CHIMNEYS & FIREPLACES
This is an overview of our ongoing Chimney project....
The extra holes that the manufacturer drilled into our inner chimney flues and did not seal are a construction defect. The manufacturer should not have sold these chimney flue parts to builders, yet they sold them by the thousands to many builders. Other properties like ours have been doing this same type of retrofit work once they discovered the issue. The manufacturer and our builder both went out of business years ago, so we cannot make any claims against them for these defects, and, after all these years the statute of limitations has run anyway.
Our current cost estimates for the work cover a wide range because our insurance company has approved for us to do either a retrofit repair, which would allow you to continue using your fireplaces, or to disable fireplaces. The work of disabling would be much less costly than the retrofit. The low estimates in the range we discussed were for fireplace disabling, the high end were for retrofits using all new parts. We did not provide the mid-range estimates for retrofits using the replacement part supply that we have already secured because the work is out to bid.
If some homeowners choose to have their fireplaces disabled now, and then later want them to be retrofitted, we expect that will be possible. The current codes do, however, consider any retrofits after fireplaces have been disabled to be “new construction” which is subject to new codes that only allow installation of gas logs. Therefore, once a fireplace has been disabled, it cannot be converted back to a wood burning fireplace; instead it would have to be converted to a gas logs-only fireplace. To be clear, in order to maintain your fireplace as “wood burning,” it must be retrofitted now. Also, there could be other changes to the codes in the future that add even more restrictions.
When choosing between doing the retrofit and disabling their fireplaces, homeowners should also consider that if they sell their units, buyers may prefer units with wood burning fireplaces; also some lenders may prefer to only make loans on units that have been retrofitted.
Under our CC&Rs, Section 2.9 Repair and Maintenance by Owners, all homeowners are restricted from making any alterations to the structural portions of their units, including interior structural elements such as the fireplaces and chimneys, without prior written approval of the Architectural Committee of the homeowners association. Alterations to common area elements also require such approval.
The Architectural Committee will not approve of homeowners doing the retrofit repairs or disabling their fireplaces themselves. It is critical for everyone’s safety that the Association maintains quality and safety standards for this work, and assures that the work is completed according to current codes and the exact requirements of our insurance company by using its own licensed and qualified contractors and fire inspectors. If homeowners try doing the work themselves, and make mistakes, they expose themselves and their neighbors to the risk of death in a fire.
Once it begins, the repair work is currently estimated to take from six months to at least one year, depending on the number of retrofits being done. Each standard retrofit will take about one day per unit, not counting inspections.
In several buildings, homeowners who choose to retrofit will require complete removal of all their original chimney and fireplace parts, including the fireboxes and replacement with all new parts because the builder used non-standard parts in those units. Those units’ interior walls will have to be opened around the fireplaces, and mantels and tile removed, in order to retrofit. That work will require a period of several days to complete. Those homeowners will be notified by a separate letter.
Regardless of which repair homeowners choose, they will not need to move out of their units. If homeowners choose to disable their fireplaces, the contractors will need to do the work from the living rooms and can protect furniture and carpets with plastic sheeting.
Before starting the repair work, and regardless of whether we obtain bank financing, a formal assessment will be levied. Homeowners who choose to disable their fireplaces will need to sign some additional paperwork for full disclosure.
If you were planning on selling your unit while this project is underway, you will need to disclose the construction defect and the repair plans to potential buyers.
Our Project Manager, Robin Choppé, has set up a dedicated email address and phone line for homeowners and residents to call with any questions or for any other assistance needed:
You may need to leave a message on the phone line and let Robin get back to you, since she will be getting many calls and need time to talk with each caller.
Finally, please remember that it is essential that you not use your fireplace until the retrofit for your unit has been completed. If you see a neighbor using their fireplace, please notify Robin immediately.
2020 CHIMNEY PROJECT- SCOPE OF WORK & SCHEDULE BUILDING:
TENTATIVE START DATE: