Company Blog

Have a Pro Install Your Wood Stove Insert

As winter approaches, thoughts turn to a warm fire and, naturally, to thoughts of how to help the open fireplace produce more heat while using less wood. Provided you have a MASONRY FIREPLACE, this can easily be achieved by installing a wood stove insert or wood burning hearth stove. The fireplace flue provides the venting – saving the cost of building a new chimney – but will require a chimney liner that meets the need of the new wood burning model.

close up of wood stove insertWOOD INSERTS are models made to insert into the fireplace opening. Provided your fireplace is large enough to accommodate it, this installation will provide a cleaner look and likely require the least alterations to the hearth or mantel as part of the project. The fireplace flue (properly modified as described later in this article) is used to vent the wood insert.

HEARTH STOVES are freestanding models that fit onto the hearth in front of the fireplace opening – or just partially inside of it – while venting into the (properly modified) fireplace chimney.wood stove insert in brick wall

Installing a Wood Burning Insert or Hearth Stove Will Normally Require the Chimney to be Relined as Part of the Project

Simply stated, the venting system is of paramount importance to how a wood burning appliance operates. The required vent size on a wood burning stove will be specified by the manufacturer, but most new stoves today use a 6″ round vent.

Just sliding a wood stove insert into a fireplace results in the stove having poor draft (hard to light and hard to keep burning), resulting in a dirty burning fire that creates excessive creosote because that big chimney contains a lot of cold air that makes it difficult for smoke to rise through. This installation would not be allowed. CREOSOTE is simply wood smoke that has cooled down and becomes solid and creates a fire hazard that requires sweeping the chimney. Left unchecked, a chimney fire can cause chimney explosions and dangerous house fires. Today’s new wood stoves, when properly installed using good venting practices, are designed for optimum safety, providing long burn times while producing less smoke, yet they simply cannot provide good results when they’re not installed following exact venting requirements of the stove manufacturer and fire safety codes.

A standard fireplace – also considered a wood burning appliance – that has an opening of 36″ wide x 30″ tall needs a much larger chimney area than a wood stove with an opening of perhaps 20″ wide x 15″ tall. 

The AREA of the chimney should be 1/10th the size of the opening for a square or rectangle flue (though severe rectangles should be larger), or 1/12th the size of the opening for a round chimney flue.

As an example, our open fireplace example is 36″ x 30″ = 1080 sq. inches, and the chimney would need to be at least 10″ x 11″. Most commonly we find this fireplace will have a flue tile measuring or 12″ x 12″ (interior dimension roughly 11 x 11), a standard size that’s readily available at the brick yard. 

11″ x 11″ = 121 Square Inches
The area of a 6″ circle (the size of the vent on the wood stove) is 28.26″


This means the 12″ x 12″ chimney tile liner is MORE THAN 4 TIMES THE SIZE REQUIRED BY THE WOOD STOVE, therefore relining the flue to down size it is required.

Today’s new wood stoves are pretty finicky burners. Catalytic converters and other clean burning technologies demand strict adherence to venting requirements. The venting, along with close adherence to combustible clearances, really is a job best handled by a pro.

 

diagram of chimneyThe best alternative for lining your fireplace chimney to accommodate a wood stove is a stainless steel chimney liner. Stainless steel is designed to withstand higher temperatures than those experienced in a chimney fire, providing an extra layer of safety. The stainless steel liner extends all the way from the flue outlet on the wood stove to the top of the chimney, providing a seamless passageway for smoke to rise and exit quickly to the atmosphere. High-tech wood stoves, installed with the appropriate size liner, will burn the wood more completely, efficiently extracting the available btu’s in the wood and transferring that heat into your home. You’ll enjoy using much less wood; a wood stove will hold about 1/4 as much or less wood than the open fireplace, yet burn for 6 to 10 hours or more. Combustion technology reduces smoke output for cleaner air.  Used regularly, you may enjoy heating cost savings of many hundreds of dollars each winter. 

Please call BLUE SKY CHIMNEY SWEEPS to discuss and plan your new wood stove installation.

 

How to Prepare for Your Chimney Appointment

We’re so glad you’ve chosen us to care for your chimney and fireplace needs! We appreciate you and thank you for your business.

We’re often asked by our customers what they need to do to prepare for our visit. Thanks for asking – here’s what makes our job easierPug in front of a fireplace

  • MAKE SURE THE FIRE IS OUT. You’d be surprised how often we go to homes with a fire burning in the fireplace or wood stove. If there’s a fire burning, we cannot sweep or work on the chimney. If your home has a wood stove or insert connected to the fireplace, please make sure the fire is out for at least 24 hours before our appointment. We can’t move the stove out to sweep the chimney when it’s too hot to touch. If you have gas logs or a gas insert, make sure the fire is turned off for 2-3 hours before our arrival.
  • CLEAN OUT THE FIREPLACE OR WOOD STOVE. It speeds up our process greatly if you can remove the ashes and old wood removed before our arrival.  However, if you want US to clean out the ashes for you, please make sure we know that’s what you want. Some folks actually want us to leave a layer of ash in the fireplace to bed their coals.
  • SECURE YOUR PETS. If your dog needs to be in your fenced yard, yet we need to go through this gate to get to your chimney, please put up your pup. It’s difficult for us to carry a ladder through the gate while making sure your dog doesn’t escape. Ditto on the potential escapes through your home’s doors. It’s really best for both us and your pets if you can isolate them in another room while we’re working at your home. It can be so upsetting to pets to have a stranger coming in and out of their home and they’re often terrified of our big vac and the loud noises it makes.
  • MAKE ROOM IN YOUR DRIVEWAY. We have lots of equipment to carry in and set up, so the closer we can park to your entry door, the better. We’ll also be carrying a heavy ladder, so if we can park nearer to the chimney that’s helpful!
  • WHICH DOOR? Please let us know which door you prefer us to use. The one that provides the quickest route to your fireplace is our preference, but let us know if you’d rather us use a different entry.
  • CLEAR A PATH. We’ll be bringing in some or all of the following: industrial vacuum cleaner, tool boxes, drop cloths, chimney brushes and more. Based on the door we’ll be using and the route we’ll take to your fireplace, it’s very helpful if you’re able to clear a pathway for us, moving furniture and knick-knacks away from our line of traffic and our work area in front of your fireplace. We’re very mindful of your treasures and take the utmost care in your home, but it helps us tremendously if we don’t need to move them away from our work area and the pathway to your fireplace.
  • CLEAR THE MANTEL AND HEARTH. Again, it helps us so much if you can clear the accessories away from the fireplace including your fireplace screen, wood bin, wreaths, candles and the like. We’ll be spreading a tarp on your hearth and setting some tools there while we’re working.fully decorated fireplace mantel
  • WRITE DOWN YOUR QUESTIONS. If you’d like expert tips on how to store your firewood, how to fine-tune the settings on your wood stove, change the batteries on your gas logs, etc. then you may find it’s helpful to make a list for us to review with you while we’re there.

We here at Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps|Bless Your Hearth are committed to providing the “best bang for your buck” spent.  You knowing what to expect and being prepared for our visit can help make that happen.  Call us today to schedule your chimney or gas log check-up. 

REPLACEMENT OPTIONS FOR PREFAB METAL WOOD BURNING FIREPLACES

-> Also read our article “Is it Time to Replace Your Wood burning Prefabricated Fireplace?

The fireplace industry considers prefab wood burning fireplaces to have a life expectancy of 10-30 years. Like other household appliances, they just don’t last forever. The good news is that there are many options for upgrading to a better system when it comes time for replacement.

Keep in mind that the fireplace must be removed from either the front facing wall (inside the house), or from the rear.

  • Removal from the rear is usually the easiest method, especially when the fireplace is installed against an exterior wall and the framed chase has been covered by siding. We remove the siding and underlayment to gain access to the inside of the chase. The chimney is normally removed from the top and sometimes the chase is large enough to actually get inside to assist in unscrewing and disconnecting the chimney sections, but it’s rarely this “easy”.
  • Removal from the front of the fireplace opening commonly involves removal of the facing material (slate, marble, tile, etc.) and the mantel, resulting in a bigger mess, greater expense and more work overall. However, if you’ve always wanted a different style – say tiles or granite instead of the old slate or a new mantel — then this is the time to plan out your new look!
  • When it comes time to choose a new fireplace model to install, consider the options available to you. Commonly the original model was a “builder grade” appliance, an inexpensive model wood burning fireplace with minimal features.

New, high-efficiency wood burning prefabs that are manufactured with quality metal, tightly fitting glass doors are available. They are energy efficient combustion designs that provide burn times and heat output comparable to a wood stove. If you still enjoy wood fires then why not consider a high-efficiency model that can help provide substantial heat when needed? This classification of wood burning fireplaces also uses upgraded chimney systems meant to withstand higher temperatures.

White Gas Log Fireplace - Bless Your Hearth - Laurens SC

Gas Fireplaces provide the beauty of real flames without the work and mess associated with burning firewood. Like wood burning fireplaces, gas models are classified as either “decorative” or “heater rated”. Heater rated models have a glass window instead of an open fire, protecting against contact with open flame. Most models also work during power outages, providing excellent backup emergency heat if you’ve chosen a heater rated
fireplace. Unlike wood burning fireplaces where the type, condition or amount of wood greatly affects heat output, gas fireplaces are designed to
withstand a maximum constant heat production so over firing isn’t a concern with this class of appliance. Heater rated gas fireplaces use the gas
more efficiently and transfer that heat to your living space, providing substantial heat when desired. Better models also offer thermostat controls that modulate the flame to adjust the heat output so you’re never too warm or too cold. Direct vent models, which use outdoor air for combustion, provide versatile installation and venting options where a wood burner couldn’t be used such as venting horizontally through an exterior wall.

ALTERATION OPTIONS
The expense and labor involved in a prefab fireplace replacement may lead you to consider a conversion or alteration of your fireplace, thinking that “If it’s not safe to burn wood, I’ll just convert to gas.” That’s a great idea, but you can’t take a shortcut here.

CAUTION: ABSOLUTELY DO NOT PUT GAS LOGS into a damaged or deteriorated wood burning fireplace. Vented gas logs require the fireplace and chimney to be suitable for use with wood. If it’s not safe to burn wood, it’s NOT SAFE to use with gas logs, either!

Contrary to popular opinion, ventless (vent-free, unvented) gas logs are far worse! They are designed to allow you to close the damper, keeping the heat produced concentrated in the fireplace. While this may feel like a good idea it’s making more heat right where it’s more likely to cause a problem including pyrolysis of the adjacent wood framing within the wall.

An ELECTRIC INSERT is a very inexpensive option. An electric fireplace is uniquely capable of offering you flames with no heat so you can have a romantic fire in the summer, or use with the heater option when the weather turns chilly. This at least provides you the ambiance of a “fire” with no need to tear anything out. These are surprisingly realistic looking and is an option more and more customers have chosen in recent years. Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps|Bless Your Hearth is happy to help guide you through the options for repairing, replacing or possibly just upgrading your prefabricated wood burning fireplace!

Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps|Bless Your Hearth is happy to help guide you through the options for repairing, replacing or possibly just upgrading your prefabricated wood burning fireplace!-*+