1. Welcome Hearth.com Guests and Visitors - Please enjoy our forums!
    Hearth.com GOLD Sponsors who help bring the site content to you:
    Hearthstone Soapstone and Cast-Iron stoves( Wood, Gas or Pellet Stoves and Inserts)

Modifying a FP for an insert

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by Brokk, Oct 17, 2009.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Brokk

    Brokk New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2008
    Messages:
    61
    Loc:
    Central/Eastern Mass
    Last week I posted looking for suggestions for an insert given my FP dimensions. I found the Jotul 450 would fit. I called up a local dealer and he started asking me questions about a mantle, and that kind of nixed the whole thing. You see my mantel sticks out all around the fireplace. So there is a lip of about 3.5" of wood sticking out past the brick. This makes any insert or stove into that area a fire hazard. We brainstormed a bit and decided that if we could add a layer of brick around the outside of the fireplace, that it would form a barrier between the heat and the wood. That could work.

    What I'm trying to figure out, is weather this would actually meet general code for FP safety (is only layer of brick sufficient?) and if it's really worth the hassle and time to make this modification. Here is a picture of the FP with fire going in it, so you can see how the wood sticks out all around. Personally I question whether it would meet fire code they way it's built now.

    Thoughts? Comments?

    Brokk...

    Attached Files:

    Helpful Sponsor Ads!





  2. FPX Dude

    FPX Dude Member

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2007
    Messages:
    164
    Loc:
    Sacramento, CA
    I have FPX which states side clearance to sidewall is 18", and I don't have a sidewall, but I do have side "columns" which are only 8" from side of stove, however they only stick out 3" from the front. They're normal room temp's with all the other clearances and walls, but the safety experts may need to help guide you.
  3. afblue

    afblue Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2009
    Messages:
    278
    Loc:
    Buffalo, NY
    Is that wood mantel and surround original to the house? I would feel a fireplace insert would be safer than what is currently there, because that is really close, and not safe right now!! I would think some fireproofing besides brick needs to be installed to make it work or you might need to do some reconstruction of the mantel to make it work. Its a shame because it looks like some very nice ornate woodworkand would be a shame if it has to be moved/removed.
  4. Doing The Dixie Eyed Hustle

    Doing The Dixie Eyed Hustle Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    May 27, 2008
    Messages:
    5,075
    Loc:
    Ridge, LI, NY
    Is there enough space in hte room to expand the hearth area and install a free standing stove, venting up & through the chimney instead of putting an insert in there? I doubt the clearances with the current wood framing would work)ie be safe) with an insert.
  5. Brokk

    Brokk New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2008
    Messages:
    61
    Loc:
    Central/Eastern Mass
    Unfortunately, the whole surrounding mantel is all one thing. I think it was not original to the house, but was added at a later date in oak to match the oak cabinets and such. It's a victorian house with lots of ornate touches and this is one of them. However, with the wood sticking out 3.5" like that, no stove or insert will be happy. I don't want to rip out the mantel just to install something to warm the room. It would end up being an overall detraction from the house. Although a large kitchen, installing a stove outside of the FP and away from the mantel would put it directly in the middle of the eat in area and pretty much kill that aspect of the kitchen. I fear asking these questions of the building inspector, because he might decide the current setup is a fire hazard and force my hand to make drastic expensive changes.

    Do we have a safety expert around who might be able to tell me what modifications I could make to fireproof that wood mantel without ripping it out?
  6. tickbitty

    tickbitty Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2008
    Messages:
    1,539
    Loc:
    VA
    I don't have any suggestions though I am sure someone will! But I just wanted to say that's a lovely mantel, I can see why you don't want to take it out!

    Could you do a franklin stove in that room that would have the proper clearance from the wood and just feed the pipe up the fireplace?
  7. Brokk

    Brokk New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2008
    Messages:
    61
    Loc:
    Central/Eastern Mass
    As I said, the kitchen table sits in front of the fireplace, so anything sticking out beyond the fireplace reduces that area. Even a small stove sticking out the proper distance away from the combustible wood, would still end up 3' out into the room. We wouldn't be able to have a kitchen table in our kitchen anymore (and the kids run around a lot in the house and I don't like the thought of my little ones risking being burned on a hot stove).
  8. Doing The Dixie Eyed Hustle

    Doing The Dixie Eyed Hustle Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    May 27, 2008
    Messages:
    5,075
    Loc:
    Ridge, LI, NY
    Can you put a free standing stove some where else in the house?
  9. gpcollen1

    gpcollen1 Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2007
    Messages:
    2,026
    Loc:
    Western CT
    I'll make an OT suggestion. Until you find a stove, get rid of that grate that you are burning your fires on. It burns up the coals so quickly that the fire does not produce nearly as much heat as it could. If you need a bit of air like the grate provides, just stick two pieces of wood in end first with a gap in the middle and build on top of those. This works in starting the fire or when adding wood. Began doing this when I still had my fireplace after seeing a fireplace in an Adirondack Lodge. The fireplace had two 18" length of RR track in the fireplace that facilitated this and that fire burned so nice and hot with all those coals that I had to do it in my fireplace, albeit with logs when I could.
  10. tickbitty

    tickbitty Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2008
    Messages:
    1,539
    Loc:
    VA
    Just found this link which seems to describe your type of fireplace (small, victorian, and originally meant for coal?) pretty well. They say they have some solutions.
    http://www.gascoals.net/Default.aspx?tabid=309

    Unfortunately, it looks as if most of their suggestions are for electric, coal or gas rather than wood. But perhaps this could take you somewhere in the right direction.

    I definitely understand what you are saying about the square footage. Have issues like that myself.

    This page here also has a link for tiny stoves, including those that go on boats!
    http://www.kk.org/cooltools/archives/000666.php

    And I also have seen a lot of things on "zero clearance" inserts, but I don't know that much about them. If you google it you will see many examples, maybe one of those things would work for you.
  11. fredarm

    fredarm Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2008
    Messages:
    578
    Loc:
    Eastern Mass
    What about a PE Vista insert with the optional mantle shield? It's a small flush insert and I believe the shield reduces the mantle clearance to 18 inches. Your FP looks fairly tall and the Vista is fairly small.
  12. EricC

    EricC Member

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2009
    Messages:
    13
    Loc:
    PA
  13. Brokk

    Brokk New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2008
    Messages:
    61
    Loc:
    Central/Eastern Mass
    Funny you should mention that. We actually have a tiny fireplace in another room for coal. It's got to be about 6" deep. It's not usable for anything. Goodness knows in this day and age I would never burn coal in the open air like that. Though a coal stove is something my father still uses, so I know they are safe.

    Attached Files:

  14. Brokk

    Brokk New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2008
    Messages:
    61
    Loc:
    Central/Eastern Mass
    I'll respond to all the suggestions:

    1) Free standing stove - We have a pellet stove elsewhere in the house. It's in a large room (18x35), and is mostly dedicated to that room which we use a lot. The other most heavily used room in the house is the kitchen. That's what I'm trying to heat here.

    2) Good suggestion about the grate and airflow. Personally I think the primary use of the grate for us it to prevent wood from rolling out of the brick area. As you can tell, the wood mantel is right outside that area, if a coal or burning wood were to roll out, that extra dry oak would go up like tinder. We don't want that. So the grate holds everything in a safer place. We could probably build something else to serve that function, but I'm not really a metal worker either.

    3) PE Vista - Unfortunately due to the surround sticking out by 3.5", it's considered by the same standard as a mantel. It's only a few inches above the brick so it's *way* less than the 18" required with the mantel shield. That's the same issue we are facing with the Jotul 450. If I could only build the brick out 3.5", then I could increase my FP depth and allow more options for stoves and inserts, as well as removing that fire hazard. Killing two birds with one stone.

    4) I'm not sure about zero clearance either. I'll check out the boat ones as well as the wall mounts. Maybe something would work in there.

    Thanks for all the suggestions! Keep them coming...
  15. southland

    southland New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2008
    Messages:
    87
    Loc:
    Alabama
    This fireplace doesn't look safe. The wood looks too close to the fire. Have you had this inspected by an expert? If not, I recommend you quit burning until have it checked. Safety first always.
  16. Brokk

    Brokk New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2008
    Messages:
    61
    Loc:
    Central/Eastern Mass
    I doubt it is up to modern code. However the big question is, what can be done to make it safe without ripping it all apart?
  17. flash49

    flash49 New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2009
    Messages:
    74
    Loc:
    Virginia
    How about installing heat shields on the top and sides??
  18. Brokk

    Brokk New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2008
    Messages:
    61
    Loc:
    Central/Eastern Mass
    The sides might be OK. However with a heat shield on top, most stoves seem to require something like 18" of clearance before getting to the mantle. This would be more like 6" of clearance, depending on the height of the stove.
  19. tickbitty

    tickbitty Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2008
    Messages:
    1,539
    Loc:
    VA
    I just saw something somewhere on here about building a "temporary" raised hearth which ultimately could be removed so that if a future homeowner or whatever didn't care for a woodstove, they could remove it. If that kind of thing can be done, I imagine something similar might be able to be built over the offending portions of your mantel with cement board and whatnot so that you are basically encasing the wood up as far as you go? I mean, there's wood in most walls too it's just behind the masonry or cement board or whatnot, right? And you could tile it up, or brick it up somehow, without permanently altering that nice woodwork underneath?
  20. Brokk

    Brokk New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2008
    Messages:
    61
    Loc:
    Central/Eastern Mass
    Yesterday I gave the state fire marshal office a call in hopes of getting some direction about what can be added to the woodwork to properly insulate it from the heat. I left a message and have not heard back. Since an authorized dealer was not able to help, the only other thought I have is to contact the manufacturer for some guidance in what is possble and what is not.

    The wood surface causing me problems is flat, worn and looks pretty dried out. I would have no issue removing it or covering it over. The nice detail you see if facing us, and is not the issue causing me problems, so there is no reason I should have to change that.
  21. TreePapa

    TreePapa Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2008
    Messages:
    583
    Loc:
    Southern Calif.
    Actually Brokk, all of the wood is too close for either FP or insert. BUT, I suspect a skilled carpenter could (relatively) easily remove and reinstall the wood mantle, adding blocks or spacers as need to achive the needed clearance. Smoke and heat damage to the wood closest to the FP is visible in your photo.

    I have a similar situation w/ my 1947 Calif. Ranch house. The surround is farther away than yours, but not far enough. In my case, however, the surround, and the mantle, is built from relatively inexpensive paneling (real wood, not fake crap), so I s'pect I can safely remove the paneling. Hopefully, it will expose masonry of somekind but I'm afraid it might just expose framing, leaving me to figger out how to install a heat shield that isn't too ugly.

    On another note, you would get much better results from your FP, or any future insert, if you stop burning green wood. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of discussions on this forum on properly seasoned wood and its benefits. Do yourself a favor and look 'em up - even if you don't get an insert (but take care of that mantle ... it's scary.

    Peace,
    - Sequoia
  22. Brokk

    Brokk New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2008
    Messages:
    61
    Loc:
    Central/Eastern Mass
    All of my wood has been cut down at least a year ago, some longer. The problem is that some of it has not been under cover, so it's not as dry as I like it. I also have some older wood that is buggy, so I have to keep it far from the house and fetch it once I have a good fire going. How long should would "sit" before it is considered seasoned?

    As far as the mantel is concerned, I can't see ripping the wood apart and moving it farther from the FP. I am thinking about one of those boat stoves. They are darn cute. Unfortunately there is no instructions about FP installation, so I'm not sure of the clearances needed. If the stove is *completely* inside the FP proper, would mantel clearance still be a concern?
  23. TreePapa

    TreePapa Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2008
    Messages:
    583
    Loc:
    Southern Calif.
    The wood in the FP in the pic at the top of the post looks freshly cut, or at least, not very well seasoned. The fact that is barely burning, plus the fact the you have more small rounds standing in the FP (to dry out?) also suggest that the wood is not very well seasoned. With well-seasoned wood, you should have a nice little blaze going in that FP, preferably toward the back to minimize smoke into the room.

    With our orignal brick FP, seasoned wood, split small makes a hugh difference - the difference between a smouldering fire (and a cold room) and a nice cheery fire, w/ less smoke, and a warm room (even tho' there's still a cold draft coming into the room to feed that inefficent FP's need for air - it literally sucks the cold air from the rest of the house into the den). Nowhere near as good as a real woodstove, but better than nothing.

    On a slightly different note - what kind of flue is behind that coal FP? It seems to have better clearances on the surround. If it's a "normal" masonry (w/o or w/o clay liner), perhaps you could pull out the old coal box and run an insluated liner up that flue for a normal-size freestanding stove, vented out the back. You'd have to extend your hearth, but it might be less destructive that trying to put a stove or insert into your "real" FP. Just a thought.

    Peace,
    - Sequoia
  24. Brokk

    Brokk New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2008
    Messages:
    61
    Loc:
    Central/Eastern Mass
    Yeah, I had a sugar maple "branch" off a huge tree I cut down last fall. It was cut up into sections small enough to move and I stopped there. I went back to it last week and cut it up into burnable chunks and added them to the top of our wood pile on the porch. So they were the first things to grab when burning a fire. Thus freshly cut and moist, but by no means "green". I actually prefer some wood that isn't well dried out. I can toss large chunks on top and it helps to moderate the fire when it's burning too well. Of course really dry wood is best for starting the fire.

    You see, I have no damper on that masonry chimney. You can look straight up it into the sky. When it rains or sleets, you can hear it hitting into the fire box. You smell the smokyness of the leftover charred wood also when it's wet out. This chimney was built in the 1880s. No clay flue. Just bricks and mortar. I was going to have a mason install a damper, then I started thinking about the wood stove insert. It would serve the purpose of the damper, plus it would be oodles more efficient than simply building a fire. In the winter that fire sucks the life out of the house, pulling in massive amount of cold air from the outside through all the cracks and inefficiencies in this old victorian house. Running a fire when it's actually below freezing outside gives me a net loss in heat, as most of the heat goes up the chimney and cold air replaces that heat in the house. Bad combination.

    The coal fireplace, directly behind the wood fireplace in the main picture, has a very tiny flu opening. I'm not sure I could pipe anything up there.
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page