Fireplaces in High-Rise Buildings

June 2022

High-rise dwellers with a working fireplace are able to relax by the fire on cold winter nights.  This desirable amenity comes with an obligation to maintain it.

A fireplace is an open flame near people and potentially-flammable material.  Improper use can be a danger to people and pets.  Presence of a fireplace increases the risk of fire, or of smoke- or ventilation-related issues.  Some communities prohibit fireplaces and insurance companies may not insure residential buildings with them.

Older fireplaces were once a necessity for heating and cooking.  These wood burning fireplaces are most likely found in properties built prior to 1900, and on upper floors of some high-rise buildings.  Newer buildings are more likely to have gas-powered or electric systems.

Electric fireplaces are popular with millennials.  These systems emulate the sound of flickering flames and crackling logs through use of light from a LED bulb bouncing off a silver refractor cut with three-dimensional patterns.  An audio system creates the sound of crackling logs.  More sophisticated systems may offer changing colours or other optical effects controllable with a smart phone.  These systems may also provide supplemental heat.  Neither professional installation or venting is required.

Those with a fireplace should know how to build a fire safely.  Start with a small fire.  Too much smoke in the flue will back out into the suite.

A fireplace requires cleaning and venting if it is to remain valued and safe.  Maintenance requirements for a fireplace in a high-rise building include sweeping out cinders and an annual inspection to ensure it remains in good working condition.

Attempting fireplace repairs on your own is not advisable.  Improper repairs create a danger for the entire building.  Utilize a certified contractor or chimney sweep.  In a building with many fireplaces, it is best for the protection of all residents that management arrange for a contractor to inspect and clean all systems at the same time.  Otherwise, owners are responsible for inspections and servicing.

A fireplace may encompass unit space and common area as stated in the declaration.  It is likely the mantle, hearth, flue and possibly other components are the responsibility of the owner.  Depending on how a building is constructed, the flue may be a common area if shared with other units.