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General or Specific Interest Regarding Fireplaces

Posted by By at 3 September, at 15 : 20 PM Print may be several reasons to tear out and replace an existing prefabricated fireplace. It may be:

  • Damaged from fire, water or deterioration
  • It no longer suits the design of the home or the lifestyle of your family
  • A more energy efficient unit is needed
  • A conversion to gas is desirable

Many of the prefabricated metal woodburning fireplaces that were so popular in the 1970’s and 1980’s have outlived their warranties and their usefulness. Chimney sweeps often refer to these units as “temporary” fireplaces. These fireplaces can suffer from many problems that mean extra care should be involved in annual service. They should be checked for:

  • Proper clearances to adjacent combustibles.
  • Improperly installed or connected pipe or pipe that’s damaged or deteriorated.
  • Damaged refractory (the “brick” style walls) which can compromise their ability to insulate adjacent combustible walls behind & beside the fireplace.
  • Damaged chimney caps
  • Improperly installed flashings

Prefabricated woodburning fireplaces should never be used to house a woodburning stove or fireplace insert. They should not be used to install open gas fires such as gas logs unless a knockout plate is present, indicating the unit is approved for gas logs. VENT FREE LOGS SHOULD NEVER BE INSTALLED IN A PREFAB FIREPLACE and used with the damper shut. The unit was designed for use with an open damper and vent-free logs may transfer too much heat to adjacent combustibles.

The very first step in undertaking a prefabricated fireplace replacement is thorough planning.

  • Will the old unit be removed through the rear of the chase (the framed opening that
    contains it) or through the front?
  • Removal from the rear may mean removing siding, sheetrock, framing or even brick or
    stone. A means of repairing or replacing these materials must be considered.
  • Removal from the front may mean removal of facing materials such as brick, stone, marble, slate, tile, etc. plus removal of the mantel. Sometimes removal of the hearth will be required. Reframing the opening may mean new framing materials, sheetrock, etc.
  • For the easiest job, find a replacement model whose dimensions are as close as possible to the size of the old fireplace, or slightly smaller. This will require much less work and construction materials.
  • Will the new model burn wood or gas? Will it be purely decorative, or would you prefer
    a high-efficiency wood or gas unit that produces heat from the fuel consumed?
  • If the new unit has a blower, plan for an electrician to run wiring if needed.
  • If installing a gas model then planning for installation of the gas lines will be needed and should ideally be done between the time the old unit is removed and when the new one is installed, and allow time for building inspections that may include structural, mechanical and gas.
  • Changes to the roof or chase top will likely be needed. Plan to include a new flashing in the job that will accommodate the smaller sized chimney or vent pipes used for today’s new model fireplaces. The new unit might best be installed so that it actually does not vent through the same hole any more.
  • Will you reuse your old mantel? Will you reuse your old facing materials? You may
    like to take this opportunity to replace outdated design elements with a look that
    better suits your tastes. There will never be a better time than now to design your
    new hearth! Look through home decorating magazines to find some designs that you
    like, and we’ll be happy to help with ideas if you like and to determine what it takes to
    make your dream fireplace into a reality!
  • Although this is not a small project, for most homes the job can be done in one to 3 days. Allow extra time, of course, if your new fireplace will require drastic changes such as ceramic tile or cultured stone. Even so, a week is usually the longest it would take for a complete replacement and redesign.

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