What is this and what to do with old fireplace?

Discussion in 'Remodel Forum & Blog' started by Lakee911, Feb 26, 2006.

  1. Lakee911

    Lakee911 I&C Engineer (mostly WWTP)

    Messages:
    1,328
    Location:
    Columbus, OH
    I've got a house from the 20's with a "decorative" fireplace. It's approx 26in x 27in x 8.5in (W x H x D). It has a narrow throat and has insolation stuffed in it. The harth is ceramic tile. There is a capped off natural gas pipe in the center of the harth approx 4in from the back wall. The chimney has three flues. One is being used for the furnace and HWH. One I assume goes to the fireplace and tthe other, I dunno. I'd like to do something about this. Obvously too small to throw some wood in and burn a fire. Did it have an insert? Why aren't they used anymore? What can I put in to make some heat? Is the back a false wall bricked up that I can remove?

    Thanks,

    Jason
  2. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Messages:
    7,351
    Location:
    Yakima WA
    I would explore a gas insert. A traditional fireplace in very impractical given the fact that they lose more heat than they provide and the high cost of wood in many places. A gas insert will give you the atmosphere of a real fire and provide some heat, but without the drawbacks of a traditional fireplace.
  3. sulconst2

    sulconst2 New Member

    Messages:
    205
    Location:
    old bridge nj
    sounds like a wood burner converted to gas. is there a flue? doesn't sound like it if it has insulation stuffed up. is there a shut-off for the gas? you could by a gas log kit. and a flue that attaches to the top of chimney and works off a chain. that way you don't get the cold coming down to top of fireplace. maybe get an estimate so you can pick his brain. ;)
  4. Sounds like an old fireplace for a common coalstove insert from the '20's, because 8.5" depth is most likely too shallow for a former woodburner.
    I highly doubt that the flue is safe enough as-is for anything but gas firelogs now, as Gary said.
    There are different types of firelog units...some are primarily decorative, some are ventless, and some need a small amount of venting. Some have a blower for getting max heating benefits. Some have electronic ignition. Some have a pilot light. Some have a remote control unit. All need a carbon monoxide alarm on the ceiling of the room they're in (as do all fireplaces).
    You just need to choose the type that you want and install it. Make sure that you choose one for natural gas and not one for propane gas. There is a difference. There are a lot of options, and you can get a lot of energy-efficient heat from a good one.
    Good Luck!
    Mike
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2006
  5. Lakee911

    Lakee911 I&C Engineer (mostly WWTP)

    Messages:
    1,328
    Location:
    Columbus, OH
    Thanks for the info. Looks like their might be a flue. If I remove the insulation, I'll be able to see. I'm kind of scared of what critters or debris might fall out if I pull it out. Heh

    Do you think there is a chance that they walled up the existing fireplace which is why mine is so shallow (8.5in)? Ok to drill an inspection hole in the back?

    I found some "coal basket" inserts online, but I don't know if I really like the look of them. They're vented too and I'd like to go ventless. :( Fake wood burning ventless inserts I think need more clearance.

    Thanks for the help,
    Jason
  6. finnegan

    finnegan New Member

    Messages:
    250
    Location:
    CT
    I would have a fireplace/chimney guy inspect it before you do anything. They flue might be in bad shape.
  7. prashster

    prashster New Member

    Messages:
    941
    Fireplaces - wood burning and vented gas fp's SUCK at heating - literally.. You have to vent, to release the CO. But all the heat goes with it. Conventional fp's can suck the heat out of yr house, making other rooms colder.

    You should get a ventless gas unit. These units use filters (charcoal, etc) to remove CO, but recirculate the heat. It's the more efficient, and easier to install bkz you don't have to deal as extensively with your flue. Have an experienced installer put it in, so they'll deal with your flue the right way; though.

    The fireplace still has to have a source for combustion air, though. If it uses the house air, then the house has to get replacement air from the cracks around yr windows/doors/attic. This gives drafts, making the house seem even colder. Newer homes are tighter and have to have external air intakes (ducts directly to the outside). Like high efficiency furnaces, this relieves drafts in the rest of the house, but if the installer doesn't seal that external duct properly (darn my big box builder!!!), you'll get drafts around the FP when it's not in use. If your ventless system requires an external air intake (the better ones do), make darn sure that your installer provides a mechanism for shutting and sealing it between uses.

    Arguably, since fp's are only used a fraction of the time, more thought and care should be given to how it functions when OFF than when it's actually ON ;)

    FYI, if the back of your FP is a solid piece with faux brick grout lines, it's likely an enclosed firebox and can be ultimately removed. If your chimney from the outside is enclosed in siding and not bricked all the way up, it probably was inserted after, and can be removed. If however, it looks like real brick and the outside is bricked, and yr house is older, there's a good chance it's structural, and you can't really remove it economically. You'd have to insert something over it.

    My advice: seal up the fp, paint a fake one on the wall, and install radiant floor heating ;)
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2006
  8. Lakee911

    Lakee911 I&C Engineer (mostly WWTP)

    Messages:
    1,328
    Location:
    Columbus, OH
    This is true...
    Actually installed one of these for the folks in December. They think it works great. Pile into the fam room and turn the thermostat down. :)
    The back of my firebox is a sold piece of a real bricks and real grout lines. :( It's real. I've got three flues, basement, family and the other I don't know--maybe a FP on second floor. Not sure. Chimney supports the center of the house.
    Yes...I would get that for asking about this on a plumbing site. Hard to roast marshmellows on that radiant floor heating though. :D

    Thanks for the advice.

    Jason
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