Home Improvement: Fireplace Edition, Part 4

Let’s just jump right in where we left off. I’m not mentioning much else in life because it’s going pretty normally otherwise, and this is what’s (literally) keeping me up nights.

Without further ado: Bright and early this Monday morning, the heating duct guy called and told me that in another hour, his guys would arrive to install our heating duct.

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This only took them about two hours — they said it was a trivial job, even with having to replace some copper water pipes (going to our master bathroom) with… PEC? Some kind of flexible plastic tubing. They took off, and I immediately called to schedule the inspection for the next day.

Tuesday I called to confirm when the inspector would come, but, very oddly, the number kept coming back as invalid. This was strange because I’d successfully called that number the previous day. So, before Benji school, Benji and I went in person to the City of Bothell to check. There we learned the inspector would come some time between 11:00 and 3:00, no telling when (this alone just about gave me an ulcer, because Benji had speech therapy until 11:00, and we wouldn’t be able to get home until 11:20 or so). We also learned that the entire phone system for that City of Bothell building was down. There’s a bunch of construction around there, and some contractor had accidentally cut their line. Ha!

Anyway, to make a long story short (I know; too late!), the inspector arrived about 1:30. He had all the charm and personality of a dead cactus. He looked and gave me two findings:
1. Do a gas pressure test on the new gas line installation.
2. Build a box to support the stud that we cut through to vent the fireplace. Oh, and leave space so the inspector can see clearances around the vent!

Number two is apparently a legit concern; you can’t have studs cut and just hanging there. Jim came this morning and fixed that…hopefully. I’m sure Jim’s work is good, but I’m skeptical of the inspector’s willingness to accept the somewhat, shall we say, creative workaround Jim implemented. All the bathroom plumbing hasn’t made this easier. Jim’s fix involved significantly widening the hole in the drywall, but oh well, it’ll give the drywall guy something to do.

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Anyway, finding number one is apparently a load of baloney, at least according to the folks at Kirkland Fireplace. I’m going to summarize the outcome of about a dozen phone calls in the next bit here. First, I called to set up the pressure test, and they said they could send a guy in Thursday, but no sooner. I was bummed, but we scheduled it.

But then there was a great deal of discussion about the fact that only about two feet of flexible hose was installed — no new line at all, just hooking up to a nearby existing line, a really simple connection. The Kirkland Fireplace guys were adamant: Code states that less than 5 feet of new line doesn’t require a pressure test. They even called the inspector and left him messages about it, but never heard back. I also called and left the inspector a message, again with no response. I imagine those inspectors are wrote busy keeping the public safe and all.

Finally, after much back and forth, the Kirkland Fireplace guys spoke with the inspector (they, too, agreed that they’d met rocks with more charm). They cited the code that said the 5-foot rule; the inspector said he adhered to some other code, but if the Kirkland Fireplace guys could show him the citation in his code, and supplied a letter to that effect, he’d accept that, no pressure test required. I’m supposed to receive this letter tomorrow.

The plan is that once I get this letter, I’ll schedule the next inspection for Friday morning. Assuming it passes (ah, yes, those three words do gloss over an awful lot, huh?), the drywall will hopefully happen before Monday, and then Monday-ish the tile work starts. Frankly, that part I’m really not so fussed about; I’m eager to finish the drywall, so we can take down the plastic wall dividing our living room and keeping us from the laundry room.

Now, one last story. Today, by pure miserable coincidence, our furnace stopped heating. It couldn’t be related to the fireplace installation, because that was on January 26, and the furnace worked between now and then. With Gary’s assistance, I replaced the filters; we also tripped the breaker and tried flipping the shutoff on the furnace, all to no avail. Cue making another phone call this one to C.M. Heating, where they scrambled around and squeezed us into their schedule today!

Meanwhile, the gears in my brain were turning, and I thought: We have a fireplace that’s all hooked up and ready to go. It can even send warm air upstairs. Why not run that for a while, and see if we can warm it up in here? So I fired it up (pun intended) and it definitely turned on; I set the blower, which should channel heat upstairs, and although it smelled a bit, everything seemed good.

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… Until smoke alarms upstairs started going off. During Benji’s nap. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall watching myself, wildly dashing upstairs, frantically searching for something safe to stand on so I could reach the alarms (retaining enough sanity to reject my office swivel chair, at least), then ripping the alarms off the ceiling regardless of breaking the connection (they’re wired into the house as well as having a battery), and tearing the battery out. When I had finally, a short epoch later, disabled all the alarms going off upstairs, I breathed a huge sigh of relief, opened the windows to air out all the smoke, and went back downstairs… Just in time for the downstairs alarm to go off. Fortunately, this one had an easy button to silence it, but by then Benji was wide awake and already telling crib stories about the alarm going off.

Needless to say, I turned the fireplace off and left the house cold inside. The fireplace smoke is normal, and I remember now the installer told me to expect smoke for the first few hours of operation. Too bad the intervening 10 days erased that little datum.

In any case, Benji and I got to spend the afternoon with great-grandparents, and when we got home, the furnace guy had already arrived and was replacing the broken igniter, so the afternoon wasn’t a total disaster.

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Poppop and Benji

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