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Pre-Fab to High Efficiency ZC Wood Burning Fireplace project.

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by Dad the Handyman, Oct 4, 2013.

  1. Dad the Handyman

    Dad the Handyman New Member

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    I've been checking this site for weeks to gain enough information to start my own Pre-Fab "Builder's Box" to High Efficiency Zero Clearance Wood Burning Fireplace project. I am a project manager by trade and used to burn a Wood Burning insert for years at our last house. The new house came with a FMI Pre-Fab POS and I can't take it anymore. You have all been very helpful, and to give back I want to share my experience for future people in my position. I'm hoping you can help me complete my project and in turn, it will help others as well.

    As-Is State:
    - 1998 Colonial in Douglas, MA
    - Living room is adjacent to the garage (my handyman workshop)
    - 7 1/2' ceilings
    - Chase runs between garage and living room, approx 22 feet?
    - Chase 20 3/4" x 54" interior dimensions of chase. Depth measured from back stud to front of front studs.
    - 5' from the left of fireplace to go outside for combustion air. NO possibility on right.
    - Currently have a FMI Model 3000 ZC Fireplace, installed in 1998.
    - 18" x 50" hearth
    - Cheap mantel that I don't' like
    - Three acres of mostly red oak, and some beech. (the rest isn't worth burning; pine, birch, chestnut)
    - Stihl MS 250, maul, ax, two little helpers to carry wood.
    - $3000/year in oil costs

    To Be:
    - Quality High-Efficiency, Zero-Clearance Wood-Burning Fireplace
    - Prefer the curved top look, if possible
    - Real stone 1 1/2" thick veneer all around
    - Wood, Crafstman-style mantel
    - Ability to push heat to the garage, once it's finished.
    - Decrease heating costs 50% or more
    - Pure bliss, having an efficient fire going once again


    What I have done so far....
    - Weeks of research on hearth.com
    - Started a spreadsheet of Zero Clearance Wood Burning Fireplaces available
    - Visited local dealers to see what they have and what they recommend, charge, etc.
    - Spoke with the building inspector to confirm I could do the work myself, and any codes I needed to be aware of.
    - Recruited my father-in-law, a sheet metal small business owner, and "Solatube" owner/installer to possibly help, with buying pipe if nothing else.
    - took before pics (to share soon)
    - recruited my twin, 6-year old girls to assist
    - started the tear out enough to see inside the existing chase and take measurements
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 5, 2013

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  2. aansorge

    aansorge Minister of Fire

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  3. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    I copied and pasted the rest of the conversation into your post. Take a look at the BIS Traditions for starters.
  4. Dad the Handyman

    Dad the Handyman New Member

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    Ok, finally a few pics. Before, and during the tear out. These girls work hard. I'll stop to here to comment on a sticking point for me. Every post or video I could find showed the pic with the drywall exposed and the pipe still attached, and then the stove out with no explanation as to how it happened. Since I've now been through it I wanted to elaborate in case anyone has the same question; "How do I get the stove and pipe apart and get it out?"
    First protect the floor with some plywood. Then,
    Step 1: Unscrew all the screws holding it to the wall
    Step 2: Unscrew the flu pipe from the ring on top.
    Step 3: Smash the pipe just above the collar with a maul until it comes off to the side.
    Step 4: Grab the top flange on the stove and tilt it forward
    Step 5: Have a dolly or something read to take it outside. Mine was very light.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Oct 6, 2013
  5. aansorge

    aansorge Minister of Fire

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    Nice start! You sure you don't want a freestanding stove there?
  6. Dad the Handyman

    Dad the Handyman New Member

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    Here is the pic of the stove after I smashed the pipe and tilted it forward onto the plywood. Then, note the warning on the back: "minimum 3/4" inch clearance to combustibles..." Then, note the pride the builders took in their work as they placed it right up to the paper insulation and studs. There was 0" of clearance. (umm. are paper and wood studs combustible?" "Nah, jamb it in there!") I'm guessing the inspector didn't care either. Then, check out the pic of the black melted paper face of the insulation. Way to work guys. Really glad I took this thing out before something terrible happened.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Oct 6, 2013
  7. Dad the Handyman

    Dad the Handyman New Member

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    Thanks, but we really don't, even though I know that it would radiate more heat. I had an insert at the last house and it blew us away, even when the blower wasn't on. Also, this room is really not big and it would take up way too much space. Plus, I really want the fireplace look. Ironically, the house next door was built by the same guy and my neighbor is going through the same project, but he IS putting in a freestanding stove. The big difference; his is in a great room with plenty of room for it so it will work for him.
  8. Dad the Handyman

    Dad the Handyman New Member

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    After taking out the stove it was time to tackle as much pipe as I could from the ground. This was an 8" galvanized flu pipe with a 6" pipe inside. Both very lightweight. To do this I just pushed the end of the pipe all the way to one side and wiggled the joint until it fell. Then, my girls took it outside to the trailer. I just kept doing that until it was all gone, except for the 8" above the firestop. I also took out all of the insulation. Now for my first question;

    Would there be any reason to leave the 8" pipe up? Would you go inside that with the Class A? I really don't think so, but since I can't get on the roof due to rain today I thought I would ask.

    Attached Files:

  9. Dad the Handyman

    Dad the Handyman New Member

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    As I mentioned in the first post, the chase is only 20 3/4" deep. My thought was that I could build out the front of the chase a few inches to accommodate the 25" of the BIS Tradition CE or similar. I would frame it out below the header that is just above the bottom of the sheet rock of vacated hole. Then, I would insulate and use Durarock to finish it up. The stone work would go up to the header and then the wood mantel would attach to the header and sit on top of this "false wall". I also like that idea because it would allow me to use corner real stone veneer pieces to make it look more substantial than just veneer stuck to the wall. I would have to move the hearth out a little further if I do this, of course.

    Question #2: Can I build out the chase like that?
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2013
  10. aansorge

    aansorge Minister of Fire

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    No, take that out too.
  11. Dad the Handyman

    Dad the Handyman New Member

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    I assume I will need to cut into the back of the chase for access. I would like to leave an access door there. However, it's in the garage.

    So... Question #3: can you put in an access door when the chase is in the garage and still meet fire codes for garages that are attached to the house, or do I have to sheet rock it back up with fire rated sheet rock after I'm done?
  12. Dad the Handyman

    Dad the Handyman New Member

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    Thanks for the reply, but I'm not sure what you mean. Take what out too?
  13. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    The new chimney pipe will depend on the new fireplace. I like the units that use class A pipe. I don't see any problem with putting in the access door. If fire code wants it to be a fire barrier then use cement board.
  14. Dave A.

    Dave A. Minister of Fire

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    As far as building out the alcove, don't see any reason why you couldn't do that, either just at the base where the FP will be or all the way up.

    Not to beat a dead horse, but before you completely rule out the stove idea (which if you used it, would likely save you money over a high efficiency FP), you might want to consider building a mock/fake fireplace in the alcove and putting a stove inside of what looks like a fireplace. Some people who want the idea of fireplace hearth and mantle, are satisfied with that. There are some photo examples of that idea here on the site. And as far as the size, stoves do come in all sizes and with catalytic stoves, there is always the option of burning real low and slow.

    But if you're set on the ZC fireplace, there certainly are advantages to that.
  15. Dad the Handyman

    Dad the Handyman New Member

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    Thanks very much for the reply. I will ask the building inspector what the exact rules are about the access door. I was just assuming they wouldn't allow any door, even steel, cement board, etc. because I would be introducing tiny gaps that fire could potentially squeeze through.

    Regarding the class A pipe; can you run class A pipe up through the 8" galvanized flu pipe that is there? Seems that it would add extra protection if you could.
  16. Dad the Handyman

    Dad the Handyman New Member

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    I would like to see the pics, at the very least I can show my neighbor who bought a freestanding but hasn't decided how to install it yet. For me, I am good with the ZC. I always try to consider reselling when I do any project, and I think the ZC is more likely to appeal to potential buyers of this cookie-cutter Colonial. (not what we were looking for when we moved, but all that we could get under time restrictions we were under). Now, I just want to make the home as attractive as I can, while still enjoying it ourselves if we can never move. It's a compromise I'm willing to make I guess. Thanks though.
  17. Dad the Handyman

    Dad the Handyman New Member

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    Update: Tasks to complete this week:
    - Complete permit application
    - Pick the best stove I can afford
    - Find an electrician and schedule him to wire blower, etc.
    - Pull up single slab hearth so I can build out the alcove a few more inches
    - Verify whether or not I should pull out the 8" flu pipe- pull it out if needed.
  18. Dad the Handyman

    Dad the Handyman New Member

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    Picking the best stove I can afford. After a month of research I have begun to realize what my requirements are and it's narrowing my options. I have a spreadsheet going and will share it later for others to use. For now here is my list of important requirements;

    Must Have:

    OAK on Left - the outside air kit needs to vent on the left side so that I can easily vent it through my garage to the outside, which is less than 6 feet. Otherwise I would have to go up 20'. To the right is not an option. From what I can tell, this eliminates some choices that people really like; RSF Opel 2 and 3, Kozy Heat Z42, Osburn Stratford so far. Only the Napoleon NZ26 and BIS Tradition CE vent on the left, so far.

    Non-Cat - It sounds like the Cat option is a pain, from what I have read. I've use non-cat before and was great at using my insert so I'll stick to that.


    Nice to Have:

    High Efficiency
    - obviously the higher the better, barring the cat options.
    Mid to high Max BTU's- it's not a huge house so I dont' need the king of BTU's, but strong enough to warm us up on the coolest of days in NE.
    Shallow Depth - since I have to build out the chase/alcove area to accommodate any ZC I have some flexibility here, but I don't too deep will start to be a pain with offsets, etc.
    Strong blower - at least strong enough to blow the heat around when the power is on. Some are only 115 cfm, which doesn't seem very strong. My bathroom fan is 115.
    Large Viewing area - it would be nice to see the fire
    Arched door top - just looks nice. Not mandatory
    Low mantel - since the ceilings are only 7 1/2 feet I don't want the mantel to be 6 feet up, if possible.
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2013
  19. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Check the installation manuals carefully. For example the Pacific Energy FP30 (arch) shows the takeoff on the right side, but the text indicates that you remove the OAK cover on the side that is closest to the exterior wall. The Valcourt Lafayette has the option to come off the back. If you have room for an elbow it could head to the left. The BIS Tradition shows a connection on the left side.
  20. Dad the Handyman

    Dad the Handyman New Member

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    Thanks. I have been checking the manuals, but they rarely state which side, but only show pics. So, if anyone can refute my assumptions about the stoves above please do.
  21. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    I haven't looked at the Stratford but Valcourt is by the same company, SBI.
  22. aansorge

    aansorge Minister of Fire

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    I don't think you need to factor which side the OAK is on. Generally this can be run under the fireplace if necessary. Generally the fireplace will sit on a built up platform in a chase and an oak could run under ( or through) this platform.
  23. Dave A.

    Dave A. Minister of Fire

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    There was a thread titled something like pictures of stoves in alcoves. I linked to one of those which are made to look like stoves in fireplaces here are some inks:

    http://www.hearth.com/talk/threads/pictures-of-wood-stoves-in-alcoves.105795/#post-1381502
    in that thread look at msg# 3,11,13, and 18 (some of these may actually be real fireplaces with stoves in them, but that's the point, you can make an alcove look like a fireplace, often the larger the opening the better the stove is framed.

    http://www.hearth.com/talk/threads/...mensions-other-questions.114492/#post-1529519
    http://www.hearth.com/talk/threads/started-woodstock-keystone-install-pics.51259/page-3#post-651587
  24. Dad the Handyman

    Dad the Handyman New Member

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    Wow, those are some great installs. I'll share them with my neighbor, and see what my wife thinks. I especially like the ones that use Rumford style to get the heat out. Very well done.
  25. cwill

    cwill Member

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    After two winters with my alcove and free standing stove, I can't imagine having anything different. It has become the centerpiece of the room. Zero clearance installs can look really nice but they don't add the dramatic look to the room that an alcove can.

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