Building a new home is a complicated process that requires the coordination of myriad trades, products and technologies. Any single building system may incorporate products from multiple manufacturers, which have to work together for optimal performance. Add to the mix an installer who may not have been the specifier of a component, and you introduce potential for inadvertently voiding a manufacturer's warranty - despite all of your good intentions. But, if you know the right questions to ask, you can set your project up for trouble-free implementation.
It all started with our choice of fireplace. For the fireplace itself, we knew which questions to ask, as we were being guided by the LEED® for Homes green building program. In several of our past articles, we've written about the strategies that Sunset Green Home is undertaking to ensure healthy indoor air quality. According to the LEED for Homes Reference Guide, "the leakage of toxic combustion exhaust gases into the home can cause poor indoor air quality and human health impacts, particularly in homes that are well constructed and well sealed." LEED for Homes defines selecting an EPA qualified fireplace or one that is listed by an approved testing facility such as Underwriters Laboratory as a "better practice" for which a project may earn one point toward certification. With this in mind, Sunset Green Home's project team researched EPA qualified fireplaces and selected an Italian manufactured wood burning fireplace - the Light06 by Caminetti Montegrappa - that is the highest rated EPA qualified fireplace, with low particle emissions of 0.59g/kg.
Chris Mensch of Coastal Management, Sunset Green Home's builder, solicited installation bids from his preferred subcontractors. As the team reviewed the proposals, we reached out to DuraVent, the manufacturer of the DuraTech chimney pipe that one installer specified in his proposal. And that's when we received an education about how the various fireplace and chimney components interact, the nature of product warranties, and that it's important to know which questions to ask.
Howard Berman, DuraTech's Mid-Atlantic Regional Sales Manager, asked me to send him the parts list for the chimney. After reviewing the list, he remarked that the subcontractor had not specified a chimney cap. In fact, the subcontractor had planned to build a custom chimney cap for the project. Howard noted that, without a DuraVent chimney cap, the warranty for the entire chimney assembly would be invalidated. Underwriters Laboratory (UL) had tested and certified DuraVent's DuraTech double wall chimney system in its entirety; by picking and choosing from amongst the available components, we would no longer have the full "system" and would therefore have inadvertently voided the warranty.
The second question Howard asked me pertained to the fireplace with which the chimney would be integrated. Howard asked if the fireplace was UL listed and, if so, to which UL standard the fireplace was tested, remarking that the 10" galvanized chimney pipe system that we were specifying was tested and warrantied according to the UL103 standard. Howard asked us to make sure that the fireplace itself would be compatible with DuraVent's DuraTech Class A chimney pipe. An inquiry with the manufacturer's representative for the fireplace confirmed that the fireplace is UL listed and that the DuraTech UL103 compliant chimney pipe system was appropriate.
So what would have happened without the expertise of Howard Berman and his colleagues from DuraVent? We would have had a chimney system without a warranty. And, by using a custom-fabricated chimney cap, we might have been at greater risk for a malfunction of the system itself.
What are the lessons learned from this experience?
- When purchasing any product or system, ask for details about the warranty, including the conditions under which a warranty would be invalidated
- When two or more products are connected to create an assembly (such as a fireplace and a chimney system), ask each manufacturer if the other's product is compatible with the manufacturer's warranty and safety requirements
- Ask the installer to confirm that the installation method meets the requirements of the manufacturers' warranties
By asking the right questions, you have a much greater chance of purchasing a high-performing system backed by a valid set of manufacturers' warranties. That's the lesson we learned from the professionals at DuraVent.