Trying to find an insert to fit this awkward fireplace opening

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bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
26,204
central pa

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
90,665
South Puget Sound, WA
If you decide to replace it, there are some very good quality and good looking, high-efficiency fireplaces on the market that could be installed there or in another location if this one is removed. Properly finished, they look great. Another option is a good freestanding stove in that location.
 

Tommy222

New Member
Aug 30, 2021
31
Missouri
If you decide to replace it, there are some very good quality and good looking, high-efficiency fireplaces on the market that could be installed there or in another location if this one is removed. Properly finished, they look great. Another option is a good freestanding stove in that location.

This is the what it looks like now... When we moved in we painted and added trim to the built in entertainment center.

The whole thing is just kind of awkward and the stonework is not the best..
IMG_2762.jpg

Something like this would be my dream fireplace:
 

EbS-P

Minister of Fire
Jan 19, 2019
1,506
SE North Carolina
This is the what it looks like now... When we moved in we painted and added trim to the built in entertainment center.

The whole thing is just kind of awkward and the stonework is not the best..
View attachment 281588

Something like this would be my dream fireplace:
I think that looks pretty good. The paint And trim on the built in are a nice touch. You many feel that’s it’s awkward but it all looks very intentional in that space.

we tried to burn our masonry fireplace. It burned well but we still got some smoke in the house. I’m pretty sensitive to wood smoke. It just wasn’t worth it. We decided to get a wood stove as I didn’t like the back inserts and it really is 100 times more enjoyable than the fireplace. But i think if we had a gas log set (house is all electric) is would have been almost every bit as enjoyable and more convenient than a wood burner, just not as warm. look Around at some of the alcove stove installations. That might work in that space instead of a fireplace.
Evan
 

Tommy222

New Member
Aug 30, 2021
31
Missouri
Well, the chimney sweep finally came and said it would be totally fine to put in any wood burning insert that fit the space as long as there was a 2 in gap around the sides and it had a pipe insert.

I started by saying we learned we couldn't do that, but he stopped me and said they do them all the time and it's no issue at all.

I'm still not likely to do it because of the concerns raised here..but its just amazing the amount of variety in expert opinions lol.
 
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bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
26,204
central pa
Well, the chimney sweep finally came and said it would be totally fine to put in any wood burning insert that fit the space as long as there was a 2 in gap around the sides and it had a pipe insert.

I started by saying we learned we couldn't do that, but he stopped me and said they do them all the time and it's no issue at all.

I'm still not likely to do it because of the concerns raised here..but its just amazing the amount of variety in expert opinions lol.
You should have pointed out the statement on the tag and the statement in the manual. This really isn't a matter of opinion. It is whether someone want to do it properly and follow all applicable codes etc. Or if they want to just get the job to make money off of you
 

Tommy222

New Member
Aug 30, 2021
31
Missouri
You should have pointed out the statement on the tag and the statement in the manual. This really isn't a matter of opinion. It is whether someone want to do it properly and follow all applicable codes etc. Or if they want to just get the job to make money off of you
I don't think he was trying to make any money off me. He had nothing to sell me other than the cleaning. Looking in the manuals for inserts, most of them have sections for installing them in prefab fireplaces. I understand the manufacturer of a prefab can't foresee all possible inserts a customer might install, therefore they are likely to keep it simple and say that no other parts from any other company are intended for their fireplace, including inserts. I sell auto parts for a living. Ford is never going to give their blessing for any type of aftermarket work or parts. Does that mean it's not safe? Well, it could...but it's probably not if some common sense is used.

I also understand that a prefab is not UL tested for various types of inserts and wood inserts are typically used longer and more frequently - so there is potential for more strain on the chimney than may have been originally intended. The concerns you raise seem valid to me, but overly cautious... If I go the insert route, I don't plan on using it to heat my whole house all the time. Just on rare occasions. I would also go with a medium sized insert and keep the fires within reason the times I would use it and it would never be used if I wasn't home to babysit it (that goes with any fire). This seems like a completely reasonable option.

And as far as codes, I live in the middle of nowhere. There are no building codes that I am aware of, and I would be very surprised if any kind of inspector would have a problem with it given the amount of people that I've talked to who say it is completely fine.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
26,204
central pa
I don't think he was trying to make any money off me. He had nothing to sell me other than the cleaning. Looking in the manuals for inserts, most of them have sections for installing them in prefab fireplaces. I understand the manufacturer of a prefab can't foresee all possible inserts a customer might install, therefore they are likely to keep it simple and say that no other parts from any other company are intended for their fireplace, including inserts. I sell auto parts for a living. Ford is never going to give their blessing for any type of aftermarket work or parts. Does that mean it's not safe? Well, it could...but it's probably not if some common sense is used.

I also understand that a prefab is not UL tested for various types of inserts and wood inserts are typically used longer and more frequently - so there is potential for more strain on the chimney than may have been originally intended. The concerns you raise seem valid to me, but overly cautious... If I go the insert route, I don't plan on using it to heat my whole house all the time. Just on rare occasions. I would also go with a medium sized insert and keep the fires within reason the times I would use it and it would never be used if I wasn't home to babysit it (that goes with any fire). This seems like a completely reasonable option.

And as far as codes, I live in the middle of nowhere. There are no building codes that I am aware of, and I would be very surprised if any kind of inspector would have a problem with it given the amount of people that I've talked to who say it is completely fine.
Your state without question has building codes. It is certainly possible you have no code enforcement in your area. But that doesn't mean you don't have codes that apply to you. Or that your insurance company won't check for code compliance if something happens.

If you have a pro install it you will atleast be covered by their liability insurance. If you do it yourself it will all be on you.

Now as far as the insert manufacturers go they are very clear when they say the insert needs to be installed in a ul listed fireplace. Your fireplace manufacturer says if you don't install it according to their manual the listing is voided. As soon as you put an insert in there it is no longer a listed fireplace meaning the insert can't be installed.

This is the consensus of every professional organization and soon to be backed by ul as well. It isn't just my opinion or concern.


So you can absolutely choose to install an insert and it may be ok. We don't know but by doing so you are opening yourself up to allot of liability.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
90,665
South Puget Sound, WA
Another concern is that the floors of some cheaper contractor-grade inserts are not strong enough to support the heavy weight of an insert.
 
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Tommy222

New Member
Aug 30, 2021
31
Missouri
Another concern is that the floors of some cheaper contractor-grade inserts are not strong enough to support the heavy weight of an insert.
How is the support held up? Is there not 2X4s, etc underneath?

Also, on some of these they stick out the front - So, I would assume much of the weight is going to be on the hearth in front.
 

Ctwoodtick

Minister of Fire
Jun 5, 2015
1,580
Southeast CT
Also, while there are many good chimney sweeps who do things to code and are diligent, it’s been my experience that there are also a lot that are not. Pretty much like every profession. That’s said, you should be able to find a good one. Don’t settle. I’ve had the experience of having an insert installed then realizing it was a hack install. I paid for a better one. It was not fun but that stuff happens. I’d do your diligence now as opposed to after the fact.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
26,204
central pa
How is the support held up? Is there not 2X4s, etc underneath?

Also, on some of these they stick out the front - So, I would assume much of the weight is going to be on the hearth in front.
There are simply several layers of pretty thin sheet metal making up the bottom with a refractory panel ontop of that. They are only required to support 50lbs a square foot according to the listing requirements. What is the hearth constructed of? Does it meet the r-value requirements of the insert?
 

Tommy222

New Member
Aug 30, 2021
31
Missouri
Your state without question has building codes. It is certainly possible you have no code enforcement in your area. But that doesn't mean you don't have codes that apply to you. Or that your insurance company won't check for code compliance if something happens.

If you have a pro install it you will atleast be covered by their liability insurance. If you do it yourself it will all be on you.

Now as far as the insert manufacturers go they are very clear when they say the insert needs to be installed in a ul listed fireplace. Your fireplace manufacturer says if you don't install it according to their manual the listing is voided. As soon as you put an insert in there it is no longer a listed fireplace meaning the insert can't be installed.

This is the consensus of every professional organization and soon to be backed by ul as well. It isn't just my opinion or concern.


So you can absolutely choose to install an insert and it may be ok. We don't know but by doing so you are opening yourself up to allot of liability.
Yes..I would have it done by an installer. I have zero interest in doing it myself and putting the liability on me if something goes wrong for any reason.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
26,204
central pa
Yes..I would have it done by an installer. I have zero interest in doing it myself and putting the liability on me if something goes wrong for any reason.
As long as their insurance is good you will be covered fairly well. Or you could just insist they follow code and there is not an issue. Honestly I wouldn't want a contactor working in my house who is willing to ignore the safety regulations put in place to protect you.
 

Tommy222

New Member
Aug 30, 2021
31
Missouri
There are simply several layers of pretty thin sheet metal making up the bottom with a refractory panel ontop of that. They are only required to support 50lbs a square foot according to the listing requirements. What is the hearth constructed of? Does it meet the r-value requirements of the insert?
I can't see underneath to know what's holding it up..but the manual makes it looks like there should be 2X4 (at least I assume) framing on ends on each end of the fire box.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
26,204
central pa
I can't see underneath to know what's holding it up..but the manual makes it looks like there should be 2X4 (at least I assume) framing on ends on each end of the fire box.
We are talking about the actual structure of the firebox. There really isn't much there to support the weight of an insert.
 

Tommy222

New Member
Aug 30, 2021
31
Missouri
We are talking about the actual structure of the firebox. There really isn't much there to support the weight of an insert.
Have you ever seen a collapsed firebox because there was an insert in it? I assume you've encountered a lot of installs like this with inserts.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
26,204
central pa
Have you ever seen a collapsed firebox because there was an insert in it? I assume you've encountered a lot of installs like this with inserts.
Honestly I have only seen 2 installs like this with inserts in. And yes one the floor was sagged very badly. The other they had stacked bricks in the space below. Which is very dangerous for multiple reasons.

We really don't have allot of prefab fireplaces and also only have one other sweep in our area and he won't do this sort of install either.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
26,204
central pa
And again I am not saying an insert in your fireplace will be dangerous. I am saying that absolutely no one knows if it is safe or not because no one tested it. There are just way to many ways that it could go horribly wrong for me ever to say it is a wise decision. And I certainly wouldn't put my home at risk like that.

Why not just use this as an open fireplace and install a stove elsewhere.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
26,204
central pa
Now that I think about it there was one fire investigation I did on one but they had completely gutted the zero clearance box only leaving the outer shell so it really isn't applicable at all. They were just morons.
 

Tommy222

New Member
Aug 30, 2021
31
Missouri
Honestly I have only seen 2 installs like this with inserts in. And yes one the floor was sagged very badly. The other they had stacked bricks in the space below. Which is very dangerous for multiple reasons.

We really don't have allot of prefab fireplaces and also only have one other sweep in our area and he won't do this sort of install either.
Yea..must be a regional thing, because it seems super common here from the places I've talked to so far.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
26,204
central pa
Yea..must be a regional thing, because it seems super common here from the places I've talked to so far.
I am sure if we had more prefabs there would be someone here taking advantage of that market. We have a few developments with them. But they really aren't common. I have swapped out maybe 6 or 7 total .
 

Tommy222

New Member
Aug 30, 2021
31
Missouri
We've decided to just pain the inside with high temp paint, put in a new grate, and put a nice decorative screen on it. I think that will make the most of this existing fireplace without spending a fortune and taking any chances.
 

CanFireman

Member
Mar 23, 2018
22
Canada
We've decided to just pain the inside with high temp paint, put in a new grate, and put a nice decorative screen on it. I think that will make the most of this existing fireplace without spending a fortune and taking any chances.
Reading all of this reminds me of the saying, “I can explain it for you, but I cannot understand it for you”.

No matter what you do, this fireplace was meant to be decorative. Will not make any positive impact in heating the space. This is because of dilution air, exchange design, etc.

Question: How is your fireplace vented? Do you see masonry above the roof deck, or factory-built chimney (may be enclosed within a chase)?

Once converted from wood to gas, many units cannot be legitimately converted back. A hole has been drilled through the side for the gasline, and the damper section was likely removed. How exactly will your contractor address this?

Glass doors on units like this are not intended to improve heating efficiency. They are only meant to conceal the opening when the fireplace is not in use.

If factory-built chimney, gut it out.
Replace it was an EPA-certified high-efficient ZC factory-built fireplace with new factory-built chimney.
 
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