Selling home, inspector found problem with fireplace... what to do?

  • Active since 1995, Hearth.com is THE place on the internet for free information and advice about wood stoves, pellet stoves and other energy saving equipment.

    We strive to provide opinions, articles, discussions and history related to Hearth Products and in a more general sense, energy issues.

    We promote the EFFICIENT, RESPONSIBLE, CLEAN and SAFE use of all fuels, whether renewable or fossil.

sellinghouse

New Member
Jun 4, 2021
3
Long Island
Hi All,
I'm in the process of selling my home and a potential buyer sent an inspector. One of the only issues found was a problem where the fireplace appears to be "pulling" away from the house. There's a gap between the firebox and the brick surrounding the fireplace. I suspect that the problem has been stable for many years, as I never noticed any change and there are no exterior signs of cracking or further settling. I've used it many times over the years and never had smoke issues in the house.

My question is, what can be done about this? I assume a mason/fireplace person would be the first step, but what would they do, and how large or a repair bill am I looking at?

Thanks for any help!

IMG_1784.jpg
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
24,178
central pa
Hi All,
I'm in the process of selling my home and a potential buyer sent an inspector. One of the only issues found was a problem where the fireplace appears to be "pulling" away from the house. There's a gap between the firebox and the brick surrounding the fireplace. I suspect that the problem has been stable for many years, as I never noticed any change and there are no exterior signs of cracking or further settling. I've used it many times over the years and never had smoke issues in the house.

My question is, what can be done about this? I assume a mason/fireplace person would be the first step, but what would they do, and how large or a repair bill am I looking at?

Thanks for any help!

View attachment 279361
That is pretty bad. Probably the face pulling away
 

kennyp2339

Minister of Fire
Feb 16, 2014
5,760
07462
Homes are selling like hot cakes in our area, make a note with that inspector, if the current buyer doesnt take the house as is, move on to the next person.
 
  • Like
Reactions: MR. GLO and Corey

BCC_Burner

Feeling the Heat
Sep 10, 2013
383
Crystal River Valley, CO
Yikes, that would almost certainly be enough of a problem for me to walk away from the deal as a potential buyer.

Whatever fix the seller throws together to close the deal is going to be half-assed with corners cuts to save every penny possible, or you're looking at spending 5-figures as a new homeowner the minute you walk through the door. Thanks, but no thanks.

I've walked away from houses I've had under contract over lesser issues.
 

clancey

Minister of Fire
Feb 26, 2021
708
Colorado
I believe you are looking at a lot of money here to repair that unless your a expert at this kind of thing...If I was looking for a home I would walk away from something like that because I am a woman and its down right scares me and thank God you and your family are okay after using something like that and of course I am a worry wort...Don't know much here about things of this nature and just giving a opinion but can't you just "tear it out"--wondering...Mrs clancey
 
Last edited:

EatenByLimestone

Minister of Fire
I can't see enough to form an opinion in that pic. You'll need to get somebody in who appears qualified to the buyer in to appraise the issue and suggest a fix.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
87,668
South Puget Sound, WA
Agreed. Does the gap get larger as one goes higher up the chimney or is it consistent all the way up? Is there any evidence of cracking or pulling away from the walls on the interior side of the fireplace?
 

Corey

Minister of Fire
Nov 19, 2005
2,557
Midwest
Homes are selling like hot cakes in our area, make a note with that inspector, if the current buyer doesnt take the house as is, move on to the next person.
Fully agree here!

Also what others have said...a bit hard to tell from the photo. I'm taking that to be the face brick pulling away from the fire brick of the firebox? If that is the case, possibly a bit of pressure or a quick shove on the face brick area will push the bricks back in alignment. Then a quick seal of the remaining crack with some mortar compound or furnace cement will make everyone happy. If it is stable and the brick is not movable, possibly just filling the gap with mortar or furnace cement will work. A lot of times a home inspector will require "cracks in the foundation to be sealed" which means grab a $2 tube of latex caulk and start sealing!

Keep in mind, you're on a hearth/wood stove forum, so most here would want the fireplace completely torn down and rebuilt for full on use all winter long. The average homeowner will never use the fireplace and the 90th percentile homeowner will likely use it once a year at Christmas. So if they really want this house, it's likely "as is" is not a deal breaker, and even if it is, there is likely someone else standing in line.

Good Luck!
 
  • Like
Reactions: Highbeam

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
24,178
central pa
Fully agree here!

Also what others have said...a bit hard to tell from the photo. I'm taking that to be the face brick pulling away from the fire brick of the firebox? If that is the case, possibly a bit of pressure or a quick shove on the face brick area will push the bricks back in alignment. Then a quick seal of the remaining crack with some mortar compound or furnace cement will make everyone happy. If it is stable and the brick is not movable, possibly just filling the gap with mortar or furnace cement will work. A lot of times a home inspector will require "cracks in the foundation to be sealed" which means grab a $2 tube of latex caulk and start sealing!

Keep in mind, you're on a hearth/wood stove forum, so most here would want the fireplace completely torn down and rebuilt for full on use all winter long. The average homeowner will never use the fireplace and the 90th percentile homeowner will likely use it once a year at Christmas. So if they really want this house, it's likely "as is" is not a deal breaker, and even if it is, there is likely someone else standing in line.

Good Luck!
No one here wants to tell people the fireplace needs torn down. I certainly don't want to do that when I go to a customers house. But that is clearly a crack between the face and firebox which is quite a bit wider at the top than the bottom. Some support has failed and a simple push won't fix that. The crack may also open up to combustibles which can be extremely dangerous. A qualified pro needs to look at it.
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
6,218
Northern NH
if the fireplace is not vertical and leaning outward from the house it means its foundation is settling. The fix is re-support the fireplace off of Chance Helical Screw Anchors https://intechanchoring.com/ab-chance/?utm_campaign=P2-Magnacore-Etc-Sol8&utm_source=Google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_content=518883032521&utm_term=helical anchors&adgroupid=127106896448&gclid=Cj0KCQjwweyFBhDvARIsAA67M732qWNMvBX_6n5dYNHxWdilukQLMrfnsbpXhzMYg7NY2dhQEA5VBvcaAkSmEALw_wcB. The contractor digs down preferably to the footing of the chimney and screws in large angle iron plates. The screw anchors are screwed into the ground next to the chimney with a specialized hydraulic device frequently installed on a Bobcat. By measuring the torque they can estimate how much the anchor can support. The rods attached to the anchor are slid through holes in the angle iron plates. The contractor than uses a specialized hydraulic jack to jack the chimney level and then the rods are secured. Unless your house is sitting on "soup" it works well. The same method is used for cracked foundations. Its specialized work and if there is not a contractor nearby, it costs a lot to drive over to you site. Its probably a 5 K fix. If done correctly its permanent fix.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
24,178
central pa
if the fireplace is not vertical and leaning outward from the house it means its foundation is settling. The fix is re-support the fireplace off of Chance Helical Screw Anchors https://intechanchoring.com/ab-chance/?utm_campaign=P2-Magnacore-Etc-Sol8&utm_source=Google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_content=518883032521&utm_term=helical anchors&adgroupid=127106896448&gclid=Cj0KCQjwweyFBhDvARIsAA67M732qWNMvBX_6n5dYNHxWdilukQLMrfnsbpXhzMYg7NY2dhQEA5VBvcaAkSmEALw_wcB. The contractor digs down preferably to the footing of the chimney and screws in large angle iron plates. The screw anchors are screwed into the ground next to the chimney with a specialized hydraulic device frequently installed on a Bobcat. By measuring the torque they can estimate how much the anchor can support. The rods attached to the anchor are slid through holes in the angle iron plates. The contractor than uses a specialized hydraulic jack to jack the chimney level and then the rods are secured. Unless your house is sitting on "soup" it works well. The same method is used for cracked foundations. Its specialized work and if there is not a contractor nearby, it costs a lot to drive over to you site. Its probably a 5 K fix. If done correctly its permanent fix.
We have had contractors do that a couple times but honestly I doubt that is the issue. The gap we see inside there would be a massive gap at the top of the chimney and would be very obvious. I am pretty sure it is the face pulling away from the chimney.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
87,668
South Puget Sound, WA
Yes, that's why I asked about whether the gap increases in size with the height of the chimney. If it is much larger at the top then the assembly is settling.
 
  • Like
Reactions: bholler

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
24,178
central pa
Yes, that's why I asked about whether the gap increases in size with the height of the chimney. If it is much larger at the top then the assembly is settling.
Yeah I know. I am just looking at the difference we can see in the pic about 1/2" in a foot. That would be a 10" gap at the top of a 20" chimney. No way a homeowner could miss that
 

MTY

Feeling the Heat
Jan 9, 2019
463
Idaho
Just about every house I have sold has included an insurance package against damage found within I think a year. The insurance is cheap, people do not get inspections if all repairs are covered in the insurance package, and a lot of drama goes away.
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
6,218
Northern NH
Good luck getting a pay out from a policy on a known documented defect from such a policy. My guess is the only person who makes out on such a policy is the seller who gets the commission.
 

EbS-P

Minister of Fire
Jan 19, 2019
727
SE North Carolina
Looking at it closer, and it’s hard to see, but is that a brick brick at the very top or is that the lintel, that is barley visible? Did it move with the firebox? Is this a masonry firebox or a heat form/heatalator metal firebox? If structurally sound could a wood burning insert make it usable? Offer a 5k discount to sell as is?
Evan
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
87,668
South Puget Sound, WA
It's all speculation until @sellinghouse responds to the questions posed.
 
  • Like
Reactions: bholler

clancey

Minister of Fire
Feb 26, 2021
708
Colorado
That big gap coming away from the brick isn't speculation and what I would do is to let the new buyer know about the situation (for safety reasons) then like EbS-P said offer a discount on the selling price of the house and let the new owner worry about it..I sure hope the poster comes back and lets us know information about this for like begreen said we are speculating...lol clancey
 

PaulBunyun

New Member
Oct 15, 2019
20
Michigan
No way I would sink a lot of money into the fireplace of a home I'm selling. Once you open that can of worms who knows what else is found. Declare it to any future buyers if this one pulls out, negotiate a price reduction, and move on with your life.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Bad LP

sellinghouse

New Member
Jun 4, 2021
3
Long Island
Thanks for the replies all. I contacted a couple of fireplace specialists in my area and am waiting for a response. Based my my description over the phone, most are unconcerned and say it should be a simple fix; not a major redo of the firebox.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
24,178
central pa
Thanks for the replies all. I contacted a couple of fireplace specialists in my area and am waiting for a response. Based my my description over the phone, most are unconcerned and say it should be a simple fix; not a major redo of the firebox.
No not the firebox you have a metal box. But possibly redo the facing and whatever is supporting it
 

MTY

Feeling the Heat
Jan 9, 2019
463
Idaho
Good luck getting a pay out from a policy on a known documented defect from such a policy. My guess is the only person who makes out on such a policy is the seller who gets the commission.
Why in God's name would I care? I sold the houses, and the policy is in the new owner's name. What was that Spiro quote, "Nattering Nabobs of Negativity?"
 

MR. GLO

Member
Jan 26, 2021
134
Massachusetts
Hi All,
I'm in the process of selling my home and a potential buyer sent an inspector. One of the only issues found was a problem where the fireplace appears to be "pulling" away from the house. There's a gap between the firebox and the brick surrounding the fireplace. I suspect that the problem has been stable for many years, as I never noticed any change and there are no exterior signs of cracking or further settling. I've used it many times over the years and never had smoke issues in the house.

My question is, what can be done about this? I assume a mason/fireplace person would be the first step, but what would they do, and how large or a repair bill am I looking at?

Thanks for any help!

View attachment 279361
send us a photo of the front of fireplace. Always offer the cost of a liner, but I agree with others its a sellers market. move on quick.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
24,178
central pa
send us a photo of the front of fireplace. Always offer the cost of a liner, but I agree with others its a sellers market. move on quick.
A liner won't fix this issue
 

MR. GLO

Member
Jan 26, 2021
134
Massachusetts
A liner won't fix this issue
It would make the chimney usable and ensure it flows safely? I dont think the chimney will fall over soon, but that's why i requested a better photo..