Insert with "Cooking" Top & Project Advice Wanted

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67L48

New Member
Jan 22, 2022
5
Iowa
Just moved into an old house in Iowa that has a masonry/brick fireplace. House was originally built in 1900, but I'm not sure the fireplace is that old -- but, it's definitely old. It's a pretty large opening of about 39" wide and 29" tall (actual brick opening measurements). It's about 23" deep at the base. The inner facing wall is about 23" wide and 22" high. My hearth is 7 3/4" raised from our carpeted floor. There is another 3" lip from the hearth to the fire place floor. The hearth is 19 3/4" deep.

It does appear that there is a metal insert of some sort already in the masonry burning chamber (see pics) and a round damper. I don't know the diameter of the damper. The home inspector said the chimney was lined and in good condition.

It's very cold here in Iowa and I'd like a fireplace that's more efficient and can more effectively take the burden off our propane furnace. I don't know that I necessarily want wood to be my primary source of heat, but I'd like it to be a strong contributor. The fireplace is in the main living area downstairs of a 2-story home. The finished square feet is around 2,200, with probably around 1,500 ft2 downstairs with the remainder upstairs distributed among a bunch of individual rooms (4 bedrooms, bath, laundry).

I'd like to get a wood burning insert and I prefer the kind that protrude into the room and onto the hearth ... the opposite of flush mount. I'd like there to be a top to the stove that's prominent enough to place cast iron kettle, etc. Examples include the IronStrike Montlake 230 and 300 and the Regency i2500. I'm having a difficult time finding any additional alternatives. I'd also like medium to large size, with boxes in the 2.3 - 3.0 ft3 range ... and able to handle 18" wood.

I don't have any strong opinions on catalyst or not. I'd probably prefer not, just due to initial cost and ongoing complexity (though proponents swear that there isn't any additional maintenance or complexity). This is already going to be very expensive, so I'd like to limit costs where I can.

Based on my needs/wants and the various dimensions given above (and shown below in pics), I was looking for:
  1. Recommendations on inserts that have an interior profile and a top deep enough to accommodate a pot
  2. Comments on hearth depth required for (1) above. For example, IronStrike has a spec of 18" of hearth + the 10" that the Montlake 300 extends ... thus a hearth would need to be at least 28" per the instructions. That seems egregious to me, but maybe that's normal?
  3. I'm on the fence about DIY. Running a liner seems pretty difficult, particularly for a 2-story chimney. I'd also need to run some sort of power into the fireplace for the insert's blower (cords running out and across my floor won't work). So, it's a big job that I'm not sure I'm interested in. Still, are there any things that jump out from the descriptions or pictures that an installer (me or professional) should know about, look for, be aware of?
  4. Additional comments?

FrontView_04.jpg

Front view of showing the offset fireplace. The right side is 8.5" between fireplace wall and the edge of the brick. The brick continues uninterupted to the roof. The wood ledge is inserted into the brick with on brick's depth and sits 48" above the hearth. Fireplace itself (not the old crappy bronze facade) is 39" W x 29" H x 23" D

FrontView_01.jpg

Here you can see the 7 3/4" that the hearth is raised from the carpeted floor. Also, you can see the 3" step up from the hearth to the floor of the fireplace chamber.

Damper_01.jpg

Looking up the back of the fireplace. The left side of this image is the front of the fireplace and the right side of this image is the back wall of the fireplace. The damper is round, but I can't tell the diameter without getting really, really dirty. You can see the metal lining here.

FrontView_02.jpg

View of the inside. You can the metal lining on the left side of this picture, as well as the running across the front here.

Chimney_02.png

Pic of the chimney on the roof.

Chimney_01.png

Chimney on the roof.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
30,232
central pa
What you have is a prefab or zero clearance fireplace. The vast majority of them do not allow inserts to be installed in them. Your chimney is a metal prefab chimney most of which also don't allow liners to be installed in them. The brick on the roof spears to be prefab brick panels not actual brick. To move forward you need to find the label on your fireplace so we can check the manual in order to see what is possible
 
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67L48

New Member
Jan 22, 2022
5
Iowa
Thanks for the heads-up. Definitely not what I wanted to hear, but I have some more work to do. I don't see any labels, but I haven't dug in deep. I will and see what I can find. I also need to understand "prefab or zero clearance fireplace" technology, as that's not something I'm familiar with, nor have I been reading about.

Again, I appreciate you reading/looking at my thread and pointing me in the right direction. I knew that I had something to learn about my project, and I was right. I didn't know what I didn't know, but you helped me identify the next batch of learning.
 
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67L48

New Member
Jan 22, 2022
5
Iowa
I wasn't ever able to find out specific information about my zero clearance fireplace -- no branding or other product marking could be found by me.

However, I did speak with my local fireplace company that carries a number of the top brands discussed on these forums ... he's the go-to guy in the area. Anyway, he was pretty sure he could retrofit an insert into my house and recommended a NOS unit he had: Jotul C 450. It doesn't meet the new EPA efficiency standards (and I think, therefore, it's not meant to be sold in the US), but he said he'd sell it to me with full installation for $3,600. That seemed like a great deal and the essentially free installation costs are more than any tax credits.

JotulC450_02.jpg

It's a bit of a compromise over what I wanted. I wanted something that protruded a bit and had a top. This insert does protrude a bit for that old-school look, but it doesn't have a top ... it has a small ledge at the bottom of the door. So, not exactly what I wanted, but my wife loved the look of this insert and it fits what I hoped to have -- fairly efficient wood burning insert that has an old-school design.

I'm happy to hear any comments, though it appears that most people have had good experiences with their Jotul products.

Thanks.
 
Last edited:

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
30,232
central pa
I wasn't ever able to find out specific information about my zero clearance fireplace -- no branding or other product marking could be found by me.

However, I did speak with my local fireplace company that carries a number of the top brands discussed on these forums ... he's the go-to guy in the area. Anyway, he was pretty sure he could retrofit an insert into my house and recommended a NOS unit he had: Jotul C 450. It doesn't meet the new EPA efficiency standards (and I think, therefore, it's not meant to be sold in the US), but he said he'd sell it to me with full installation for $3,600. That seemed like a great deal and the essentially free installation costs are more than any tax credits.

View attachment 292435

It's a bit of a compromise over what I wanted. I wanted something that protruded a bit and had a top. This insert does protrude a bit for that old-school look, but it doesn't have a top ... it has a small ledge at the bottom of the door. So, not exactly what I wanted, but my wife loved the look of this insert and it fits what I hoped to have -- fairly efficient wood burning insert that has an old-school design.

I'm happy to hear any comments, though it appears that most people have had good experiences with their Jotul products.

Thanks.
So the installer couldn't verify if an insert was allowed to be installed in your fireplace and he then violated federal law by selling you a new non compliant insert.....
 

67L48

New Member
Jan 22, 2022
5
Iowa
I guess I'm not sure what you're getting at. This guy is in his 60s and has installed more fireplaces than I've seen. I had detailed dimensions and pics. So, I tend to think he knows what can and cannot be done at this point in his career. Are you suggesting that an installation quote can't be done without a physical, in-person inspection?

As for violating the federal law, we're not talking about trafficking heroin. I guess I'm used to being on diesel forums where people "delete" their rigs all the time and I know plenty of people who used to travel to Canada to bring in toilets that actually flush. I'm much more interested in the quality of the stove and less concerned with the technicality of an EPA regulation. If this is an outdated piece of crap, I want to avoid it. If it's a great stove that was otherwise rendered obsolete by an EPA edict, then I may not avoid it.

I haven't purchased anything at this point.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
30,232
central pa
I guess I'm not sure what you're getting at. This guy is in his 60s and has installed more fireplaces than I've seen. I had detailed dimensions and pics. So, I tend to think he knows what can and cannot be done at this point in his career. Are you suggesting that an installation quote can't be done without a physical, in-person inspection?

As for violating the federal law, we're not talking about trafficking heroin. I guess I'm used to being on diesel forums where people "delete" their rigs all the time and I know plenty of people who used to travel to Canada to bring in toilets that actually flush. I'm much more interested in the quality of the stove and less concerned with the technicality of an EPA regulation.
Selling a noncompliant stove is not a technicality and carries very hefty fines if he was caught. And no there is absolutely no way an accurate install quote can be made without a site visit and inspection is done.

Just installing lots of stoves doesn't change the fact that he didn't care if installing an insert was allowed by code or not.

How did he maintain proper cooling airflow through the chimney at the top?
 

67L48

New Member
Jan 22, 2022
5
Iowa
Thanks for the input. When I call them tomorrow, I'll push for a bit more information on installation feasibility, how they can be certain of the project scope, etc.

As for the other, we probably have different, irreconcilable perspectives on such matters. While we could both agree that going 2 MPH over the speed limit and 40 MPH over the speed limit are both violations, I'd probably only see one of those scenarios as problematic driving. And, while I understand the legal enforceability of all EPA restrictions, I don't have a dogmatic belief in the righteousness of them all. I'm always going to be more interested in the product's performance than I am in some arbitrary EPA standard. I'm not suggesting I'm right, just that I'm going to have a different reaction to these things than you.
 
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bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
30,232
central pa
Thanks for the input. When I call them tomorrow, I'll push for a bit more information on installation feasibility, how they can be certain of the project scope, etc.

As for the other, we probably have different, irreconcilable perspectives on such matters. While we could both agree that going 2 MPH over the speed limit and 40 MPH over the speed limit are both violations, I'd probably only see one of those scenarios as problematic driving. And, while I understand the legal enforceability of all EPA restrictions, I don't have a dogmatic belief in the righteousness of them all. I'm always going to be more interested in the product's performance than I am in some arbitrary EPA standard. I'm not suggesting I'm right, just that I'm going to have a different reaction to these things than you.
From your perspective getting that stove is great you are getting a decent discount. And it's a great stove. But the combination of that and his lack of concern about the model of fireplace tells me he isn't concerned with following the rules he is supposed to. Do you really want someone who clearly doesn't mind cutting corners to increase his profits installing a stove in your home?
 
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