Texas winter storm ZC conversion

  • 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.

VossDosson

New Member
Mar 6, 2021
12
Texas
Woodhtr: quick follow up. Thank you for recommending the Apex stove. I hope that I'm getting the top clearance/ceiling requirements wrong as my dealer salesperson also recommended a ZC fireplace like the Apex, but the installer then said no-go because I'm right back to the top clearance/ceiling limitations of a freestanding stove. Attached are screenshots from the Apex manual that shows a minimum top ceiling clearance of 78.5". Did you already have this high of clearance? If not, how did you get around it? My installer is telling me that I have to, basically, raise the alcove height (which means cutting out part of the wall) to whatever the manufacturer says (and then back down to NFPA 211 tolerances). If, for example, I did raise the ceiling height to 78", I'd have a mantel that's nearly 7 feet tall!

Please tell me I'm wrong. I hope there's a solution. Otherwise, I'm likely gonna throw a fireback in my fireplace and move on. Much thanks.
Sorry, here are the pics from the Apex manual.
 

Attachments

  • Screenshot_20210318_232644.jpg
    Screenshot_20210318_232644.jpg
    78.6 KB · Views: 46
  • Screenshot_20210318_232624.jpg
    Screenshot_20210318_232624.jpg
    55.8 KB · Views: 67

kennyp2339

Minister of Fire
Feb 16, 2014
5,943
07462
Unfortunately anything you do will require more construction then you would like, also like I mentioned in my earlier post, your chimney pipe from the existing appliance to the cap will more then likely need to be changed to a class a pipe rated for either a woodstove or epa zero clearance unit (more work)
I dont know the floor plan of your house, but a simple free standing unit in a different area of the house might be a cheaper alternative, or you can do the demo work yourself. The brick stacks on either side of the stove are just stacks in front of a separate unit, the tile more or less is just mortared on either plywood or cement backer board with some front wood trim. more then likely you have double up 2x10's on either side of the unit making a simple wooden chase the fireplace sits into.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
25,557
central pa
Sorry, here are the pics from the Apex manual.
Those are framing requirements there is probably a different section covering surface finishes
 

woodhtr

Member
Feb 13, 2019
18
Norcal
Woodhtr: quick follow up. Thank you for recommending the Apex stove. I hope that I'm getting the top clearance/ceiling requirements wrong as my dealer salesperson also recommended a ZC fireplace like the Apex, but the installer then said no-go because I'm right back to the top clearance/ceiling limitations of a freestanding stove. Attached are screenshots from the Apex manual that shows a minimum top ceiling clearance of 78.5". Did you already have this high of clearance? If not, how did you get around it? My installer is telling me that I have to, basically, raise the alcove height (which means cutting out part of the wall) to whatever the manufacturer says (and then back down to NFPA 211 tolerances). If, for example, I did raise the ceiling height to 78", I'd have a mantel that's nearly 7 feet tall!

Please tell me I'm wrong. I hope there's a solution. Otherwise, I'm likely gonna throw a fireback in my fireplace and move on. Much thanks.
The 42 Apex specifies non combustible material above it up to about 80 in (or 78 in as you've stated) above the unit. This just means that you install a non combustible backing board like Durock board up to that height. Everything else around those dimensions can be drywall.

I ended up not installing a mantel because I hung the TV up over it, which is installed above the specified (non combustible)mantel height. This is probably not encouraged, but is not specifically disallowed.

Again, this was an interesting project, but I'm not sure how much mileage you will get out of this in Texas unless you are up in the panhandle. I used to live near the coast... we'd have a few days of near freezing weather, then back to 80 degrees and humid.
 

Attachments

  • IMG_0247.jpg
    IMG_0247.jpg
    20.7 KB · Views: 61

woodhtr

Member
Feb 13, 2019
18
Norcal
My installer is telling me that I have to, basically, raise the alcove height (which means cutting out part of the wall) to whatever the manufacturer says (and then back down to NFPA 211 tolerances). If, for example, I did raise the ceiling height to 78", I'd have a mantel that's nearly 7 feet tall!

Please tell me I'm wrong. I hope there's a solution. Otherwise, I'm likely gonna throw a fireback in my fireplace and move on. Much thanks.

Don't be so afraid of cutting out that part of your wall... its a less big deal than you'd think. Even if you went with a ZC fireplace, you will have to re-do the framing.

If you want a free standing wood stove in the alcove, it sounds like you will have to go with an alcove with ceiling height equal to the ceiling of the living room. This may not be bad aesthetically, but obviously you won't be able to do a mantel.

Another option to consider... freestanding gas stove that may be able to use different (ie cheaper) chimney system, potentially even venting to an outside wall... much less demo work. I assume when the power went out that natural gas was still working? Wood heating is awesome and fun, but you need to have a supply of wood, split it, and season it. Its not economicaly to buy boxes of kiln dried wood from HEB to heat your house...
 

clancey

Minister of Fire
Feb 26, 2021
1,398
Colorado
It isn't like you trust it for you mentioned weight bearing stoves and it isn't like you built your home and know it well for these reasons I would move on and figure out something else and is it that pretty so in a emergency you would have no heat and need to jump all around like this to figure out what to do with the space. I would take a vacation and figure it out little by little when you get some confidence in the people and the situation..Throw a firebrick in it and move on... "Just a oldsters opinion with no experience with these things".. Get a little wood burning stove just for a emergency so that you feel prepared and place it somewhere nice and make it pretty and enjoy the warming heat when you want to for that would settle your mind... After the Texas blackout I started thinking as well about these emergencies and right now I am in the mist of installing a wood stove in my unfinished porch ----Just in case...Good luck with your decision making--clancey
 
We replaced a ZC fireplace with a wood stove last year. We are now able to heat mostly by wood instead of using the propane furnace. We lose power frequently here in the California redwoods and this has greatly mitigated the impact during the winter months. We love the aesthetics of a wood stove as well.

This is what it looked like before:

before.jpg

This is after. Note: we did lose the TV. There was no way to keep it with the alcove clearances. But, I like the new look:

after.jpg

The stove has a rear heat shield and blower. The walls are fire resistant with an air gap (you can just see it at the top and bottom of the sides. The stove pipe is double-walled. All of the work was done by the contractor recommended by the wood stove store and to code. I think our all-in costs, including the stove, was about $10K. So, not cheap. We'd do it again without hesitation.
 

clancey

Minister of Fire
Feb 26, 2021
1,398
Colorado
You did a beautiful job on Finlayson and it is really rich and beautiful looking ---good job---that might give our new member Voss Dosson a heads up to continue with this line of thought--good for you,,,Beautiful...clancey
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
25,557
central pa
We replaced a ZC fireplace with a wood stove last year. We are now able to heat mostly by wood instead of using the propane furnace. We lose power frequently here in the California redwoods and this has greatly mitigated the impact during the winter months. We love the aesthetics of a wood stove as well.

This is what it looked like before:

View attachment 277039

This is after. Note: we did lose the TV. There was no way to keep it with the alcove clearances. But, I like the new look:

View attachment 277040

The stove has a rear heat shield and blower. The walls are fire resistant with an air gap (you can just see it at the top and bottom of the sides. The stove pipe is double-walled. All of the work was done by the contractor recommended by the wood stove store and to code. I think our all-in costs, including the stove, was about $10K. So, not cheap. We'd do it again without hesitation.
Is there a 1" air gap at the bottom of those walls I can't see it in the picture. And it also looks like the side door handle is still there.
 
Yes, there is an air gap at the top and bottom of the walls and they are standing away from the backing by a 2" gap. The actual width of the alcove is almost exactly 14" on each side to combustibles without those fire-proof walls, but I was uncomfortable with the temperatures the walls were reaching on some early test fires, so we brought back the contractor to put the fire walls in. That reduced the width to 12" on each side today (I believe the manual says 6" is allowable).

I was supposed to put the side door lock kit on myself. It sits in a drawer.
 
  • Like
Reactions: bholler

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
25,557
central pa
Yes, there is an air gap at the top and bottom of the walls and they are standing away from the backing by a 2" gap. The actual width of the alcove is almost exactly 14" on each side to combustibles without those fire-proof walls, but I was uncomfortable with the temperatures the walls were reaching on some early test fires, so we brought back the contractor to put the fire walls in. That reduced the width to 12" on each side today (I believe the manual says 6" is allowable).

I was supposed to put the side door lock kit on myself. It sits in a drawer.
Good to hear the gaps are there.
 

VossDosson

New Member
Mar 6, 2021
12
Texas
Great looking remodel! Nicely done.

It looks like I'll be going with a high efficiency fireplace. It's really my only option without getting into a remodel situation. Any suggestions? I'm having a hard time finding one that meets the 75% HHV rating for the federal tax credit while still maintaining the more traditional stove look. Hearthstone makes the WFP-75, but it's only 36" wide and doesn't qualify for the tax credit. Napoleon makes the High Country 3000, but it sure is pricey.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
25,557
central pa
Great looking remodel! Nicely done.

It looks like I'll be going with a high efficiency fireplace. It's really my only option without getting into a remodel situation. Any suggestions? I'm having a hard time finding one that meets the 75% HHV rating for the federal tax credit while still maintaining the more traditional stove look. Hearthstone makes the WFP-75, but it's only 36" wide and doesn't qualify for the tax credit. Napoleon makes the High Country 3000, but it sure is pricey.
Most are still going to require quite a bit of reworking
 

xterra

Member
Dec 9, 2015
25
PA
Having gone through a full fireplace reno and new insert, i spent the money knowing that I will burn 24/7 through the winter in NE PA and have unlimited access to wood fuel. Seeing that incidents like this in Texas are sporadic, does it make sense to put the money toward a standby propane generator with a propane tank large enough to cover your calculated needs during an emergency?

Don't mean to derail your project, just spitballing' here. Plus, the standby would resolve summer storm issues too.

Either way - I appreciate your want to prepare to better manage emergencies like this. The news made it seem like MOST were not even remotely prepared.
 

woodhtr

Member
Feb 13, 2019
18
Norcal
Having gone through a full fireplace reno and new insert, i spent the money knowing that I will burn 24/7 through the winter in NE PA and have unlimited access to wood fuel. Seeing that incidents like this in Texas are sporadic, does it make sense to put the money toward a standby propane generator with a propane tank large enough to cover your calculated needs during an emergency?

Don't mean to derail your project, just spitballing' here. Plus, the standby would resolve summer storm issues too.

Either way - I appreciate your want to prepare to better manage emergencies like this. The news made it seem like MOST were not even remotely prepared.

There's a lot of sense in this post.

The real question is did people even lose natural gas supply in Texas during the freeze? If you still had natural gas, you could get a small generator to power the blower and electronics on your forced air natural gas furnace. Or you can burn your natural gas fireplace for heat.

If you are going to get a zero clearance fireplace like mine, you will still have to do some framing work on the wall. I love mine. I think Fireplace X Apex 42 has efficiency just short of the 75% required for the tax rebate. If you like the look of this unit, I would recommend calling the manufacturer, Travis industries, and asking if they have any plans to get the unit re certified to try to make the cutoff. I bet they could re test under different conditions or make some small design tweak that would qualify the unit for the tax rebate.
 

clancey

Minister of Fire
Feb 26, 2021
1,398
Colorado
I would throw a log in that "ugly fireplace" and move on.. Check out the stand by solar generators which I know nothing about..I do have a stand by natural gas one that I absolutely love and every Friday it takes is's 20 minute exercise and it hums like a good running used car sound. I have it now for 11 years and I baby it by having it cleaned and check every year. Its all computerized and it has come in handy now for about 4 or 5 times over the years. My last episode was in the winter time freezing cold and the electric was off for about 8 hours and I looked out my window and heard people out in the street with flashlights --Do you have electricity yet? I was sitting in my chair watching television deciding what I wanted to eat keeping my lights low because I didn't want other people to know that I had full lights and full heat and full hot water and it did not matter to me how long the lights would be off in my neighborhood. It was a real good feeling--feeling bad for my neighbors but knowing I made a good decision when everybody told me that it was just a waste of money for electricity in the city is never off for a long time. I suggest that if you want a wood burner for emergencies then you get one and start from scratch and pick out the one you want and be free to choose the size you want and the place you want to put it feeling secure with it for you know that you did it right and do not have to worry about the floor falling in or the house catching on fire.. Have a beautiful little wood shed built and every time you see that in your yard you will appreciate having that security for your family as your wood keeps dry.. Lots of good fortune and fun in discovering how to be independent after all of this nasty stuff is decided on...Bless you clancey
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
25,557
central pa
I would throw a log in that "ugly fireplace" and move on.. Check out the stand by solar generators which I know nothing about..I do have a stand by natural gas one that I absolutely love and every Friday it takes is's 20 minute exercise and it hums like a good running used car sound. I have it now for 11 years and I baby it by having it cleaned and check every year. Its all computerized and it has come in handy now for about 4 or 5 times over the years. My last episode was in the winter time freezing cold and the electric was off for about 8 hours and I looked out my window and heard people out in the street with flashlights --Do you have electricity yet? I was sitting in my chair watching television deciding what I wanted to eat keeping my lights low because I didn't want other people to know that I had full lights and full heat and full hot water and it did not matter to me how long the lights would be off in my neighborhood. It was a real good feeling--feeling bad for my neighbors but knowing I made a good decision when everybody told me that it was just a waste of money for electricity in the city is never off for a long time. I suggest that if you want a wood burner for emergencies then you get one and start from scratch and pick out the one you want and be free to choose the size you want and the place you want to put it feeling secure with it for you know that you did it right and do not have to worry about the floor falling in or the house catching on fire.. Have a beautiful little wood shed built and every time you see that in your yard you will appreciate having that security for your family as your wood keeps dry.. Lots of good fortune and fun in discovering how to be independent after all of this nasty stuff is decided on...Bless you clancey
The problem is that "ugly fireplace" will not heat the house. In most cases they take more heat out of the house than they contribute. And natural gas generator or appliances would not have helped because many didn't have gas.
 

clancey

Minister of Fire
Feb 26, 2021
1,398
Colorado
Yea that's why I suggested a solar one for him to check out because of a lack of natural gas.. He has a lot to think about as we all have been doing to adjust to this type of lifestyle to heat our homes. To tell you the truth when I get my set up completed--I"m afraid of my very first burn and will have the installer present to guide me...That's if I can get real dry wood even if I have to pay more just for the experience of it and I think I might just dread the smell of a new stove too...A lot to think about here.. Just trying to put a real life feel into the situations that can arrive and thankful when I needed the extra protection it was there. In his particular case for the emergency wood stove I would vote for a "free standing one" so he would have more freedom in placing it and in buying the kind he wants and make that fireplace into a book case or something for to me its just not worth all the hassle he has been through with trying to fit something in it..
 
Last edited: