For centuries the word “concrete” has been synonymous with strength. Some of the oldest and most famous structures, such as the Roman Colosseum and the Hoover Dam, are made from this super material. In recent years, contractors have harnessed concrete’s strength, durability, and cost-effectiveness for smaller projects and interior design elements including countertops, flooring, and extremely popular concrete fireplaces.
Concrete Fireplaces are Here to Stay
Using modern concrete formulations, contractors are simultaneously able to achieve strength and sleek modern finish properties when designing concrete fireplaces and mantels. When designing and building concrete fireplaces, contractors must be familiar with and the building code which governs the construction of concrete fireplaces.
Fortunately for general contractors, it recently got much easier to build code-compliant concrete fireplaces as the new International Residential Code (IRC) is better written and more understandable. Since the new code is much more straightforward, building officials and contractors alike can easily understand it.
International Building Code (IBC) / International Residential Code (IRC)
Over the past ten years, several model codes that were formerly used in the United States (BOCA, NFPA, UBC, SBCCI, and One and Two Family) have been merged into one comprehensive International Building Code (IBC) and its residential counterpart, IRC. The section that regulates concrete fireplaces is in Chapter 10.
Unlike any of the old model codes that it replaced, the IRC is more logically organized and integrated with the rest of the building code. The language has been clarified on long-confusing issues such as clearance to combustibles and flue lining installation. Overall it’s easier for contractors, masons, builders, and code officials to understand and apply it.
Before setting out on the construction of a concrete fireplace, contractors and their teams should familiarize themselves with the current IRC. Especially important to contractors are two central features of the IRC—clearances to combustibles and clay flue lining installation. Due to space considerations, a few other important issues, such as smoke chamber wall thickness, referencing of many ASTM standards, and a complete rewrite of the seismic design sections have not been included.
In addition to the building codes, most states, some local jurisdictions, and occasionally the federal government occasionally adopt or enact energy, indoor air quality, and emissions regulations, and it’s in contractors’ best interest to stay apprised of these codes in order to make sure their concrete fireplace constructions are safe and functional.
Concrete Stain for Fireplaces
The good news is that concrete stain keeps your fireplace within code AND looking good! Make sure that your concrete fireplace meets all building requirements before staining, then stain and seal as you normally would!