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Inserts - Help me with Options

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by Jacob Russell, Feb 26, 2013.

  1. Jacob Russell

    Jacob Russell New Member

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    I've owned my house, which was built in the early 1900's, for almost 2 years. In that time I've yet to have a fire in my fireplace, since I hadn't had the chimney inspected and didn't want to burn the place down. Today I finally had the chimney inspected, and was informed by the inspector that it wasn't safe to use as is due to my deteriorated, un-lined chimney since the whole thing is so old.

    His recommendation to use it was either to install an insert, costing around $5,000 installed, or a modern conversion system from http://www.ahrenfire.com/ that would allow me to put an up to code chimney insert inside my existing chimney, which has limited space. That second option would close around $10,000.

    I'm young, not rich, getting married which will mean even less money around, and a big fan of doing things myself around the house. I'm handy, I've worked in several areas of homebuilding (insulation and countertops), and have done at one point or another most types of renovation from flooring to drywall to roofing. Because of that, I'd like to figure out if installing a fireplace insert is something I can do myself, and what the best options are.

    The trickiest part, it seems to me, is that the inspector advised that I'd need insulation around an inserted chimney pipe, since the existing chimney doesn't properly insulate the surrounding wood. The whole fireplace was originally coal burning, which as I understand produces lower temps than burning wood in it, which along with the age accounts for the lack of sufficient insulation / airspace / etc. around the existing chimney. So my biggest question, although I'll get to others momentarily, is how hard is it for a diy'er to insulate around an installed interior pipe, with either poured or solid insulation?

    As far as the rest of the questions - I'm trying to determine what type of insert will work best for me. I don't want an external wood stove piped to the chimney - that would require extensive work on the floor of the room the fireplace is in, plus would interfere with where I plan on placing my kitchen table.

    The firebox in my fireplace is oddly shaped - 26" wide at the front, 30.5" tall and 13" deep. The sides slope in slightly toward the back, and the top slopes as well. If need be, and there will almost assuredly be need, I can remove some of the interior masonry to make a unit fit. There's a lot of brick surrounding my fairly shallow firebox. I'd like to avoid as much masonry work as possible though.

    I'm also keen to avoid covering up any more of the surround than I absolutely have to. It's a stone of some sort with a beautiful pattern and inlay, so covering it with sheet metal as some inserts I've seen seem to do isn't ideal. To that end, I'd also like something witha classic / ornate look to match what's there.

    For the chimney, the pipe is going to go up through the existing, unlined brick chimney, and due to space can be no more than 6" in diameter. The intent is to insulate around that.

    Bonus points - I have an ash tray below the fireplace in the basement with a fairly large capacity. Ideally, I'd like a unit where I can route the ash into that existing tray and empty from below, rather than emptying it in the room w/ the fireplace.

    Included is a picture of my fireplace.

    So here are my questions:

    1. Does anything my inspector told me sound wrong?
    2. What insert units would best fit my needs, what kind of quality and costs do those units have?
    3. Is installing a fireplace insert & all the chimney changes within the realm of a 'do it yourself' job for someone with ability and motivation?
    4. Any advice, or other questions I should be asking?

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  2. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Welcome Jacob. Have you thought about a free-standing stove in that space so there is no surround?
  3. Jacob Russell

    Jacob Russell New Member

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    A freestanding unit would come out further than I want in that space, interfering with the rest of the room. Also, while I like the look of freestanding wood stoves, I really don't care fot he way they look venting into an existing fireplace.
  4. mellow

    mellow Resident Stove Connoisseur

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    At 30" tall and 13" deep that thing is begging for a rear vent free standing stove to be installed in front of it. I would go with a woodstock fireview or progress hybrid. Depending on your flu size you would need to run an insulated 6" liner down it to connect the stove, sounds like it should be an easy job for you.

    [​IMG]
  5. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    With a deep hearth like that this seems like a non-issue. It would look the best I think. Take a look at Joful's F600 install or Todd's Keystone. It can be done tastefully.
  6. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Actually it looks like a tall enough space to possibly accommodate a top vent stove.
  7. corey21

    corey21 Minister of Fire

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    I would have to agree that a free standing stove would look good in that setup.
  8. mellow

    mellow Resident Stove Connoisseur

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    1. He is correct, an insulated liner needs to be installed if the existing flu has cracks in it, as long as it is sound structurally you can get it up to code with an insulated liner
    2. If you are wanting something to match the look without a surround an insert is out of the picture
    3. We encourage everyone to DIY as long as the install is safe
    4. How many SQ ft are you looking to try and heat?
  9. Jacob Russell

    Jacob Russell New Member

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    The house is 3000sqft+, plus a separate apt. and is heated by 2 furnaces (1 for main house, 1 for the apt. plus a portion of the upstairs main house). I'm not looking to provide sole heating from a wood stove / insert, just supplement what I have, hopefully reduce my gas bill and just enjoy the ambiance of burning wood.

    I'm not against a surround to fill the space so long as it looks good.

    Since so many of you seem to recommend a freestanding stove - are there options that can 'set back' in the existing firebox to save space? What do you recommend that fits the look and feel that I have?
  10. KaptJaq

    KaptJaq Minister of Fire

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    If you are set on an insert and do not want to hide any of that beautiful fireplace you will probably have to make a custom surround. Most inserts have optional surrounds that will work with standard sized fireplaces. They will cover some of the side and/or top but usually not both evenly. Many also have template/bracket kits so you can make your own surround. In your case you could probably work with a metal shop to create a surround that fits just inside the edge of the fireplace opening. I have seen one where the owner left about a half inch gap between the marble trim and the surround and it looked very nice. With modern inserts the surround is not air-tight and the gap gives a little leeway if the stone is not perfectly flat.

    Shop around for an insert that you like and will fit inside your fireplace. Once you have a few in mind download the manuals and look at the particulars of the installation and surrounds.

    As mentioned earlier, everything you will need to do is easily done by a DYI person and the components you will need are readily available on the web.

    KaptJaq

    ps. There are some Jotul stoves that would look great set back into that fireplace...
  11. mellow

    mellow Resident Stove Connoisseur

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    The fireview might be able to squeak to fit in there and do a top vent like begreen mentioned. http://woodstove.com/fireview
    The keystone would for sure fit in there, but wont heat much more than that room. http://woodstove.com/keystone

    If you do a rear vent you can fit a bigger stove like the Progress Hybrid. http://woodstove.com/progress-hybrid
    Or the Jotul F600. http://www.jotul.com/content/products/ProductArticle.aspx?id=48023&epslanguage=en-GB

    All of those freestanding stoves (and there are more out there) will give you a nice classic look that will fit your existing surround.

    If interested follow Nick's thread on his F600 install: http://www.hearth.com/talk/threads/...-removed-my-insert-jotul-f-600-coming.106553/
  12. Jacob Russell

    Jacob Russell New Member

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    etiger - If I intended to use it as a sole heating method in this house I'd need a larger burner than the fireplace could handle and access to my ducting with a blower. And if that was the intent, I'd just put a burner in the basement, tap into the chimney from there, and be much better off. This is as much for the enjoyment of the fire as for the heating benefit.

    kaptjaq - A custom surround is an option, I have enough metalworking experience to put something like that together from sheet metal, and a local shop witha break and cutting equipment is available. At issue still is the kind of odd dimensions of my fireplace, since it's much taller than it's width and depth would normally suggest. I'd need to find a unit that makes the best use of that space.

    Let's say though I did go freestanding. I've only got about 22" from the front of the fireplace to where my wood floor starts, so I don't want to come that far out that I need to re-work the floor at this point. It seems then that top venting would be the way to go, since I could set the stove all the way back to the rear of the fireplace, correct? What about something like the Jotul F 3 CB? That seems like it would fit the space well. I will admit that my tall space does seem like it makes sense for a freestanding stove (which can be taller than it is wide) than an insert (which mostly seem to be wider than tall).

    Edit - it looks like maybe the Jotul F 400 would work as well without coming out too far.
  13. mellow

    mellow Resident Stove Connoisseur

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    Make sure the stove can front load if you put it into the fireplace, which thinking about it would eliminate the woodstocks for top venting.
  14. Jacob Russell

    Jacob Russell New Member

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    Sorry, not trying to offend. :) Just trying to communicate my purpose.
    etiger2007 likes this.
  15. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    As long as it is front loading, the stove can be recessed quite a bit into the fireplace cavity so that it projects in front of the fireplace no more than 6". Give me a little bit to look at some options here.
  16. Jacob Russell

    Jacob Russell New Member

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    Thank you begreen, I appreciate that.
  17. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Questions: How wide is the fireplace at the back? Does it remain at 30.5" high all the way back?

    How tall is the chimney and why the 6" diameter constraint? Where is the choke point, the damper?
  18. Jacob Russell

    Jacob Russell New Member

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    The rear of he fireplace is 21" wide and 24" tall. Either of those (especially the height) could be modified if need be to fit a unit of some sort in here. I'm not nearly as attached to the crumbling brick liner as I am to the exterior.

    The 6" diameter constraint is because the chimney is fairly small on the interior, and split in two to share space with a vent pipe currently used by my water heater, but originally, I'd imagine, used by a coal furnace.
  19. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Hmmm. Is the flue physically split or did someone run the wtr htr pipe up the fireplace chimney? 6" sounds much too small for a working fireplace.
  20. Jacob Russell

    Jacob Russell New Member

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    Physically split. 6" isn't the ID of the chimney, it's wider than it is deep, but it's the largest OD pipe I think I can fit in there.

    Oh, as far as height - two stories plus an attic, I'd guess 30' or so. Haven't measured that.
  21. mellow

    mellow Resident Stove Connoisseur

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    With that kind of height you might be ok to run a 5.5" insulated liner.
  22. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    I'm thinking 6" Duraliner would work here.

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