new to the whole fireplace thing

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New Member
Jun 14, 2023
NSW, Australia
Hi everyone, I've never had a fireplace at all before so I have no idea what I'm doing and my questions are probably incredibly basic, but I recently moved into a house with a fireplace, and after playing around with it for awhile I eventually discovered that the black part (which I later learned is called a "fireplace insert") of it can actually be removed from the white part. And then I got to see all the cool bricks behind it. So that was all pretty amazing to me. I'm not sure what it would have actually burned in the past, maybe coal?

There were broken black tiles on the hearth when I arrived, and this additional long piece of cast iron something that just sat there pretty much spanning the entire width of the hearth. I don't have a photo at hand of that piece, but can get one if anyone is interested. The tiles hadn't even been grouted (?) in properly and the spacers could still be seen. I removed the tiles and now there's what seems to be just a layer of cement with a texture on the top.

Originally I was thinking I would just polish up the insert, do something with the hearth (still not sure what), then stick the insert back in and just have it look nice but not actually use it. But then I started wondering if a wood heater would be a good idea. I have always wanted a useable fireplace of some sort.

I've attached some photos here, and I took a few measurements too. I would be really appreciative of any information or suggestions, particularly in relation to the following:

1) should I just put back the original insert, or should I put in a wood heater
2) if the latter, should it be an inbuilt one or a freestanding one (if this would even fit)
3) any ideas for the hearth (should I tile it, or put a slab of granite there, or just paint it with that heat resistant black paint)

Here are the measurements (in cm) so far, however I can get more if it helps:

660 deep total
200 deep hearth
760 wide inside firebox
1250 wide hearth

I've tried to attach some photos, hopefully it works! Thank you in advance for sharing your knowledge and experience. Please remember I'm starting almost completely from scratch and know close to nothing about the subject :)

new to the whole fireplace thingnew to the whole fireplace thingnew to the whole fireplace thingnew to the whole fireplace thing
There’s a lot of good advice to be had on this site, so I’m sure that you’ll get some good professional advice soon. As a non-pro, I would first try to get a reputable chimney, pro on site to be able to tell you the condition of the chimney structure. There is a lot that can occur with the chimney and many of the areas that could be deteriorated or damaged. Can be out of plain sight. That would mantle/trim would have to go or be replaced with something non-combustible if you were to get a wood-burning appliance.

If everything checks out well with the chimney, a woodstove may be a good idea. Right off the bat, it looks like you likely do not have enough protruding hearth material that extends past the fireplace itself. After that issue is addressed, if you went the route of either a freestanding woodstove or a fireplace insert.( which is a fancy way of describing a woodstove that is shaped specifically to go into the fireplace is fire box looks a bit “neater”), you would want to be sure to get a stainless steel chimney liner that goes directly from that wood-burning appliance all the way to the top of the chimney. Also, very important is that that new stainless steel chimney liner is insulated with purpose made chinney liner insulation wrap.
Personally, I would not use the current woodburning appliance that you have in the pictures you posted. Aside from not knowing the condition of it, that wouldn’t provide you with the heat that he would get from a modern appliance.
For reference, I’m attaching a picture of my fireplace wood insert, so you have an idea of what a modern one looks like. In the picture I put up, the insert is made up of two main pieces – the firebox itself, where you put the wooden, and then the “surround“, which is a metal trim piece of sorts that actually attaches to the outside of the firebox its purpose is to cover up the gap between the insert and the masonry chimney for aesthetics.

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The insert is for use with coal and the fireplace was probably built for that type of unit. Get a pro out to do a full inspection
Right off the bat, it looks like you likely do not have enough protruding hearth material that extends past the fireplace itself.
Good post, Ctwoodtick. But do keep in mind that op is in Australia, so code on hearth extension will likely be different, where she lives.

Agreed, pro inspection is first step. If all clean and Kosher, then there's a decision whether you want to continue using the current unit with coal, or convert to a wood-burning insert.
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