How a Wood Burning Insert Made Our Fireplace Safe to Use Again

by on February 27th, 2011
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One of the features that I’ve always appreciated about our home was the massive fireplace in the central living room. Not only did the fireplace make the room a cozy place for guests, it also provided us with heat in the winter.

Unfortunately, ever since the fireplace bricks and mortar began crumbling back in 1999, the fireplace hasn’t been safe to use. We started exploring some options last month for having the fireplace and chimney made operational again, and discovered that relining the flue and installing a wood burning fireplace insert was the best — and most affordable option. A small wood burning insert (all that would fit in our shallow fireplace), plus liner and installation was only $3150, a fraction of the price it would cost to tear out and rebuild our old fireplace and three story chimney.

What is an insert? A fireplace insert is a wood stove that is specially designed to fit inside of an old masonry fireplace. Inserts are made of cast iron or steel, have self cleaning glass doors so that the flames can be seen, and usually come with some kind of blower system to circulate the heat throughout the home.

Installing an insert in three easy steps. Once we made up our mind to have an insert installed in our old fireplace, there was some prep work to be done first. Our install crew took dimensions for both the firebox and the new liner, and readied the fireplace with a thorough cleaning. The loose firebricks in the back of the firebox were removed to create room for the insert.

1. On the day of the installation, the first step was running a new liner through the old chimney. This liner was a flexible stainless steel relining pipe that was pushed down the chimney opening until it reached the top of the firebox.

2. After the liner installation, the crew moved indoors to set the insert. Heat reflective insulation was packed in the rear of the firebox where the bricks had been removed, then the insert was lifted into position and attached to the liner using a connector pipe.

3. To cover up the old fireplace opening, black flashing was installed against the brick. The electrical cord to the blower fan was plugged into the wall socket. That the blower fan wasn’t hardwired in came as a bit of a surprise — thank goodness we had an outlet close to the fireplace, or we would have been out of luck.

The benefits we’ve discovered in having an insert. We’ve had our wood burning insert for less than a week, and already have discovered the difference it’s made in our home. Here’s some of the features that have impressed me:

–Less smoke
–Fires easier to light
–Generates less ash
–Heat radiates to adjacent rooms
–Easier to clean
–Uses 1/3 less wood than our old fireplace

Along with all of these positive features, our wood burning insert generates enough heat that the furnace hasn’t kicked on once, even though nighttime temps have been in the 20s. With these kind of savings, I expect that our new fireplace insert will pay for itself in no time at all.

More by this contributor:
How to harness the lost heat in your home
12 cheap ways to lower your winter heating bill
How to increase energy efficiency with paint


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