Clearance question and use of insulation for new gas insert

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New Member
Feb 3, 2024
Columbus, OH
Hi everyone-- I'm hoping to lean on the vast experience of this community, with a question before I spend thousands ripping out a newly-constructed fireplace.

Some quick background, my wife and I purchase a home last year which was originally built in the early 1900, and the previous owner did a great job renovating the entire interior of the home. The home had two original fireplaces; one in the dining room, and one in the living room. The dining room fireplace has a gas insert installed (see here), but we barely spend as much time in that room and my wife is asking to put a similar gas insert in the living room instead where we sit more often. Both of the fireplaces have an identical appearance (same surround, granite construction, hearth, etc.), so we had a chimney specialist come in who recommended a gas line be installed, a hand parge of the smoke chamber, and the installation of a lock top damper to accommodate the upgrade. That was the easy part..

In the process of installing the line, the fireplace contractor had noticed that the surround was constructed more as "decorative" finish, and that the previous owner used wood studs behind the granite to frame and build out the surround. As we started digging in deeper, we found that the granite on both sides (left and right) are about 1.75-inches thick, and are attached to wood framing. In addition, the underside of the top of the surround had a decorative granite cover, but the cover was loose and could be removed. Behind the cover was exposed wood, which was not fixed to the granite covered. As expected, this immediately halted the work. I then called and hired three fireplace contractors to take a look, and all provided opinions which generally included two options:
  1. Rip out the entire granite surround, remove the wood, and re-frame with metal studs
  2. Use an electric fireplace (not an option as we are looking for an open flame; or, contained behind glass which still has a real flame but allows out the heat)
The last contractor who came had similar two options, but also mentioned that there may be a possibility of something like using spray on ceramic insulation to seal openings/joints, as well as a two-inch thick-wrapped ceramic insulation board at the top. They mentioned that a more experienced person could provide a solution using this option, and recommended this forum for advice.

I've attached a few pictures to provide context. If dimensions are needed, I'd be more than happy to measure and post. I'm hoping someone here can help us avoid the considerable expense of ripping the entire surround out and re-building from studs! Aside from the effort and cost, I'm in fear that the granite stone will crack during removal and re-installation, and finding a stone which matches the adjacent fireplace in the next room will be next to impossible (and my detailed-oriented wife will be bothered by it for as long as we're in the house :)).

(Please disregard the christmas decor around the fireplace; we had our first newborn three weeks ago, and this was supposed to be a gift for my wife around the holidays...or so I had planned before discovering all of this...)

Front-facing, full view:
Fireplace view.jpeg

Up-close view of firebox, along with surround:


View looking at underside of framed surround, with wood exposed:

Yikes, that was a house fire waiting to happen. I think that without a tearout, one needs to assume that the fireplace builder didn't know what they were doing. The second assumption is that one can not assume there aren't other combustibles on the other sides of the fireplace. Any new unit will need to be installed based on these assumptions.

Moved thread to the gas forum.
Thank you for moving this @begreen; I apologize that I had it in the wrong forum.

I forgot to add a picture of the fireplace we're trying to match in the dining room; please see attached. Also, it's not being used to warm any of the room or the house since we have central air throughout the house.

Is there wood framing behind the lintel area in this fireplace like the other one? If there is, I wouldn't use this fireplace as it is with the open flame.
There is not wood framing behind the lintel area of this (operational) fireplace. Behind the granite is brick, and at the expose underside is (in my lay-person explanation) a steel plate "deflector" with brick that is visible behind.
Nudging this back up to the top-- does anyone here have any experience or guidance to share? I appreciate any time and wisdom this community can provide.