Options to replace wood prefab unit with gas fireplace or insert

  • Active since 1995, Hearth.com is THE place on the internet for free information and advice about wood stoves, pellet stoves and other energy saving equipment.

    We strive to provide opinions, articles, discussions and history related to Hearth Products and in a more general sense, energy issues.

    We promote the EFFICIENT, RESPONSIBLE, CLEAN and SAFE use of all fuels, whether renewable or fossil.


New Member
Feb 20, 2023
BC, Canada
I've got a 1970s home with the original wood burning zero clearance insert. (photo attached) The tile was redone by a previous owner, but I'd really like to have something that puts out more heat and doesn't require firewood. I had a looked at both pellet and natural gas units, I'm leaning towards gas although it would be the only gas appliance so I'd have to get gas service connected just for the fireplace.

In looking at the options, I can't figure out which type of unit I need. I understand there are gas inserts but I believe they are only to go inside exisiting masonry fireplaces and not prefab wood burning units like this. Does that mean I really need to take this entire wood burning unit out and redo the wall & tile with a zero clearance gas fireplace?

Options to replace wood prefab unit with gas fireplace or insert
You probably won’t find anyone to put a gas insert into that Zero Clearance box, & if you did, it would be a small unit. Might give you decent heat in that room, but it won’t look too good. A tear-out is the way to go. Yeah, it’s disruptive, & costly, but a two man crew can probably complete it in an 8-hour day. Go to your local hearth shop and see what gas fireplaces the offer. When the job is done, you’ll be happy.
A lot of gas inserts can go into prefab boxes like that. The Heat N Glo Escape insert allows you to remove the sheetmetal floor with theirs as long as you use the leveling bolts to keep a 1/4" air gap between the bottom of the old floor and the insert floor. Mendota has the D30 insert that you can cut the floor out but the rest of their inserts don't allow that according to the manuals. I'm actually surprised the see that raised hearth. Looks like it might have a thermal barrier under the tile like it is supposed to. I see very few that actually have that.