As you might have guessed from the title, this is a question we get asked quite often. While it’s not technically illegal to have a fireplace in California, there are some restrictions that you need to be aware of.
In this blog post, we will go over the rules and regulations for having a fireplace in California so that you can make an informed decision about whether or not one is right for you.
Are Wood-Burning Fireplaces Legal To Use In California?
On smoggy days or days when heavy air pollution is present, fireplaces may not be used in California.
Residents are advised to check before burning wood in their fireplaces from November through the end of February to minimize fine particle emissions (PM2.5).
In the South Coast Air Basin, a No-Burn day is a 24-hour ban on the residential wood-burning fireplace, wood stove, and outdoor fire pits.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District’s board unanimously approved the prohibition and will impose penalties on those who use wood-burning fireplaces on polluted days.
Are Gas Fireplaces Legal To Use in California?
The installation of a gas fireplace without a vent (Vent-free) is illegal throughout California.
Vent-free fireplaces are illegal because they produce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. The installation of any gas fireplace within a building in California must include an NFPA-approved chimney or flue that is properly sized for the equipment and that provides safe clearance from combustibles.
If you want to install a vented fireplace in a bedroom or bathroom, follow these guidelines:
The room volume should not be less than 50 cubic feet per 1000 Btu/hour.
The vent opening to the exterior should not be less than 1½ inches.
Vented gas fireplaces must have a fan to push the flue gasses out of this opening and into the atmosphere. The fireplace or its chimneys need to be inspected at least once every two years by a licensed professional.
If you want to set up a gas fireplace in your home, you must be certain that you have enough room for it. California homes are equipped with smaller rooms than homes in other parts of the country, so if there is not enough space, it may be difficult for you to install a gas fireplace.
If you do choose to upgrade your regular fireplace with a gas fireplace make sure that the gas line is installed in compliance with California law.
If you are not sure about whether or not it is possible to install a gas fireplace in your home, call a local professional to ask for assistance.
Are Outdoor Fireplaces Legal in California?
Outdoor fireplaces, fire pits, and similar devices that are fueled by natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas are permitted when authorized by the Building Department and the device is only intended to burn a gas flame.
The legality of the California fireplace will be determined by state and local laws. Outdoor fireplaces that burn wood gas or propane would certainly require a permit from county authorities, but it will depend on whether this is considered open burning or not.
Open fires are usually not allowed outdoors in most areas of California, but some homes may have an exception if their backyards are large enough to meet certain setback requirements.
Propane fireplaces would be considered legal anywhere because propane is safe and clean. For safety reasons, you should never use a fireplace indoors or place any flammable items around them, and definitely don’t locate the unit under an overhang or awning.
The California code stipulates that all structures must be built 3 feet away from any combustible walls, windows, and ceilings.
Can You Build a House with A Fireplace in California?
Yes, only gas-burning fireplaces can be built into new homes. For fireplaces in existing dwellings, if the fireplace is not deemed a hazard by the local fire department, it may remain.
A fireplace can be built into any room in your new home. A gas-burning fireplace must have a direct unobstructed vent outside for combustion air and proper ventilation to the outside of the building.
A direct vent gas fireplace with a fan is required to have an airtight inspection once it is in place.
This is a one-time inspection to ensure that the fireplace has been properly installed. An open vent gas fireplace is not required to have an airtight inspection prior to the final occupancy of your home, but you can arrange for one if you would like it done.
The entire installation must be in accordance with all local building and safety codes. In most situations, a building permit is also required.
If you already have a fireplace in your existing dwelling, it is usually not necessary to replace it unless determined hazardous by the local fire department. If this is the case, be sure to discuss the matter with them before you begin or change anything.
On most days, you can use a wood-burning fireplace in some California jurisdictions, but it becomes unlawful to do so during no-burn periods, which usually occur during the winter.
During the winter, you may not use a wood-burning fireplace unless on a no-burn day or unless you have an EPA-certified post-combustion fireplace.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set up rules to reduce smog and other pollutants from affecting air quality on no-burn days.
These rules were established in an effort to reduce the number of toxins released into the air by fireplaces and wood stoves.