Wood stove insert in an old zero-clearance pre-fab?

  • 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.

PDutro

New Member
Sep 26, 2021
33
Oregon
Had an installer out to look at the space I’m thinking of building an alcove for a free standing wood stove. It would involve removal of the pre-fab zero-clearance fireplace original to the house (I’m assuming) built in 1977.

The installer said because our ZC is fairly large, a wood stove insert would be a viable option, and would just require removing the old brass front and running a new stainless steel glue up the existing chase.

I have read conflicting claims about whether this is safe or not. I am wanting a wood stove to keep the house warm in the case of an extended power outage, as well as for winter time fires for fun.

So is this really a safe, viable option? It would reduce the cost significantly because I wouldn’t need to build out the alcove.

Thanks
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
26,201
central pa
W
Had an installer out to look at the space I’m thinking of building an alcove for a free standing wood stove. It would involve removal of the pre-fab zero-clearance fireplace original to the house (I’m assuming) built in 1977.

The installer said because our ZC is fairly large, a wood stove insert would be a viable option, and would just require removing the old brass front and running a new stainless steel glue up the existing chase.

I have read conflicting claims about whether this is safe or not. I am wanting a wood stove to keep the house warm in the case of an extended power outage, as well as for winter time fires for fun.

So is this really a safe, viable option? It would reduce the cost significantly because I wouldn’t need to build out the alcove.

Thanks
What make and model is your fireplace? That is what will determine the viability of an insert install.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
26,201
central pa
I don’t know. It’s from the late 70’s, no markings that I can see.

Possible to identify by the design?
There were no fireplaces made during that time period that allow inserts to be installed. There is no way it can be done to code. Safety wise no one has any idea if it is safe because it has never been tested
 

PDutro

New Member
Sep 26, 2021
33
Oregon
There were no fireplaces made during that time period that allow inserts to be installed. There is no way it can be done to code. Safety wise no one has any idea if it is safe because it has never been tested
Dang.

My original plan was to take it out and do an alcove. Is there an option for a wood stove insert that doesn’t involve putting it into the existing pre-fab? Would the only solution for that be a new prefab first and then an insert?

Thanks so much for your help, by the way. Have you done installs before?
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
26,201
central pa
Dang.

My original plan was to take it out and do an alcove. Is there an option for a wood stove insert that doesn’t involve putting it into the existing pre-fab? Would the only solution for that be a new prefab first and then an insert?

Thanks so much for your help, by the way. Have you done installs before?
There are high efficiency prefab fireplaces.
 

stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
2,031
Long Island NY
The OP started by saying he wanted a free standing stove. If removing the old system, and opening up the whole thing into a real (and tall) alcove, one could do that. You will have to decide what you want (stove, or otherwise), and then what model. Then check the manual of the model you want to look for clearances to combustibles, left/right, rear, and top.

This is a bit more work, but you'll get good heat out of a truly free standing stove - especially the larger he alcove is.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
26,201
central pa
High efficiency fireplaces can still put out plenty of heat with the advantage of being able to duct them to other areas as well.

The down side is there isn't all that much selection. The cost is higher than a freestanding stove and they are more reliant on blowers.
 
  • Like
Reactions: stoveliker

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
90,662
South Puget Sound, WA
Off the top of my head RSF, Kozy, FPX, Pacific Energy, Valcourt (SBI), Quadrafire, Napoleon, Astria, Heat n Glo, Supreme and Buck all make EPA ZC fireplaces.
 

PDutro

New Member
Sep 26, 2021
33
Oregon
High efficiency fireplaces can still put out plenty of heat with the advantage of being able to duct them to other areas as well.

The down side is there isn't all that much selection. The cost is higher than a freestanding stove and they are more reliant on blowers.
That’s where I’m at in the decision making process: I don’t think the cost is much higher for a high efficiency ZC, since the freestanding stove option includes the cost of building out the alcove as well as the class A flue which are spendy right now.

It would also save me a lot of work since I’d be doing the alcove myself with some help from my father in law. In the case of a ZC, I have the excuse of letting someone else do all the work :)

I’m torn between the two. The ZC would probably be better overall for aesthetics (wife) and resale, and maybe a little easier to keep the kids from burns.

A freestanding is probably better as a workhorse, more durable with a slight advantage in the way it heats the house.

My alcove space is limited, would be about 27” deep and maybe 58” wide. A medium size freestanding would protrude a few inches (no big deal), but we wouldn’t have an option of a mantle (aesthetics: wife).

Anyway, that’s where I’m at, I don’t expect y’all to make a decision for me I’m just brain dumping! Input always appreciated.
 

stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
2,031
Long Island NY
Doesn't the ZC also need a class A?
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
26,201
central pa
That’s where I’m at in the decision making process: I don’t think the cost is much higher for a high efficiency ZC, since the freestanding stove option includes the cost of building out the alcove as well as the class A flue which are spendy right now.

It would also save me a lot of work since I’d be doing the alcove myself with some help from my father in law. In the case of a ZC, I have the excuse of letting someone else do all the work :)

I’m torn between the two. The ZC would probably be better overall for aesthetics (wife) and resale, and maybe a little easier to keep the kids from burns.

A freestanding is probably better as a workhorse, more durable with a slight advantage in the way it heats the house.

My alcove space is limited, would be about 27” deep and maybe 58” wide. A medium size freestanding would protrude a few inches (no big deal), but we wouldn’t have an option of a mantle (aesthetics: wife).

Anyway, that’s where I’m at, I don’t expect y’all to make a decision for me I’m just brain dumping! Input always appreciated.
The zc will need a new class a chimney as well.
 
  • Like
Reactions: PDutro

EbS-P

Minister of Fire
Jan 19, 2019
1,504
SE North Carolina
How long do you think you will be in the house? Longer than 15 years I say stove. Really we never know but… my wife keeps begging to move. I don’t think we will… ever (ever =15 years). Stoves are easy to swap ZCs not so much. My jotul will move with me.
Being able to duct a ZC is super nice. If you can’t I vote stove.
The whole fireplace rehab thing is a fad that keeps contractors busy. One wanted to tile (glass accents) our entire 8x 5 sandstone. In three years it would need another update. This year is not the year to be making this choice(I said this last year too). Being on. 2022!!

Just some thoughts.
 

PDutro

New Member
Sep 26, 2021
33
Oregon
How long do you think you will be in the house? Longer than 15 years I say stove. Really we never know but… my wife keeps begging to move. I don’t think we will… ever (ever =15 years). Stoves are easy to swap ZCs not so much. My jotul will move with me.
Being able to duct a ZC is super nice. If you can’t I vote stove.
The whole fireplace rehab thing is a fad that keeps contractors busy. One wanted to tile (glass accents) our entire 8x 5 sandstone. In three years it would need another update. This year is not the year to be making this choice(I said this last year too). Being on. 2022!!

Just some thoughts.
Well I live in Oregon which is fast descending into madness, so chances are high we won’t be here another 15 years. In fact if things continue the way they are 5 years might even be pushing it!

Not to start a political discussion, but yeah 15 more years here would be because we got stuck.

So am I correct in thinking the cost difference between the two would be negligible, and a ZC, because it wouldn’t involve building out an alcove, would be less labor intensive?

What’s the typical install process look like for a ZC when it’s replacing an existing ZC?
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
90,662
South Puget Sound, WA
Is the ZC fireplace boxed in a bumpout on an exterior or is it on an interior wall? Can you post a picture or two of the current setup?

Often alcove installs for a ZC replacement get expensive because people are trying to push the clearance limits to the maximum. And they try to lower the ceiling and add a mantel. Add a stone veneer and things can get costly. None of this is necessary for good heat.

Figure out how wide and how deep the interior of the existing enclosure for the ZC is. That will help with planning. Keeping the alcove simple can often save thousands.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
26,201
central pa
Well I live in Oregon which is fast descending into madness, so chances are high we won’t be here another 15 years. In fact if things continue the way they are 5 years might even be pushing it!

Not to start a political discussion, but yeah 15 more years here would be because we got stuck.

So am I correct in thinking the cost difference between the two would be negligible, and a ZC, because it wouldn’t involve building out an alcove, would be less labor intensive?

What’s the typical install process look like for a ZC when it’s replacing an existing ZC?
Typically to install a new zc unit you open up the wall remove the old fireplace and chimney. Then reframe to meet the specs of you new unit install it build the chimney up from there then refinish the face.

Construction costs and chimney costs will be about the same. So the difference will be in the cost of the stove.
 

PDutro

New Member
Sep 26, 2021
33
Oregon
Typically to install a new zc unit you open up the wall remove the old fireplace and chimney. Then reframe to meet the specs of you new unit install it build the chimney up from there then refinish the face.

Construction costs and chimney costs will be about the same. So the difference will be in the cost of the stove.
It’s on an inside wall. The existing unit has a firebox 37” wide by 24” high by 18.5” deep.

The surround is 50” wide and 34” tall.

From the corner to the left to the firebox opening is about 11”

0BD41204-E849-469A-9DD4-1A37D48240A1.jpeg FE087A9A-9918-40A5-96C4-90855EA0F3A0.jpeg
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
90,662
South Puget Sound, WA
What is on the backside? Is the bumpout in another room next to a closet? Just guessing, but it looks like the chase ID for it would be around 48" x 24". If cost was not a deal breaker, would you keep anything currently in place like the hearth or surround?
 

PDutro

New Member
Sep 26, 2021
33
Oregon
What is on the backside? Is the bumpout in another room next to a closet? Just guessing, but it looks like the chase ID for it would be around 48" x 24". If cost was not a deal breaker, would you keep anything currently in place like the hearth or surround?
There’s a closet to the right of the fireplace with the door on the back side of the wall/bump out. The depth is about 33”, not accounting for framing.

No, if we are going to tear stuff up we are going to update, too. So looking to remove the old surround. Did you have another idea?
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
90,662
South Puget Sound, WA
No, if we are going to tear stuff up we are going to update, too. So looking to remove the old surround. Did you have another idea?
Just creating a mental picture of the options. Process thinking is cheap so I like to explore all options, even if 90% are rejected. The fireplace looks awkward stuck at the end of the wall like that so I was mentally playing with a corner freestander look. This would require a tee with a wall pass-thru thimble for the stove. I was wondering if that would liberate some space to the room behind it. It could allow for a chest of drawers to be built in below. Like I said, just dreamin.
 

PDutro

New Member
Sep 26, 2021
33
Oregon
Just creating a mental picture of the options. Process thinking is cheap so I like to explore all options, even if 90% are rejected. The fireplace looks awkward stuck at the end of the wall like that so I was mentally playing with a corner freestander look. This would require a tee with a wall pass-thru thimble for the stove. I was wondering if that would liberate some space to the room behind it. It could allow for a chest of drawers to be built in below. Like I said, just dreamin.
I thought about a corner freestander too. Not understanding the chest of drawers concept, tell me more?

So if we went corner freestanding, we’d pull the ZC and close up the hole in order to build the surround. And the ‘tee’ would run off the stove pipe into the wall thimble, into the chase?
 

EbS-P

Minister of Fire
Jan 19, 2019
1,504
SE North Carolina
From the corner to the left to the firebox opening is about 11”
This seems tight. Just checked FP30 and they need 30” to adjacent wall. Corner free standing into existing chase at a height that the bump out in the other room could be repurposed while still giving access to clean out T.

Demo is fast/cheap. Framing and finishing flat walls is faster than all the extra work to frame out a new chase. I just some are getting all you money back on this project when you sell. Do it because you want it for what what ever time you have left in the house. Or take a couple nice vacations.