Options for improving prefab fireplace efficiency

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flavor8

New Member
Nov 17, 2019
3
Virginia
We have a prefab fireplace which, naturally enough, barely sends any heat into the room at all. Worse, it's in a split level room, so there's two storeys of air above it. It's also pretty anemic in burning wood. Photos attached.

I've looked into replacing it with a wood burning stove, and I understand why it's not a simple / straightforward install.

I've had one local fireplace company bid $14k to rebuild the surround from the mantel down, replace the flue, and install a Jotul. I'm not sure whether they considered doing the work from the back -- the fireplace backs onto an internal wall, so it would theoretically be possible to get at it from another room without touching the (faux) stonework.

I also got a bid from a cowboy installer who sees nothing wrong with just slapping a stove in there and doing some sheet metal work to tie it into the existing flue for $600 labor ("you've had some roaring fires in there, right?")

My question - is there a middle option? I've read about "prefab fireplace compatible inserts" but I haven't found much on them. We'd want to keep or improve the aesthetics, and dramatically improve the efficiency.
 

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bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
31,051
central pa
We have a prefab fireplace which, naturally enough, barely sends any heat into the room at all. Worse, it's in a split level room, so there's two storeys of air above it. It's also pretty anemic in burning wood. Photos attached.

I've looked into replacing it with a wood burning stove, and I understand why it's not a simple / straightforward install.

I've had one local fireplace company bid $14k to rebuild the surround from the mantel down, replace the flue, and install a Jotul. I'm not sure whether they considered doing the work from the back -- the fireplace backs onto an internal wall, so it would theoretically be possible to get at it from another room without touching the (faux) stonework.

I also got a bid from a cowboy installer who sees nothing wrong with just slapping a stove in there and doing some sheet metal work to tie it into the existing flue for $600 labor ("you've had some roaring fires in there, right?")

My question - is there a middle option? I've read about "prefab fireplace compatible inserts" but I haven't found much on them. We'd want to keep or improve the aesthetics, and dramatically improve the efficiency.
Your fireplace also has to be compatible with inserts as well. What model is it?
 

flavor8

New Member
Nov 17, 2019
3
Virginia
Hello. I found the manual in the paperwork from the original owner of the house. It's a Superior TM 4500 (or maybe TMC 4500).
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
97,848
South Puget Sound, WA
The Manual states: DO NOT use a fireplace insert or any other products not specified herein by the manufacturer for use with this fireplace.

I can not find any mention of an insert recommended in the manual.

Two options may be to put a rear-vented stove on the hearth and extend the hearth to meet the stove requirements. Or surgically remove the current ZC from the rear and put in a new, EPA fireplace designed to really heat. This latter option will be expensive.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
31,051
central pa
Hello. I found the manual in the paperwork from the original owner of the house. It's a Superior TM 4500 (or maybe TMC 4500).
Do you have the manual? I can't find one for that model. If so does it say inserts are allowed?
 

flavor8

New Member
Nov 17, 2019
3
Virginia
@begreen - where do you see that in the manual? I believe you :) but don't see it.

@bholler - I'm sure begreen is right that the manual has the warning he mentions. So, fooey.

How much would you expect a rip out (from the back) and rebuild to run, very roughly? Is the $14k quote I have (which includes a new stove and flue) crazy, or is that ballpark from your experience?

On the cheap end, is there any kind of aftermarket blower that's safe to use in this kind of installation?
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
97,848
South Puget Sound, WA