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-> 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.

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!-*+

You Have an Insert!

Do you really, now?You Have an Insert! IMG- Spartanburg SC- Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps

According to Merriam-Webster:
Definition of insert (when used as a noun)
“something that is or is meant to be inserted (put or introduced into the body of something else)”
Strictly speaking it could be ANYTHING that is put inside something else.

However, when used in reference to chimneys and fireplaces, the term generally refers to one of two or three things (depending on who’s doing the talking). It could be…

  • A prefabricated manufactured fireplace system that is “inserted” into a house structure
    • generally referred to as a “prefab fireplace”. Sometimes it will be described as a “zero-clearance” fireplace system, although strictly speaking , this is not always the case.
  • An appliance that is “inserted” into a masonry fireplace structure
    • fueled by gas or wood and can have a dedicated venting system or (as is often the case with wood stove “inserts”), simply slammed up inside a receptacle fireplace
    • simple gas log systems (vented or vent free) incorrectly referred to as “inserts”
  • A stainless steel liner system that is “inserted” into a masonry chimney structure
    • if done according to most manufacturer’s instructions, will be insulated and properly sized for whatever appliance it is venting

In the Hearth Industry (the world of chimneys and fireplaces), when we hear the term “insert” we generally see (in our mind’s eye) some version of B as described above. If we are not sure that the person we are talking with has the same definition, we will generally ask for a little more information about their particular “insert”. The ensuing conversation will likely give us clues as to the kind of “insert” we are discussing.

So…why is it important to know what kind of an “insert” you may have?

Well, different kinds of “inserts” require different kinds of regular service.

  • A prefab fireplace, will require annual inspection and cleaning as necessary as recommended by the National Fire Protection Association. Why annual inspections?
    • It could be dirty from use.
    • It could be rusted from water entry.
    • It could be damaged by chimney fire.
    • It could be that parts may have become disconnected.
    • If it’s never been inspected, it may have been installed improperly.
  • An appliance system will need regular inspections.
    • Wood appliances create creosote as a naturally occurring by-product of combustion. The efficiency of the appliance as well as the way it is operated will determine the amount of creosote that builds up. Regular inspections will help to monitor the build-up and assure timely sweepings to avoid chimney fires (unfriendly potentially damaging occurrences).
    • While the vents on properly functioning gas appliances don’t often need sweeping, gas appliances need regular maintenance to keep dust and animal dander out of the mechanical parts.
    • If there is a masonry structure as part of your “insert” system, the exterior will likely need maintenance, repair or both. Bricks and mortar don’t last indefinitely without care and protection from water intrusion.
  • Stainless steel liners associated with wood burning appliances need regular inspection and service. (See section Ba above.) Manufacturers often require this to maintain warranties.

So, at the end of it all, be assured that we, here at Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps|Bless Your Hearth, will be more than happy to help you figure out what kind of “insert” you have and share what we have learned about any recommended service and/or maintenance for your particular system. We look forward to hearing from you when we can help you.