If it was me I would raise the thimble 3 feet or so and then your choices are open. I have done it many times it really isn't that big of a deal.It could be raised a little bit, but I would rather not bust out any more bricks than I have to. Yeah, the tree is actually touching the stove. I let the kids put it up. Haven't been using the VC, so no worries. Will be moving it this weekend, cold weather heading our way so I will be firing it up.