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Have pre-fab fireplace, framed chimney, want to replace, what are my options?

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by ilnois, Nov 12, 2012.

  1. ilnois

    ilnois New Member

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    I've been a long time "lurker" of this board. My parents had a woodburning insert (Beckwood manfuactured in Fenton, MO) in their masonry fireplace when I was growing up. I'm in my late twenties and as I reflect on my childhood, some of my fondest memories are warming up in front of that old insert and being out in the weather with my father and grandfather splitting wood. I'm hopeful that my kids can have some of those same memories with myself and their grandfather.

    So the thread title explains my situation pretty well. My house was built in the early nineties and has a full brick exterior and a pre-fabricated fireplace with brick surround / framed chimney in the interior. Of course, the pre-fab is extremely inefficient and I feel it's almost wasteful to burn my white oak and hickory firewood in that thing.

    Plain and simple, what are my options regarding the installation of a woodburning insert? Because I do not have a masonry chimney, does that eliminate the option of installing an insert? Any advice would be much appreciated!

    I've attached a few pictures of the pre-fab and my brick exterior.

    Attached Files:

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  2. DAKSY

    DAKSY Patriot Guard Rider Staff Member

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    You have at least one option, that is a free standing stove vented into your existing chimney with a fully insulated liner & a new cap. I realize that may not be the MOST desirable option, & it will require additional hearth protection & maybe some sheet metal to cover the existing opening. There is a possibility of installing an insert, but you will have to see what will fit in the existing opening. An insert will also require an insulated liner & additional hearth protection, but it will look better. Many units from the early 90s didn't consider insert change-overs & the manuals didn't include the instructions on how to do so, but yours may be different. Your best bet is to see if you can get measurements & pix of the insides & talk to your local hearth shop...
  3. ilnois

    ilnois New Member

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    Bob - I appreciate the feedback. Two follow-up questions:

    For the stove and regarding your statement "it will require additional hearth protection & maybe some sheet metal to cover the existing opening" - so the back of the opening would have to be sealed in some manner (potentially bricked) to insulate the framed chimney behind the current pre-fab?

    Regarding your statement "There is a possibility of installing an insert, but you will have to see what will fit in the existing opening" - for the existing opening, you don't mean the opening on the pre-fab? Ideally, I would rip out the pre-fab and then place an insert after insulating and work on the hearth. Is that what you were hinting at? Again, I'd like to pull out the pre-fab, bring in a mason and carpenter to reinforce the floor joist in the basement, add additional protection to the hearth as necessary and install an insert, but I didn't think this was at all a possibility.
  4. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    For an insert installation most likely the prefab would need to remain in place. It can't be installed in the cavity that would remain with it removed because the prefab acts as shielding to the nearby framing of the fireplace. There might be other options, but they probably would require more serious reconstruction. If you are willing to go that route then replacing the current prefab with a modern EPA ZC fireplace is also an option that would make a significant difference. Note that this is not an insert, it is a replacement fireplace that would require opening up the exterior side for removal and replacement.

    The freestanding stove option should have a block off plate at the damper level or lower. You don't want to be heating up all that exterior masonry. It represents a significant heat loss.
  5. DAKSY

    DAKSY Patriot Guard Rider Staff Member

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    What he said...
  6. ilnois

    ilnois New Member

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    I appreciate the feedback. The current opening / size of the pre-fab is approximately 42 1/2" wide and 32" tall. Are there any EPA zero clearance fireplaces that come close to being able to use the existing opening? I'd like to keep the brick work intact if at all possible.

    When I say "come close to being able to use the existing opening" - based on my limited searches, it appears that this is too small for EPA ZCs.

    Are there any stoves that would work with this opening?
  7. SlyFerret

    SlyFerret Minister of Fire

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    Putting an insert in the pre-fab could be problematic with regards to UL listings, codes, and insurance companies. The prefab may also not be designed to support the weight of an insert. If you do put an insert into the prefab, make sure that you talk to the manufacturer of both and make sure that the particular combination that you're looking at is approved.

    My suggestion would be to look at removing the prefab unit and replacing it with a ZC (zero clearance) stove. The ZC units are made to go directly into framed openings like you have. You'll get the efficiency of a stove with the look of a built in fireplace, and you'll be sure that your system is installed 100% correctly.

    Since I have trouble getting warm air from my wood stove to go downstairs, I've actually considered doing this with a ZC pellet stove in the lower level of our house that I use as a home office. It was originally the "family room" of the house and has a pre-fab builder box fireplace in one wall. It would be great to put just that one room on a thermostat.

    -SF
  8. ilnois

    ilnois New Member

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    Sly and others: the feedback I've received has been extremely informative. Based on the discussion above, I'm of the mindset that I'd like to get an EPA zero clearance fireplace installed (after removing the existing, inefficient, pre-fab POS).

    My conundrum then - is the opening that will exist after the pre-fab removal large enough to accomodate an EPA zero clearance? Does anyone have models that might fit what I'm looking at (opening of 42.5" wide and 32" tall?
  9. DAKSY

    DAKSY Patriot Guard Rider Staff Member

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    The problem is not the opening, per se. it is the entire size of the ZC fireplace. What you can see there - 42.5 wide & 32 tall is the "tip of the Iceberg" so to speak. The box that's framed within your wall is probably 54 - 60" wide & 40 - 48" tall. The chimney that runs up inside your bricked chase is not going to be compatible with the newer EPA rated fire places, so that will have to come out as well. Your decision is going to be what part of your house are you going to destroy/rebuild (Inside or Outside) in order to get the old one out & the new one in. Good masons can rebuild your structure so that it looks almost original, but there's no easy way to do what you want.
  10. ilnois

    ilnois New Member

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    All - thanks again for the help. If you're willing, I'm hoping you might provide some final insights / guidance.

    I had some time this evening to visit a local fireplace dealer and I explained my situation to the salesman. I noted that I had a pre-fab / builder box fireplace but wanted some more efficiency / wood heating. I showed him some pictures and he immediately recommended installing a Quadrafire 2700i in the pre-fab (in lieu of ripping it out to install a zero clearance high efficiency model). He was extremely confident in this fix. I have a Marco pre-fab. Can anyone confirm that he wasn't just blowing smoke? Does this sound like a good / save setup with the Marco? Any feedback on the 2700i? Thank you in advance!!!!
  11. SlyFerret

    SlyFerret Minister of Fire

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    I would still talk to Quadrafire and the manufacturer of your prefab to make sure they are a blessed combination. If they are not, and you happen to have a problem (heaven forbid), your insurance company might use that as an out to not cover the loss. They might catch it ahead of time and cancel the policy if it doesnt pass inspection due to improper installation.

    -SF

    Sent from my Galaxy Tab 10.1 using Tapatalk 2

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