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Traditional fireplaces have their place in homes across the country, but like most home additions, a few improvements have been made over the years. Wood-burning fireplace inserts are not only ideal upgrades to masonry fireplaces, but are efficient modernizations to outdated designs.
Fireplace inserts are made to fit comfortably inside your wood-burning fireplace and ensure that all heat is being pushed out into the room, without leaving through the chimney. Below, I will explain why all wood-burning fireplaces should have inserts and how to install a fireplace insert.
Why Install A Fireplace Insert
There is no better feeling in the world than sitting on a comfortable couch in front a gorgeous fireplace after a cold, December day. Furthermore, installing a new fireplace can even reduce your heating costs, provide a much-needed focal point to your living room and even increase your home’s resale value. If you choose wood-burning as opposed to gas or electric, a fireplace insert is highly recommended.
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Inserts are steel boxes that are placed inside your masonry fireplace. A steel shell surrounds the insert. The shell ensures all heat enters the room and does not leave though the chimney. However, in order to work correctly, they must be installed perfectly. In fact, due to poor installation, fireplace inserts used to be unsafe. They were not connected to the actual fireplace chimney, thus resulting in smoky living rooms as well as difficult and tedious maintenance. Needless to say, we strongly recommend hiring a fireplace pro to install your wood-burning fireplace insert.
How to Install A Wood-Burning Fireplace Insert
Nonetheless, we know there are handy homeowners out there looking for the challenge of installing a wood fireplace insert without a professional. Below are all the steps one needs to take for installation.
Before you can really get started, there are a few preparations one has to make. To start off, many homeowners have to grind down a few bricks directly above the fireplace. Essentially, the wall has to be flush with the opening because once the fireplace insert is installed, pieces of brick can not stick out directly above.
Despite being a wood-burning fireplace insert, you need an electrical outlet in the fireplace to connect the insert. Have them put it in the rear of the fireplace. Working with electricity can be very tricky so be safe and look up a local electrician.
Most fireplaces today have gas lines to assist with wood fireplaces. If that is the case, you will need to shut off the gas and unscrew that gas line. It is essentially in the way of your fireplace insert. There should still be a gas outlet that you need to cap. Any fitted cap should do the trick, but make sure you use heavy glue or caulk to connect the cap.
Make Room for the Vent
All fireplaces have a damper that essentially lets heat leave or not leave the fireplace through the chimney. With a wood fireplace insert, you will need to make sure the stainless steel vent that is connected to the insert makes it way up the chimney. Now, in order to do that, many homeowners will have to remove their current damper and/or remove a few bricks to make room for the circular vent.
After removing the damper with a blowtorch or a screwdriver (if that easy) and the obstructing bricks with a chisel and hammer, you can work on getting the liner down the chimney.
This is the point where if you’re afraid of heights, you may have to call a friend. Liners are not the straightest items to work with and as such, take a little finesse and creativity to get it from the top of the chimney down into the fireplace.
The pros attach a pulling cone and rope to the end of the liner that will be connected to the insert. Head to roof and have one person drop the rope and that end of the liner down. Have another person down at the fireplace pulling the rope/end of the liner into the fireplace.
Connect the Lines
Now that the liner is through the fireplace, we can make our final connections. First, make the electrical connections necessary for the wood-burning insert. If you buy an insert from a manufacturer, make sure you tell them which side your electric outlet is on so they know where to install.
Next, remove the pulling cone and rope from the liner. Then, attach your adapter, or piece that connects the liner to the insert. The adapter should be constructed at an angle to ensure easy passage.
Time to finally put the wood insert into place. Start moving the insert towards the fireplace. Connect the power from the insert into the outlet in the rear of the fireplace. Then, connect the liner (with the adapter attached) into the top of the fireplace insert. You will probably have to screw or drill it together.
Head back up to the room to cap off the other end of the liner. Make sure the liner sticks out from the chimney about two or three feet. Cut off the excess liner.
Then, add silicone sealant around the edge of the flue tile that will hold down the chimney cap. Make sure it is firmly in place before leaving the roof.
Finally, head back into your living room and screw in the surround panel. Once again, the panel should be flush with the fireplace because you removed interrupting bricks.
For our visual learners out there, watch below as our friends at This Old House go through each step of a fireplace insert installation.
Wood-burning fireplace inserts are efficient and necessary modernizations of the classic fireplace. While they can be expensive, they will undoubtedly lower your heating costs and increase the resale value of your home.
If you are thinking of adding a fireplace insert or a brand new fireplace, see the average costs in your area.