New Home Construction - Full Masonry or not for insert

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wright100

New Member
Feb 6, 2019
9
Pennsylvania
Hello everyone my family is in the process of building a new home and we have been trying to figure out the fireplace and thought we had it figured out, but things have been brought back into question so I thought I'd post here and see if anyone has suggestions or advice for us.

Here is some background: Initially, we had planned on having the builder put in a full masonry fireplace for us and then we were going to add in a insert in the future. We would likely not really use the fireplace much/at all until that point because in my experience fires without a insert are a bit harder to manage and can really consume wood. Our builder has come back to us with the suggestion of just starting the the insert and not doing a full masonry fireplace because for the price of doing a full masonry fireplace we could probably just install the insert to begin with.

Is there a point to having a full masonry fireplace if a insert is going to be installed? My understanding is that no matter your situation with a insert a stainless steel pipe is going to be installed in the chimney to channel the smoke up the chimney. With full masonry the chimney would lined - is this only for wood burning fireplaces with no insert?

I was originally trying to avoid doing a engineered fireplace because I read online that they have a lifetime (relatively short by home standards) and then are a pain to rip out and replace because everything is manufactured on a per-product basis.

The builder was suggesting putting in something like the Regency R90/EX90 or something by Superior like the WRT3920. However i'm having trouble determining if these are considered engineered fireplaces or something different.

Hopefully this wasn't too stream of consciousness to follow. I think it boils down to whether or not there is a advantage to doing a full masonry fireplace and then installing a insert or if we may as well just go with the insert to begin with.

Thanks!
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
24,477
central pa
There really is no benefit to doing a masonry fireplace with insert over a high efficiency prefab fireplace. And the prefab will cat much less
 

wright100

New Member
Feb 6, 2019
9
Pennsylvania
There really is no benefit to doing a masonry fireplace with insert over a high efficiency prefab fireplace. And the prefab will cat much less
Thanks for your reply. I've read some things about prefabricated fireplaces that make me nervous. I've read that they have a pretty short life expectancy (actually considered to be appliances). When they fail replacing them can be a pain because you have to tear out the entire firebox because the fireboxes are factory designed to only work with specific pieces. I've also read that you have to be careful how hot the fire gets in pre-fabricated fireplaces because they have more extensive limitations. Not that I'm planning on building ridiculous fires but its just not something I really want to be worrying about.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
24,477
central pa
Thanks for your reply. I've read some things about prefabricated fireplaces that make me nervous. I've read that they have a pretty short life expectancy (actually considered to be appliances). When they fail replacing them can be a pain because you have to tear out the entire firebox because the fireboxes are factory designed to only work with specific pieces. I've also read that you have to be careful how hot the fire gets in pre-fabricated fireplaces because they have more extensive limitations. Not that I'm planning on building ridiculous fires but its just not something I really want to be worrying about.
Well yes they do have a 20 year or so lifespan the same as an insert. And yes at that time you would need to change the unit. But you would also be changing an insert at about the same time. As far as size of fire it will be the same as an insert. You may be getting the cheap inneficent zero clearance fireplaces confused with the high efficiency ones I was referring to
 

weatherguy

Minister of Fire
Feb 20, 2009
5,805
Central Mass
You could also consider putting a hearth for a free stander, if you need replacing it's easy peasy and the heat would be better than an insert.
 
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SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
5,956
Downeast Maine
The Hearth idea seems to be the best so far, unless you really just don't want a free standing stove at all.
 

mcdougy

Minister of Fire
Apr 15, 2014
648
ontario
Most zero clearance stoves can be rebuilt from the inside out with the parts. Only thing left is the firebox, which often has a lifetime guarantee....do ripping them out is not all common due to failure, more often it's due to inefficientcy.
 

wright100

New Member
Feb 6, 2019
9
Pennsylvania
Thanks to everyone who gave some advice here.

I think that I am limited to a zero clearance insert. If my wife had her way we would have a decorative fireplace that is there for looks. The compromise is the insert, but she isn't going to take the plunge for a stove even though they are more efficient at heating the house. That won't really be the primary purpose; though definitely a benefit. I may be able to get away with something that sticks out a few inches for what its worth.

Thanks for the responses about maintenance and lifespan. It's good to know that I won't likely have to tear it out anytime soon due to failure since they can commonly be fixed.

I think what I've been looking at so far would be the nicer high efficiency models, though I'm not sure what would qualify as a inexpensive low efficiency model.

My builder has suggested the Regency R90, EX90 and Superior. I don't think I'm going to be able to swing the Regency past the wife. She does like the look of the Superior WRT3920. Along that line I found the Pacific Energy FP30 which seemed to get good reviews here on he forum on other posts I found. I also found sites online that seemed to recommend that manufacturer. Are there other manufacturers that are recommended? My builder really wants there to be a local place that sells the brand to do the installation so I'm hoping to find some good manufacturer options because I'm not sure every one will be an option for me.

What are peoples thoughts on catalytic combusters? I saw the superior fireplaces have them and the pacific energy ones don't which makes them less efficient but not by a huge margin. They seem like they are a bit of a pain. The manual I was reading said they needed to be inspected 3 times a season and will also need to be cleaned and replaced periodically. I looked up a video on youtube on the cleaning process and while not difficult definitely seems like it will be an annoyance. My past experience with inserts was with a quadrafire 5100i or something very similar. The maintenance on that thing was pretty much non-existent it seemed.

Thanks!

Links for convenience:
WRT3920: http://superiorfireplaces.us.com/products/wrt3920

FP30: https://www.pacificenergy.net/products/wood/fireplaces/fp30/
 

Simonkenton

Minister of Fire
Feb 27, 2014
1,941
Marshall NC
I like masonry fireplaces. I built the fireplace pictured at left and it is a good heater, for a fireplace. Heats better than any other fireplace I ever have dealt with.
Still it uses 5 times as much wood as my wood stove.

Skip the masonry fireplace, and go with a free standing wood stove. New construction you can design a very nice place to put your wood stove with a nice masonry hearth.
 

blacktail

Minister of Fire
Sep 18, 2011
1,419
Western WA
An insert is a solution to the problem of an inefficient masonry fireplace.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
24,477
central pa
Guys he realizes now he doesn't want a masonry fireplace and insert. He is looking at high efficiency zero clearance fireplaces.
 

wright100

New Member
Feb 6, 2019
9
Pennsylvania
We are building just north of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. Winters aren't super cold here in general. My builder has existing suppliers for Superior and Quadrafire, based on what he said today. I'm sure I could have him find suppliers for other brands though. I'm hesitant with Superior because of the catalytic combuster. Quadrafire it looks like does not use them.

Yea, I think the direction of my question has now changed from the subject. It seems like if we are going to put in a insert that it doesn't make sense to have the builder do a full masonry fireplace and then install one. So now I'm trying to figure out what fireplace to get.
 
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showrguy

Minister of Fire
Aug 2, 2015
502
Marysville, Pa.
We are building just north of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. Winters aren't super cold here in general. My builder has existing suppliers for Superior and Quadrafire, based on what he said today. I'm sure I could have him find suppliers for other brands though. I'm hesitant with Superior because of the catalytic combuster. Quadrafire it looks like does not use them.

Yea, I think the direction of my question has now changed from the subject. It seems like if we are going to put in a insert that it doesn't make sense to have the builder do a full masonry fireplace and then install one. So now I'm trying to figure out what fireplace to get.
Don't be affraid of a CAT stove..
Have you thought about doing a nice hearth with some stone or something up the wall, then install a freestanding stove vented straight up ??
I see alot of those fireplaces abandoned or guy trying to retrofit after a year or 2 of fires sucking all the heat outa the house when used..
 
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wright100

New Member
Feb 6, 2019
9
Pennsylvania
Yea, it will be something very similar to that. I just have to figure out if my builder can get a supplier for Pacific Energy for it to be an option.
 

dBrad

Member
Mar 14, 2017
59
SC
If your builder has connections already with a Quadrafire dealer, I can toss in a good recommendation for the 7100. I love ours. My wife prefers the 2 doors too - keeping one closed during reload means no puffback smoke in the house.
 
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wright100

New Member
Feb 6, 2019
9
Pennsylvania
Thanks for the recommendation dBrad . The 7100 I think is our top choice with quadrafire. Thats interesting about reloading I will remember that if we go with that model. Has it been pretty maintenance free?
 

dBrad

Member
Mar 14, 2017
59
SC
This is our first winter in the new house so I've done no maintenance other than cleaning the glass. I'll get the chimney swept annually, but that's a todo with every stove.
 

Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
15,715
Philadelphia
I think that I am limited to a zero clearance insert. If my wife had her way we would have a decorative fireplace that is there for looks.
Ah... the wife factor. For what it’s worth, my wife was not at all interested in the time and other sacrifices associated with wood burning, and it was quite an uphill battle with her, the first few years. However, today she is the first one to complain on the rare occasion I let one of our stoves go out, she has been spoiled by wood heat.

Ironically, she’s from your neighborhood, Johnstown.
 
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jetsam

Minister of Fire
Dec 12, 2015
5,271
Long Island, NY
youtu.be
Ah... the wife factor. For what it’s worth, my wife was not at all interested in the time and other sacrifices associated with wood burning, and it was quite an uphill battle with her, the first few years. However, today she is the first one to complain on the rare occasion I let one of our stoves go out, she has been spoiled by wood heat.
Mine was unhappy about it until the first cold day (it looked "industrial"). Then she was casual friends with the stove until the first oil bill. Since then, she's been a committed member of Team Stove. ;)
 
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