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Any way to remove a Zero Clearance and replace with an Insert?

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by rjustice4, Nov 26, 2007.

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  1. rjustice4

    rjustice4 New Member

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    This may be a stupid question, but I need to ask....

    This spring, I'd like to replace my old Fireplace Extrordinair zero clearance fireplace.

    My plan was to remove the zero clearance, turn the existing chase into an alcove, and install a PE Summit wood stove in the alcove. My wife's not crazy about the alcove idea (thinks it will look funny), and wants to stick with the look of the zero clearance.

    I'm really hesitant to intall a new zero clearance. The old one (20 years old) has never worked that well, and I don't want to go through the nightmare of replacing one again down the road (requires all the rock and mantel to be torn out, down to the studs).

    Is there any way to upgrade the chase to allow installation of an insert rather than a zero clearance? Perhaps that would be a good compromise. There are also a lot more inserts to choose from...

    Thanks for your help on this. I've attached a few photos of the current setup.

    Bob

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  2. MrGriz

    MrGriz New Member

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    You really need something to "insert" the insert into. There are inserts that can be installed in zero clearance fireplaces. You first need to check and see if your fireplace is approved for an insert (at it's age it may not be). Then any insert you installed would also have to be approved for installation in the zero clearance fireplace. It's a long shot and your choices will be limited.

    I think the alcove with a freestanding stove would be a great option. At that point, you will have ton of good choices for a stove. However if the Mrs. doesn't approve, the next best thing would be to replace the existing with a new zero clearance. I'm sure that they have made many improvements over the past 20 years.

    What problems are you having with the existing unit? Maybe there's a fix.
  3. rjustice4

    rjustice4 New Member

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    Thanks for the input, MrGriz.

    The existing unit doesn't work well, and apparently never did (learned this from the dealer who sold the stove to the previous owner). It puffs smoke into the room whenever the doors are opened. Members of the forum have suggested a number of fixes - but so far, nothing has panned out. After using a new PE Spectrum for the last few months (in my studio), I've reached the conclusion that the old Extrordinair is a piece of *%$#, and probably isn't worth the trouble shooting.

    Since I'll have the alcove down to the studs when I pull out the Extrordinair, I was wondering if there is some kind of noncombustible materials I could install to simulate an existing fireplace and go with an insert...
  4. TMonter

    TMonter Minister of Fire

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    If your looking for something that can be used as both a fireplace and a wood stove heating unit you might look into the Quadrafire 7100. A bit spendy but I know several people who swear by them.
  5. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    You pretty much have to rip the entire deal out and install another "built-in" stove and chimney - or, if the clearances allow, you can install a stove in the alcove, but that may be difficult size-wise....check the owners manuals and see the alcove size.

    Yes, you could install a pre-fab regular fireplace in there and then install an insert into it (approved and listed insert for this app), but that might have some down sides also. For instance, ZC fireplace can sometimes "wick" in cold air when not in use.

    If you do a lot of homework and buy a really well proven built-in unit with regular Class A chimney (not the fireplace-type pipe as the FPX used), then you might be on the right track. It looks like you are tight on room, and therefore that may be a good way to go.

    Way back when, I used and installed units like the BIS, and I can assure you that even 20 years ago these units heated up a storm! The customer satisfaction was quite high.

    FPX built-ins have had some problem over the years, which the manufacturer has been addressing as they go. When I visited Travis Industries, they were conducting some tests on that unit in an attempt to improve cold (frigid) weather performance.
  6. rjustice4

    rjustice4 New Member

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    Thanks for your help, everyone.

    TMonter, I'll definately add the Quadrafire 7100FP to the list if I end up going with another zero clearance fireplace.

    Craig, what is the BIS that you referred to? Is that a brand? Also, what is a "regular Class A chimney"?
  7. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    Generic chimney as opposed to, for instance, "temco" or "majestic" chimney that could be used with FPX.

    It usually has either or both dead air spaces and insulation, as opposed to "flowing" cooling air like the double-wall "ZC" type pipe. This stops the problem of certain cold air infiltration.

    Examples, include metalbestos, metal-fab, excel, etc.
  8. wahoowad

    wahoowad Minister of Fire

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    How about not replacing the fireplace at all? Rip out the current unit/chimney pipe and install a full Class A up the chase. Then seal up the fireplace hole into the house with something appropriate. You can install a wood stove on the hearth (enlarging as needing) and either run the stovepipe back through the sealed up fireplace, or go up a bit and into the wall with a thimble. Either way exhausting up and out the class A chimney in the chase.
  9. Shane

    Shane Minister of Fire

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    I would go with the freestanding route or another EPA rated ZC fireplace. Putting in a ZC then installing an insert seems redundant. One thing that I would really look at though is the chimney situation. Make sure that the smoking etc. isn't being caused by a chimney problem, I just say that because if the smoking is caused by house pressure, chimney height, stack effect or other chimney related issues it won't matter what kind of unit you put there the smoke will come back.
  10. rjustice4

    rjustice4 New Member

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    Thanks for the suggestion, wahoo. I had the same idea, but am having a hard time selling my wife on it. She thinks the zero clearance looks better.
  11. wahoowad

    wahoowad Minister of Fire

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    I hear ya. I'm in the same boat (ZC with that chase). I have googled the heck out of alcove intall pictures - they look pretty good in some cases. I'm also worried about resale too and taking my own advice and sealing it up doesn't appeal to me. That said, I've already cut out the built in damper in the ZC so I consider the who thing worthless. At least it is worthless as a functional fireplace.... anyway, back to your delimma.....

    I'm looking at your pics again, especially the one with the rock firepalce shown. I think making that into an alcove and putting rock inside the alcove up to the same height would look awesome. Your house looks awesome by the way. I really think the alcove would look good in that room. In addition to the rock lining inside the alcove, you could put a mantle all the way around the alcove on top of the rock.

    A third idea...similar to sealing up the fireplace openeing, seal it up and then run that rock all the way across and go up to the ceiling with it.
  12. DiscoInferno

    DiscoInferno Minister of Fire

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    BIS ("Built-In Stove") is a line of EPA ZC Fireplaces made by Security Chimneys (now owned by Lennox, which sells some under its name also).
    http://www.securitychimneys.com/pages/fireplace/cat_high.asp?country=
  13. rjustice4

    rjustice4 New Member

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    Thanks for the input, everyone. Looks like I'm headed towards tearing out the FPX and replacing with a BIS or Quadrafire, unless I can talk my wife into the alcove...not likely....
  14. builderbob

    builderbob New Member

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    If mama ain't happy, ain't no one happy.

    Get a good ZC fireplace seems simplest to me. When you have things torn apart, see if you can insulate that chase too, if it isn't already. Another thought is getting a unit that allows use of solidpack chimney may improve draft and cutdown puffback.

    Quadrafire 7100 www.quadrafire.com
    Bis/Lennox (Ultima, Tradition, Tradition CE, Ultra, and Lennox clones of
    same) www.lennoxhearthproducts.com
    Kozyheat Z42 www.kozyheat.com

    Also, go to this forum's "Rate Your Stove/Fireplace" section (see pulldown menu at right side of homepage). Read the user/owner's reviews of their installed stoves/fireplaces for comments good and bad.
  15. builderbob

    builderbob New Member

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  16. rjustice4

    rjustice4 New Member

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    Thanks for the input, BTB. Have you made a choice on which fireplace you're going to install, or are you still shopping?

    Do you know if any of the units you've suggested can be run with or without the fan being turned on? When we go to sleep at night it would be nice to turn the fan off, and my FPX doesn't allow that - it stays on until the fireplace is cooled down. Our bedroom is upstairs right above the stove and the fan is annoying.

    (Also, I was checking one of the other threads you've posted in and found a member who has the same year and model FPX as I have, and he had the exact same problems with it (billowing smoke when refueling)!)
  17. DiscoInferno

    DiscoInferno Minister of Fire

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    Most of the ZC units I looked at a while back have blowers listed as an option (albeit one you're going to want), so you should be able to turn them off. Most are also going to have a variable speed control, so you can choose how loud you want it. I set mine down pretty low when I'm in that room, and then turn it up at night to get as many BTU's out as possible. (Our bedroom is a floor up and on the other side of the house.)
  18. rjustice4

    rjustice4 New Member

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    Thanks, Disco. Can you turn the fan completely off on your Ultima?
  19. DiscoInferno

    DiscoInferno Minister of Fire

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    The standard solid-state control I'm using is like a rotary dimmer switch - there's a click from off to full speed, and then if you keep turning the knob it slows down. In series with that I have a thermal sensor that connects the circuit after the side of the firebox gets warm enough, and then shuts it back off when it cools down. So if I don't keep loading the fireplace it will turn off on its own eventually, or I can turn it off manually at any time.

    BTW, I got all my blower supplies from here:
    http://www.electricmotorwarehouse.com/fireplace/fireplace_overview.htm
  20. rjustice4

    rjustice4 New Member

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    Great, thanks Disco.

    Is there a reason you didn't go with the factory blower?
  21. DiscoInferno

    DiscoInferno Minister of Fire

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    Better price. Security at least gouges you on the extras. Also, I had a couple blowers from there left over from a mod I made to a previous (non-EPA prefab) fireplace.
  22. builderbob

    builderbob New Member

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    It will be either the Bis Tradition or the Kozyheat Z42. Wife has to decide which one looks best. They are close in dimensions, so I have got floor plans with space for the largest of the two. Once wife decides, then can formalize the exact floor plan/fireplace framing dimensions.

    This is why I mentioned earlier the advice of "if mama ain't happy, ain't no one happy".
  23. builderbob

    builderbob New Member

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  24. rjustice4

    rjustice4 New Member

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    BTB, is there a reason you've ruled out the BIS Ultima? I've heard good things about the Ultima. Are you leaning towards the Tradition because of firebox size?
  25. builderbob

    builderbob New Member

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    Yah. It be a lot easier if a smaller size were acceptable. Like I said, if mama ain't happy ain't noone happy! One balances all these factors to settle on what meets one's personal criteria.
    I've seen good comments on the Ultima also, but solely due to viewing area size was it not on our list.
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