiency ZC fireplace into my house soon. I have a wood structure chimney with vinyl siding on it. The rear of the fireplace is completely inaccessible due to the construction of my chimney. There are no access panels or doors on the outside of the house which facilitate inspection and service to the rear of the fireplace. I want to have a large hinged door on my chimney that can be opened so that the complete backside of the FP can easily be accessed, viewed, inspected and serviced if need be. I envision it as a simple low profile plywood door on hinges covered with vinyl siding to blend in with the surrounding chimney. It can be secured using a hidden bolt or two that can be unscrewed in just a few minutes in the event an inspection is desired.

    Is this done? I've never seen anyone with a feature like this. Anyone know if it's allowable under US building code? Sure seems like a good idea to me, especially for modern high efficiency inserts with blowers and electronics and various air plumbing connections. They're really the wood-burning equivalent of conventional oil or gas furnaces which need periodic inspections, so I don't see why they should be viewed any differently. I don't like the idea of something like that being sealed up forever behind a wall so you can never see what's going on back there (without ripping the whole unit out through the front, anyway).

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  2. ScotO

    ScotO Guest

    I'm in the tailend of my Napoleon NZ3000 ZC install, and I put an access door in the bottom of the chase. When I built the chase, I built it where an basement window accessed my crawlspace. Now that old basement window allows me to get under the foundation of the chase, and there is a door in the floor of the chase. I will try to post some pics tomorrow. I cased my chase in stone. And to answer your original question, I see no reason you cannot have an access door on your chase as long as you maintain the clearances that your local code and the fireplace manufacturer recommend. I read nothing in the codes here that said otherwise.....but I did go overboard and have more than enough clearance in all directions.
  3. southbalto

    southbalto Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2008
    Messages:
    367
    Loc:
    Mid-Atlantic
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    I put a door at the bottom of the chase so I can access the cleanout tee.
  4. Woodrow

    Woodrow New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2012
    Messages:
    63
    Loc:
    Virginia
    Thanks scotty. Sounds like you are building a sensible setup, I like the idea of a hatch that facilitates direct access to the unit. I also like that you've built a stone casing around the fireplace unit. That way if a fire leak of some type happens you'll have that added measure of safety (instead of having structural wood there to instantly combust). I also plan on outfitting my lower chimney section with a thermocouple array connected to an electronic display unit with an audible alarm that will go off if temps exceed normal levels. That way it will provide an added safety measure by instantly letting me know if anything untoward unexpectedly happens in the chimney section.
  5. ScotO

    ScotO Guest

    Ill mister up some pics of my setup here this evening for you.......hey it's better to be safe than sorry, I didn't get the name 'overkill' for nothing! :cheese:
  6. 73blazer

    73blazer Member

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2008
    Messages:
    169
    Loc:
    Birch Run, MI
    WHen I ripped out my old open ZC fireplace and installed the new North Star unit, I had to create access to my chase. It's not a hinged door or anything, but I made some cleats on the inside and screwed the piece of OSB I cut out back to the wall to the cleats and re-covered it up with the vinyl siding. I did screw some insulation and type X drywall to the inside of the OSB access panel to maintain the 'insulated' chase when it was all back together. The siding is easily enough removed and I can simply unscrew my little access door and get back into the chase if I ever need to. I wouldn't anticipate needing to do so, but, one never knows.
    I read the NFPA code book, there's nothing I could find in there about having or not having one.
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