Replacing an Old Zero Clearance in a Chase - Freestanding or Zero Clearance?

MKEAT

New Member
Sep 27, 2017
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Milwaukee
Hello all, I'm a complete novice so I thought I'd reach out to the experts for your thoughts on a project.

I'm in a house built in 1974 and the zero clearance unit looks to be original to the construction. Recently there's been a slow drip during rainstorms that comes through the space between the brick facade and the firebox. Last year I had the cap replaced and sealed. I also sealed up the joint where the chase meets the shingles/flashing but the dripping remains. Second the unit looks to have been modified by the previous home owners to utilize natural gas for fuel but I'd like to use wood fuel going forward. Lastly the brick facade looks dated so I'd like to take it down and replace with something more appealing.

With all that said, I'm trying to understand the scope of replacing the old zero clearance unit with either a freestanding (Preway or Malm) type unit or with a more modern zero clearance unit. I'm not especially attached to either style but rather does the complexity of the project change much with either path?

Any recommendations or feedback would be extremely helpful. The chase is uninsulated, so I expect insulating and drywalling if a freestanding unit is the way to go would be required.
 

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bholler

Chimney sweep
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Jan 14, 2014
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Are you sure that is a zero clearance unit? It really looks like a heatform to me. Especially because it looks like a clay liner sticking out the top
 

MKEAT

New Member
Sep 27, 2017
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Milwaukee
Great question! I'm not 100% certain. I caulked up the mantel piece last spring and snapped these pictures while it was out. It looked like the box itself was carbon or stainless steel and the ducting looked to be galvanized all the way up to the cap within the chase.
 

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begreen

Mooderator
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Nov 18, 2005
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It's a ZC fireplace. Is the goal just an open fire or as a heating unit?
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
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Great question! I'm not 100% certain. I caulked up the mantel piece last spring and snapped these pictures while it was out. It looked like the box itself was carbon or stainless steel and the ducting looked to be galvanized all the way up to the cap within the chase.
Ok yes that is a zc just not one i have seen before.
 

MKEAT

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Sep 27, 2017
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Milwaukee
The main goals are to fix the stubborn leak, update the appearance, and to convert to a functional wood burning unit. It would really be decorative amenity more than a heat source although if the project complexity and cost are fairly similar between a high efficiency heating unit and a ZC or freestanding Malm type unit it would probably be worth putting in the high efficiency style.

The short version is that it would probably get used on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other cold weather holidays.

Thanks again for the info so far, I really appreciate it!
 

cd36

Member
Apr 27, 2015
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Manitoba, Canada
Modern zero clearance fireplaces are high efficiency units, they have to meet the same regulations as freestanders. They aren't well loved around here, most people default to stoves, but I do enjoy mine quite a bit.

That said with a zero clearance fireplace be prepared to spend a bit more, but depending where you are insurance may be cheaper with a zc fireplace.

Our zc fireplace adds nothing to our insurance policy, whole a freestanding unit adds 5 or 10% I can't remember which.

How often do you plan on burning with it?


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bholler

Chimney sweep
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Jan 14, 2014
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Modern zero clearance fireplaces are high efficiency units, they have to meet the same regulations as freestanders. They aren't well loved around here, most people default to stoves, but I do enjoy mine quite a bit.

That said with a zero clearance fireplace be prepared to spend a bit more, but depending where you are insurance may be cheaper with a zc fireplace.

Our zc fireplace adds nothing to our insurance policy, whole a freestanding unit adds 5 or 10% I can't remember which.

How often do you plan on burning with it?


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There are lots of people here who have high efficency zc units and like them. Really the only downsides are the reliance on fans for good heat output and the price.
 

cd36

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Apr 27, 2015
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Manitoba, Canada
There are lots of people here who have high efficency zc units and like them. Really the only downsides are the reliance on fans for good heat output and the price.
And I'm one of them. I've just found that in most suggestion threads lately people have been pushing stoves and saying to avoid zc fireplaces. I know there's others out there that have zc fireplaces and like them, they just don't seem to be that vocal of a group.

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MKEAT

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Sep 27, 2017
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Milwaukee
Fantastic info again, thank you. I didn’t even consider the effects on homeowners insurance until you mentioned it. I’ll send a message to my agent today to see what they’ve got to say!

If I had to guess how frequently I’d be burning I’d say maybe 5 or 6 times per month through the winter (in Milwaukee) so 20 to 25 fires per season at the most.

I’m planning on stopping in to the local retailer here in town to see what advice they’ve got and what a rough breakdown of the project looks like. http://www.fireplaceltd.net Having read through Lennox’s Solana instruction document I’m leaning towards doing the demo and prep myself and possibly letting an experienced expert handle the install and permitting with the city. I’m perfectly comfortable doing the finishing (drywall/painting) but the real nuts and bolts of getting it properly installed and permitted is definitely out of my experience!
 

begreen

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The Solana is by BIS (sold thru Lennox) Their Tradition and Tradition CE are more efficient. If you are on a budget take a look at the Flame Monaco fireplace. Also at the Milwaukee shop, look at the Kozy Z42.
 
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mminor

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Sep 11, 2015
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Hello. I just added a ZC fireplace to my 1955 house (there was no FP prior to the install) and can confirm what others have said - a ZC FP is more expensive than a freestanding stove - blah!

One positive of a ZC FP which I don't see mentioned often is that it typically adds to the resale value of the house - depending on where you live of course. We spoke to a few real estate brokers in our area and they confirmed having a FP will add value to our house. This is because FP's are on many people's 'wish list'. In our area - a prospective buyer generally doesn't want a wood stove (even though I love them) and will end up ripping it out if they buy a home with one.

The other reason we liked the ZC idea is that it doesn't take-up valuable floor space in the living room since it's used as a bump-out / alcove installation.

I will do a full-on review with pictures of my Northstar at a later time, but here are a couple pictures...

Good luck and let us know what you decide.
Matt
 

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MKEAT

New Member
Sep 27, 2017
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Milwaukee
Hello all, I stopped in to a local fireplace shop to look through the showroom and have an in-home estimate done. I was a little surprised by the quote but since I know virtually nothing about zero clearance installs maybe it's actually a fantastic deal? I understand every city will have natural differences in cost just like real estate prices can be hugely different so I thought I'd share the quote to see if you experts think it's a great deal or no? Just looking for feedback or advice!

Screen Shot 2017-10-08 at 11.06.08 AM.png
 
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begreen

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This is for a basic fireplace, mostly for ambient burning. The price seems high for the fireplace if this is a Superior WRT3036. I thought it listed around $600.
 

cd36

Member
Apr 27, 2015
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Manitoba, Canada
Labour seems high, $2,000 for install? I'd have to check what mine was but I don't think it was near that. I think they had mine set in place and chimney ran in half a day. I had a simple chimney install so that could make a difference.

Also the place I bought from had an offseason discount. I think it was 25% unfortunately you're probably in the busy season so your negotiation may be limited.

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begreen

Mooderator
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Labour seems high, $2,000 for install?
Agreed, especially considering the OP is doing a lot of the work.

Take a look at a freestanding stove replacement. There are several examples of these installations on hearth.com that have been mostly DIY. In this case the installation would be a shallow alcove. The most important thing is to plan well. Alcove installations have specific clearance requirements, so the stove choice is limited to those that fit correctly. In the end though you will have a true heater for the home that will burn less wood and a nice looking installation you can be proud of.
 
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Sodbuster

Minister of Fire
Sep 22, 2012
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Wow, I second what begreen just said. For that much money (or less) you could have a real wood stove, that would heat your home. I know it's not your goal right now, but things change. In an emergency like an extended power outage, you'd be warm. It's not hard to build an alcove, it's what I did when we tore out our ZC fireplace. It now heats our entire house, and looks great too.