Repair existing vented or convert to ventless?

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Baldar

New Member
Aug 7, 2021
6
Illinois
I had a fireplace inspection done recently on a house I just moved into and was told the fireplace is not safe to use. They said that the smokebox needed to be larger and that there were cracks between the vent flue tiles. I do not know the history of the fireplace for certain, but from what anyone can tell it used to be a wood burning fireplace and was converted to gas.

The inspector seemed to lean heavily towards replacing the vented gas burner and log set with a ventless one for $2300 installed and just closing the damper.

I also asked for a quote to fix what was there which came up to a little over $7000 to break flue tiles, add stainless steel insert, thermix insulation, refractory mortar in smoke box, and replacing the burner and log set with a newer model. I don’t believe there is anything wrong with the current one other than dated and unattractive.

I think the costs seem about right for what I see online, but I will get other estimates too.

Is either of these options a significantly better idea than the other assuming we are planning on staying here long term? There seems to be a lot of conflicting advice out there. Is staying vented considerably more maintenance costs over the long term? Is the flame on ventless really that noticeable and will it make my home smell and create a lot of condensation? I guess what I’m asking is one of these ideas more “right” than the others if that makes sense.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
89,681
South Puget Sound, WA
I can't say I agree with the inspector at all and the bid sounds like serious overkill for venting a gas insert. What is the make and model of the current vented gas unit? Do you know what the size of the current flue tiles are?

If the fireplace is to remain gas-specific, I am going to move this over to the gas forum where the experts there can add some information once we have a full picture of what exists.
 

Baldar

New Member
Aug 7, 2021
6
Illinois
688C35EC-BCE8-47B0-BF5C-D7E021F2ADDD.jpeg
6BC86C83-7C27-4EC2-9A0E-3F8598528E9E.jpeg

I’m not sure the model of the existing burner, but here are some pictures of it. The chimney and fireplace were original in the house around 1990. I think this was added sometime later. The previous owner of the house did zero maintenance on anything, but they only lived here about 5 years. We are trying to get everything (not just the fireplace) into working and well maintained order again.

I always get minimum three estimates on all work I have done, so I’ll be getting two more.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
89,681
South Puget Sound, WA
OK, that helps. It looks like a wood fireplace with a gas log kit added, though it looks like wood also was burned. This explains the concern about a proper flue. Do you want to continue using it as an open fireplace or to replace this with a more efficient gas insert in the fireplace?
 

Baldar

New Member
Aug 7, 2021
6
Illinois
I don’t see us wanting to deal with storing firewood and cleaning up ashes going forward.

I’m trying to decide whether we put a ventless unit in there and leave the damper closed and not deal with the smokebox/flue/etc again. Or is there any benefit to keeping it open as a vented gas burner? I’m ok with spending more to fix the chimney up if there is a benefit to it.

I guess put another way - what way are your industries customers generally headed? Are a lot of people fixing up chimneys that need it or is the trend to convert to ventless and close it off?

Also while looking into this I saw some sites saying if you convert to ventless you need an insert. That wasn’t mentioned in my estimate though, it was just a burner/log replacement. Is there a reason I wouldn’t need one?
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
89,681
South Puget Sound, WA
If you will not be using the fireplace at all, the main benefit to fixing the chimney is both safety if you ever decide to burn wood (say in a power outage) in the future and home value when the place sells.
 

Baldar

New Member
Aug 7, 2021
6
Illinois
We would like to use it occasionally, just as gas not wood. I could see us lighting it up during a power outage (I believe gas still works for this, just have to light it manually?), holidays, and maybe just for chilling out in that room occasionally.

So I think that leaves us with vented gas and ventless as options. And for vented we’d have to fix the chimney, right? We were told using the current gas burner was unsafe because the smokebox needed to be larger and we had gaps in our flue tiles. So we have to fix those things to use the burner that is in there (or replace it with something newer), correct?

And if we went ventless then we could close the damper, right?

I don’t see us ever wanting to deal with wood. I’m trying to figure out what we need to do to make it a safe and functioning gas setup, either vented or ventless.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
25,581
central pa
We would like to use it occasionally, just as gas not wood. I could see us lighting it up during a power outage (I believe gas still works for this, just have to light it manually?), holidays, and maybe just for chilling out in that room occasionally.

So I think that leaves us with vented gas and ventless as options. And for vented we’d have to fix the chimney, right? We were told using the current gas burner was unsafe because the smokebox needed to be larger and we had gaps in our flue tiles. So we have to fix those things to use the burner that is in there (or replace it with something newer), correct?

And if we went ventless then we could close the damper, right?

I don’t see us ever wanting to deal with wood. I’m trying to figure out what we need to do to make it a safe and functioning gas setup, either vented or ventless.
No unit is ventless. They are either vented to outside or vented into your house. If it were me I would get rid of the long set all together and go with a vented insert with a small intake and exhaust liner. It will be an efficient heater and you won't be dumping the byproducts of combustion into your home.
 

Baldar

New Member
Aug 7, 2021
6
Illinois
Thanks - that would look something like this then? I’m guessing I wouldn’t have to deal with having the smokebox parged then as the liners go right into the insert? Would I have to deal with anything in the flue outside of those liners (removing tiles, thermix, etc)?

if this is just adding the intake and exhaust liner, an insert and not dealing with all of the other masonry items it may be exactly what I was looking for
0D26E6FB-442D-4C45-8FFC-545B0824CE15.png
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
25,581
central pa
Thanks - that would look something like this then? I’m guessing I wouldn’t have to deal with having the smokebox parged then as the liners go right into the insert? Would I have to deal with anything in the flue outside of those liners (removing tiles, thermix, etc)?

if this is just adding the intake and exhaust liner, an insert and not dealing with all of the other masonry items it may be exactly what I was looking for View attachment 280781

Correct. The chimney will need to be cleaned properly. And inspected to be sure there are no structural or fire hazards. But the smoke chamber and bad tiles won't matter if you are installing an insert with liners
 

Baldar

New Member
Aug 7, 2021
6
Illinois
I wanted to circle back around and thank everyone for the help. I got info here that I didn’t get from my chimney inspector. It helped me figure out what I wanted. You also indirectly helped me to find contractors local to me more in line with my needs as I can now talk chimneys and fireplaces with a bit more knowledge.

I have a local mason coming out soon to inspect the chimney, and he has a fireplace insert company he works closely with. After talking to both of them I have a better feeling about this project.

Thanks again.