October 1991

Rumford fireplaces were approved by the International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO) at its annual conference in Spokane Washington last month. The Uniform Building Code (UBC), published by ICBO, now specifically permits Rumford fireplaces as shallow as 12" deep. Until this code change the UBC had required all masonry fireplaces to be at least 20" deep, effectively preventing the construction of the historic shallow Rumfords.

There was considerable discussion on the floor with Jim Buckley, who submitted the code change, and Mark Nunn, of the Brick Institute of America, speaking in favor of the change. Members of the Los Angeles Basin Chapter and the North Star (Minnesota) ICBO Chapter spoke against the change - not because they were against Rumfords, but because they thought the language describing Rumford fireplaces should be more descriptive. The final vote, one of the closest ever at ICBO, was 125 in favor to 123 opposed. Both sides agreed to work together to refine the language for the 1994 publication of the UBC Code, and as of now, Rumfords are permitted.

Text of code change:

Sec. 3707 (c) Add exception as follows:
Exception: For Rumford fireplaces, the depth may be reduced to 12 inches when:
A. The depth is at least 1/3 the width of the fireplace opening.
B. The throat is at least 12 inches above the lintel and is at least 1/20 of the cross-sectional area of the fireplace opening.


Note: Code change was anounced in the Brick Institute of America's BIA News, November, 1991, pg 6, and in Fine Homebuilding, January, 1992, page 104. The code change is officially published in the 1992 Supplement of the Uniform Building Code on page 38. In the 1994 and 1997 UBC Rumford fireplaces are specifically permitted in Section 3102.7.3.

Codes and Standards for Masonry Fireplaces

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