Cutting or grinding brick in fireplace to fit insert?

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SecondaryBurn

New Member
Sep 21, 2016
12
Midwest
All,

As I draw closer to finding a competitive quote for installing the word burning insert that I've chosen (Pacific Energy Neo 2.5), I've hit what I hope isn't a deal-breaking snag:

I remeasured the firebox area and determined that, at 20 inches depth, my firebox width is 25"--1.25" short of the 26.25 needed for the PE Neo 2.5. I won't say that I'm heartbroken--because, after all, I am talking about a fireplace insert--but I really liked a great many things about this insert and had my mind made up, so now I'm going through the denial phase.

I searched as best I could but got a lot of false positives related to modifying firebrick, so I pose this question: is it possible--and wise--to cut a right-angle notch into the fireplace brick (see rudimentary finger drawing, below) to accommodate this insert of my choosing?

Unfortunately PE doesn't offer a projection kit like Osburn does for the Matrix (which, even with their 4" projection option, just barely won't fit)

I'm somewhat prepared for feedback like "why don't you instead buy a ______" so I'll add that I'm looking for the following:
  • An insert that can as much as possible offset the reduced use of my (really old) furnace in my small ranch-style home, and:
  • Has a firebox of at least 2 ft^3 and accommodates 18"+ wood (preferably "north/south")
  • Has the potential to run 8 hours when loaded and at optimal temps
  • Qualifies for the $300 biomass credit
  • Isn't more than $3,000
  • Doesn't require as much involvement as I've read some catalytic inserts do (Regency CI2600)
  • Is as close to being flush-mount as possible. I have a full 19" of tiled hearth extension, but the issue is that my living room is much wider than it is long so I don't want the insert to stick too far out and I like the look of the flush mounts more than those that aren't (but I do also like the idea of warming a pot of soup or a cup of coffee/tea on the ledge like my family have done with their Napoleon)
Dimensions that go along with last picture:

A - 26.75"
B - 35.5"
C - 22.75"
D - 20"
E - 23.5"
F - E + 19" hearth extension
G - 34"
H - 7"

As always, thanks for your help.
image.png image.png image.png image.png
 
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begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
83,481
South Puget Sound, WA
Yes, you can grind out a bit to make it fit.
 
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Simonkenton

Minister of Fire
Feb 27, 2014
1,694
Marshall NC
Yes you can cut firebrick. I built the fireplace pictured at left and I had to cut a lot of the firebrick and there were 330 of them.
I used a skilsaw with a ceramic cutting blade. No problem.
 
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ccmac

Burning Hunk
Jan 1, 2014
200
Indiana
What you are describing is similar to what I may do in my firebox so as to get my woodstove deeper into the box. My situation is a bit different but I may need to get my T5 deeper into the box so as to allow for the exhaust pipe to clear the lintel. I won't know if I'll need to until I place stove in firebox......it will be close but unsure how close. My firebox moves forward as you go from the base to the top of the firebox, so my upper part of the stove will likely hit the firebox toward top of firebox while the base is not touching anything. So I'll be cutting into the firebrick on the upper back portion of firebox. Keep a good photo record and post as you complete the project. It might be a real help to others contemplating the same thing.
 

heavy hammer

Minister of Fire
Jul 18, 2015
1,651
Kirtland Ohio
As said above you can cut the firebrick. It will be very dusty, have a buddy spray water on the blade with a weed sprayer or something along those lines it will help keep the dust down. It's not a difficult job just very messy, I was a bricky for over ten years, built a few fireplaces they are pretty tough. You can cut blade lengths into the brick then gently hit with a brick hammer to remove the material, this should help give you the space needed. Take your time and be patient.
 
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SecondaryBurn

New Member
Sep 21, 2016
12
Midwest
I received another quote for installing the Neo 2.5 and was told that the firebrick at the depth in question would just be removed. When I sought confirmation as to whether or not it would need to be replaced by anything, I was told no, that the brick mainly serves the purpose of directing the smoke up the flue and because an insert is going in it isn't required. I swear I've seen statements in the installation manuals for more than one brand of insert that specifically states that firebrick needs to be in good condition prior to installation of an insert. This sounds questionable. Thoughts?

Another thing that raised some concern was that, because it's a somewhat narrow, rectangular flue, he said that if they couldn't get the oval liner down with the insulation wrap over it he would just stuff some insulation from the top for the last few feet because that's where the issues related to condensation arise from. I thought the liner really needed to be insulated in totality, from top to bottom.
 
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ccmac

Burning Hunk
Jan 1, 2014
200
Indiana
Okay, non-professional here....but I'll chime in with my take. Depending on your insert's clearance requirements (I am unfamiliar with the Neo 2.5) you may not need to replace the firebrick. Additionally, the entire depth of the firebrick may not need to be removed. Maybe he only needs to remove 2inches worth of depth. Additionally, the construction of your chimney may be such that you have concrete block behind the firebrick which would still qualify as a non-combustible even if he removes all the firebrick. I apologize in advance if I am mis-understanding your situation.

I received my stove on Monday and it does not appear I'll need to modify my firebox to make it fit but I was fully prepared to so. Glad I don't have to do the work!
 
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SecondaryBurn

New Member
Sep 21, 2016
12
Midwest
Okay, non-professional here....but I'll chime in with my take. Depending on your insert's clearance requirements (I am unfamiliar with the Neo 2.5) you may not need to replace the firebrick. Additionally, the entire depth of the firebrick may not need to be removed. Maybe he only needs to remove 2inches worth of depth. Additionally, the construction of your chimney may be such that you have concrete block behind the firebrick which would still qualify as a non-combustible even if he removes all the firebrick. I apologize in advance if I am mis-understanding your situation.

I received my stove on Monday and it does not appear I'll need to modify my firebox to make it fit but I was fully prepared to so. Glad I don't have to do the work!
No, I think you got the gist of it :) He noted that he would only need to remove the last 6 inches or so (basically a vertical that's about as wide as a single firebrick, maybe two, so I imagine there being a hole on either side.

He did also mention that, since the chimney brick would be on the other side of the removed firebrick, there's still a brake, but I'm just wondering about heat convecting off the back of stove, through those holes, and whether or not that's going to lead to problems or a reduction in efficiency in some way. I got a competitive estimate for the BK Sirocco 25, and it'll fit without modification, so now I'm wondering how much of my stubbornness is at play, here.
 

SecondaryBurn

New Member
Sep 21, 2016
12
Midwest
...Additionally, the construction of your chimney may be such that you have concrete block behind the firebrick which would still qualify as a non-combustible even if he removes all the firebrick. I apologize in advance if I am mis-understanding your situation....
I've been thinking about this some more and I wanted to ask a follow-up question: If there's nothing on other side of the fire brick other than the masonry chimney (the brick, basically), is that a sufficient fire break? Thanks!
 
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