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Should I gut and rebuild hearth?

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by ToltingColtAcres, Jul 1, 2013.

  1. ToltingColtAcres

    ToltingColtAcres New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2013
    Messages:
    22
    Loc:
    Boston, MA
    For those who have been following my saga with the Encore 1450 non-cat, given the repair cost is approaching $1k in parts, it is a no-brainer that I will be purchasing a new stove, likely in the next month during the "off season".

    My hearth was built in-place at the same time the stove was installed, according to specifications provided by the installer (local highly-reputable stove company now out of business due to owner death). The pad is roughly 50x50 in a corner. I can't make it any larger than that, because it shares a "corner" with a doorway that leads to a bedroom/bathroom.

    In the hearth room, the walls are a combination of plaster and pine wood. The pine is 6' high starting from the floor, installed over a plaster wall.

    When the hearth was built, durarock cement board was placed in the corner wall using non-combustible spacers. Over this, flexbond was used to install slate tile, which was then grouted. This extends roughly 4.5' up from the tile pad. The pad itself was built on the subfloor, a layer of steel and then 1 or two layers of durarock, and then flexbonded slate tiles.

    So, in the corner, I have about 4.5' of durarock tiled wall behind which there is an airspace and then pine wood over plaster. Above that there's about 1.5' of "exposed" pine (no protective surface), and then above that, roughly 2' of plaster before I meet the beams and sub-floor of the 2nd floor.

    When firing the Encore for the past five years, the wood wall would get warm to the touch, but never exceptionally worrisome hot. I was never particularly worried about it, given it was built to the installer specs -- an old portuguese guy who had been doing stove installs longer than I've been alive. But, also, in the back of my mind, I also know wood and stoves don't make a good combination... if the wall were made out of just plaster or modern, traditional material like sheetrock, I probably wouldn't give it a 2nd thought.

    However, given the failure of the Encore, and the fact that I've made structural changes to the house which have increased its heating footprint, and thus am looking at a larger BTU stove (leaning heavily towards the Jotul F55, but also still looking at the F600), I wonder if it makes sense to rip out the hearth and gut the walls behind it right down to studs, and then in its place build a "proper" hearth out of brick and mortar, where there are no combustible materials behind a protective surface.

    If so, I assume I would gut down to the wood studs, and then replace the plaster layer with durarock (would I need steel between the studs and durarock, as the floor pad has?), on top of which I could install a stone product -- probably something from home depot since the Pro staff and I are on a first-name basis (with a 300 y/o farmhouse, the maintenance is relentless)

    I should point out that for all the use the stove has received during the past five years, the hearth is in exceptionally good condition... no cracked or chipped stones... so I suppose I could leave well enough alone too and put the money I'd spend on rebuilding the hearth into another project.

    Thoughts anyone?

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  2. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Messages:
    49,530
    Loc:
    South Puget Sound, WA
    I don't see an issue with your current hearth. The wood wall was likely getting hot due to heat radiated off of the connector pipe. If you want to change that to double-wall that will reduce the wall warmth, but that may be just for greater peace of mind. If the walls are staying below 160F at the hottest then they are probably fine. Sheetrock has a paper skin and is considered a combustible.

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