Profile picture for BOOSHIFIED

Buying a house with an unpermitted fireplaace

My fiancee and I are very interested in buying a house in San Diego, CA but it has an unpermitted fireplace that was built in the 80s.  Obviously our loan wont let us buy a house like this so we am looking for advice on how to proceed.  

Can you just cover up the fireplace?  If it is well built then how hard would it be to get in permitted?  How much would that cost and how long would it take?

We really dont care for the fireplace and would probably cover/take out eventually anyways.

Any input is appreciated.
  • October 17 2012 - San Diego
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Answers (11)

Profile picture for BOOSHIFIED
Again we dont mind buying the house with a fireplace that inst usable.  It is more about getting the loan.  With the fireplace as is we cannot.  We are just looking for easy options to present to the seller to solve this problem.

As for looking for another house with less baggage...we never stopped looking.

  • October 19 2012
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I'm in So-Cal too so I would tell my client to go down 1 of 3 routes with your scenario. 1. Go to the local building and safety department and ask to view exactly what they have on file, and then go to the County Assessors office and compare...sometimes it is on file at county if the home wasn't always in "city proper." Takes a lot of leg work, and time, no doubt! 2. Make the seller remove it and bring it up to code as a condition...but remember you have to give to get...nothing is totally free. Offer an all contingency removed so if you change your mind the seller keeps your deposit....only do this if you are 100% sure about the purchase --and hopefully you don't lose your job, etc. 3. Find another house that doesn't require so much effort/risk that you might not be willing to take Good luck
  • October 19 2012
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Profile picture for PaulGreen0
Ah - a nice easy one for a change. How to buy a house where some repairs/remediation is needed.

In my view you just need to get the price lowered to make sure any necessary repairs are covered within the original price bracket.

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You should not have to make the cost of a umpermitted work out of your budget as it is not your problem. Get the cost of the house right down to the minimum to cover the cost of repairs. This assumes that you still want to go ahead with the house purchase for a house with a dodgy fireplace.

  • October 19 2012
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Profile picture for Blue Nile
Here in California, there are two separate issues, both related... but primarily it is not the "fireplace" that is the issue, but the "chimney".

The two issues are:
1) Is it properly vented for the type of combustion.  (And this also includes energy issues, screening issues for the top of the chimney, water protection issues for the top of the chimney, required dampers, and chimney lining.  Also the top of the chimney needs to be a certain height related to the height of the roof.  The building codes are quite strict on this.

2) Structural issues.  Non-reinforced brick is not allowed anymore for new construction.  Also, tall  chimneys require strapping and/or bracing.  Most of California is considered "earthquake country".  Even if you blanked off the fireplace to not use it, this does not take care of the structural issues.

Personally, I would call or visit the local building department, and find out what they will require for issuing a certificate of occupancy.  Without that, you technically can't move in anyway.
  • October 17 2012
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Profile picture for BOOSHIFIED
Again we aren't going to be using it anytime soon. Just looking for advice to pass the appraisal.
  • October 17 2012
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Profile picture for Dunes ..
Not from Ca. but in the NW many places have Fireplaces or stoves and the advice about dotting i's and crossing t's is true.......alsoooooo

My experience with properties with Fireplaces is there are 2 words you need to seriously consider......In....Surance
It's my experience the good Insurance outfits like to know for sure the i's & t's are crossed..it is closed..it isn't closed
They consider age...brick or other...compliance with ALL codes
Point is even if they don't make a fuss..give you the Insurance...if anything happens that has a possible Fireplace connection????????

And you want to know possible costs/expenses/complications

I'd talk to an In...Surance person get their take on what they'd want/require
  • October 17 2012
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Profile picture for BOOSHIFIED
Could someone just throw some wood over it and paint it or does more need to be done?
  • October 17 2012
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If you want to cover up the fireplace, you can take it out permanently, but, I'd call the permit department, or go there, to ask how it can be done to code. Also, ask the appraiser what needs to be done to close escrow. He'll be the one re-inspecting before you close. The problem is, who's going to pay?


  • October 17 2012
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Profile picture for pmzsteve
You can have a chimney service come out and render the unit inoperable, have them document it and send it to your lender. Then you can go to Costco and get one of those fake units to put in front of it so it still looks like a fireplace and you get the ambiance. That's a lot cheaper than paying someone to pull the fireplace down.
  • October 17 2012
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Profile picture for BOOSHIFIED
We dont plan on using the fireplace as of right now.  If we ever wanted to I would prob get it permitted for piece of mind.
  • October 17 2012
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Profile picture for bluebonnets
If your lender won't pass it you might be able to cover it up. I know that they do that for houses with a second kitchen by just taking out the stove, but not removing the plug. After it passes the inspection they just put the stove back in.

I wouldn't do that with a fireplace though without a top inspector. Fires can be really scary and if it's unpermitted, your insurance may not cover it if it burned.
  • October 17 2012
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