I just moved into a
new house which has a fireplace. I decided for the my first real
fire I would simply purchase a DuraFlame log. It was simple to
light up and the fire lasted about 2.5 hours. Now my question -
what are some of the pros and cons of using these type of
Some prefab fireplace manufacturers do not allow
this type of log to be burned in their fireplace. Their concerns
are: (1) The waxes that hold the logs together could run into the
bottom (low heat area) of the fireplace and ignite, possibly
causing a house fire. (2) If they are touched during burning,
they turn into sawdust, creating a lot more heat than the
fireplace was designed to take. (3) that someone will use more
than one log. I recommend using them only in 3" sections to
start a real log fire.
gone through one week without heat, I now want to get a backup
heating source. I want to get either a gas stove or fireplace. I
prefer the looks of the fireplace but I don't know if there is
one that would give enough heat in a power outage. Anyone have a gas
fireplace that gives good heat without power? Also I am not sure
of the difference between Direct Vent and Vent Free. Are there
any advantages to either one?
vent uses a horizontal pipe through the wall. It is actually two
pipes (one inside the other), the flue gasses go out the inside
and combustion air goes through the outer pipe. Vent free is
exactly what it says, no vent. Advantage of direct vent: better
looking flame. Glass doors standard. Disadvantage: having to put
hole through wall. 70% +- efficient. Advantage of vent free: more
heat. 99.9% efficient. No hole to cut in wall. Disadvantage: small
amount of combustion odor, water is produced (can be advantage in
dry area or disadvantage if already have moisture problems).
Flame not as good looking.
have a prefab fireplace in my house and I'm trying to get a wood
stove insert installed. But the fireplace seems really small, and
even the smallest of the inserts might not fit, plus there is a
warning in the prefab fireplace instructions saying "Do not
install a fireplace insert in the Zero Clearance Fireplace"
Is there any real reason that a wood insert can't be installed in
this fireplace, or is this warning just legal mumbo jumbo to keep
some lawyer in a job? One installer guy suggested taking a
saws-all to the zero-clearance firebox (its just heavy-duty sheet
metal after all) to make for easier installation of the wood
A: The manufacturer said not
to do it. The bottom of the firebox will not hold the weight of
the stove. The chimney is designed to run cool for fire safety
and a lot of air delusion going into the firebox. Glass doors,
other than those designed by the manufacturer are not even
allowed. A wood stove in a cool chimney produces a lot of
creosote causing chimney fires. The UL testing temperature for
the chimney is 1700 degrees F. and a wood stove is tested to 2100
degrees F. This is something that should not be done. If you want
a wood stove, put in a wood stove, but not in the fireplace. I
have seen over five house fires due to cutting of prefab
fireboxes. This is how they cool. Cut off you cooling, you might
as well be building a fire on your floor. You are on dangerous
ground here. Please do not do it.
Q: I have been told
that some brick needed re-pointing. But as I have no experience
with masonry, at this point I am wondering what re-pointing is?
or tuck-pointing is the process of digging out old sandy or
deteriorating mortar. Cleaning the void left. Then replacing with
new mortar. The tool of choice to re-point looks a lot like a
cake decorating bag. It is a funnel shaped bag that the mortar is
put in, as the bag is squeezed, the mortar comes out the small
end and into the open mortar joint.
Q: I am trying to
solve an intense odor problem with our fireplace when it is not
in use. I assume this is caused by a back draft of cold air
entering the house, but have not yet found a solution. The
fireplace works fine while having a fire, but creates a very
strong odor throughout the house after it cools down. We have had
the chimney professionally cleaned. The damper would not close
properly (it left about a two inch gap), so the sweep installed a
top mounted damper. I have tried chimney deodorizers, but they
don't seem to help much. Placing an electric hepa type air
cleaner in the fireplace, and running it with the glass doors
shut, pretty much eliminates the problem, but is not very
A: Your problem is water. It
is behind the back wall of the fireplace. The problem should be
corrected as long as damper is closed when raining. This is what
to do. You will get dirty, prepare for it. Reach through the
damper and to the back. Now reach down 12" to 18". You
are going to think you need another joint between your wrist and
elbow, but it will fit! You should feel moist ashes and maybe
even water. Now get a shop vac in there with your arm and vacuum
everything out. The best position to get arm in is with you
sideways in firebox, looking at side wall, and you completely
inside firebox so your head is next to damper. A side note, your
chimney sweep should have done this as part of his cleaning. Put
heater back in chimney for a little while to take care of any let
over moisture and remember to close the top sealing damper when
finished and after every fire.
am curious if there is anyway to stop an odor problem from my
fireplace. I started burning wood in my fireplace and the odor in
the house the days following is quite strong. I assume part of
the problem is that the house has a forced hot air heating system
so it needs to draw air from within the house. This seems to
create a downdraft through the fireplace even though the damper
is closed. I have glass doors but they do not seal. Is there
anything that I can do to reduce/eliminate the problem.
A: A top sealing fireplace
damper would help. But, if your HVAC system needs air, it will
get it. After you "fix" the fireplace, the downdraft
could come down the hot water heater chimney causing carbon
monoxide poisoning. In my opinion, your answer is in a
"balanced system". Contact a HVAC person about adding
outside make up air to your furnace. Just 10% outside air will
slightly pressurize the dwelling. This will make the fireplace
work properly. Air also would not be trying to come in around
windows and doors. Depending on the size of
your city, it may even be a category in your yellow pages. I am
making the assumption that your fireplace is not marginally
smoking, thereby creating the smell.
sounds familiar, I have the same problem. It seems that it
happens after a rainfall, and then seems to go away. If I don't
light another fire, the smell is gone. It seems like some kind of
residue builds up in the chimney, and the rain
"activates" it. Apparently, the down draft (cold air
sinking) brings the smell into the house. The damper isn't
exactly an airtight seal - though I wish it were. I have a cap on
the chimney, so water doesn't come in straight down, though I'm
sure some blows in from the side screens.
A: A top sealing fireplace
damper would keep all the water out and it does have a gasket
seal. They are easy to install and relatively inexpensive. They
are not a "cure all" for smells though.
mortar repair in a fireplace a DIY project? The back corner seams
of the firebox have a separation of about 1/8". I'd like to
chisel away at the old mortar to clean it up then apply a new
bead of appropriately rated fireplace mortar material.
easy. Rutland makes a fireplace mortar in a caulking tube. The
part numbers are 63 (black), 63B (Buff), 63G (gray). Just wet the
area with a spray bottle with water in it, this is to improve
adhesion by reducing dust. First fire should be small to cure the
new mortar. It withstands 3,000 degrees F. If you can not find
this product locally, let me know and I'll sell it to you.
am interested in getting more heat out of a fireplace. Mine is a
wood burner, without glass doors. I have been trying to find a
grate that is made out of hollow tubes, but I haven't been able
to. (They look like the letter U on it's side). Are they still
A: I know what you are
referring to but have not seen one in years. Glass doors will
help due to stopping the heat loss when you do not have a fire.
It will slow down the air going out of the house when you do have
a fire. However, the fireplace will feel like it does not put out
as much heat (right up next to it) because of the glass slowing
down the radiant heat of the fire. If you are wanting serious
heat from your fireplace and want to stay with wood, look at a
wood burning fireplace insert. If you are willing to change to
gas, a vent free gas log set will allow you to close your damper
and get up to 40,000 BTU's of heat out into the room.
Q: How tall should my
chimney be above the roof?
Two feet above any point within ten feet, with a three foot minimum,
penetration. To find out how tall it
should be. Take a level and measure the roof pitch. It is the
amount the roof drops per foot. Example. A 2' level shows a drop
of 10". Divide by 2 for the length of the level equals a 5
on 12 roof pitch (or 5" drop to the foot). Now to figure the
correct chimney height. ??? roof pitch times 10 plus 24 equals
chimney height. Staying with the same 5 on 12 example. 5 times 10
equals 50 plus 24 equals 74 inches above the roof required.
Q: I just bought a
house that has the exhaust from gas furnace and fireplace going
up the same flue. Can the fireplace and gas furnace be on the
smoke and gas fumes cannot run up the same flue according to both
the NFPA211 (National Fire Protection Association) and the SBCC
(Southern Building Code Congress). I believe other codes are also
the same. But, more than likely you have multiple flues in the
you know if it's OK to also use wood in a gas burning fireplace?
Would the ashes from the burned wood get into the holes where gas
comes out and eventually cause damage?
A: No, to build a wood fire in
a fireplace designed for use only with gas would be a fire
hazard. If it is a wood burning fireplace with gas logs
installed, then it could be converted back. Look inside the unit
for a manufacturers name and model number. Until you know what
you have, do not build a wood fire in the fireplace.
Q: I want to install
a prefab chimney for a new wood stove. How long does a good
prefab chimney last?
Prefab chimneys do
not have to be replaced if maintained properly. Clean your chimney regularly.
The DuraVent Line we carry is warranted for 25 years.
you recommend a fan blower in a circulating fireplace to force air from the bottom, around
the unit and out the top vents?
blower is very easy to add if the firebox was wired when the unit
was installed. If you do not know, remove the bottom grill and
look for a plug (a normal wall outlet type but with only one
plug). If there, plug something in to be sure to is
"live". If you do not have it pre wired, I would not
suggest adding it. If heat is your prime objective, I would add a
set of vent free gas logs. They will put out 40,000 BTUs. That is
enough to heat up to 800 square feet here in Alabama.
Q: What do I measure
to choose which chimney cap I need and how does it attach to
flue? I have a double flue similar to the big cap picture shown
and cannot figure out how you remove cap for flue cleaning.
A: Since you have 2 flues, if there is 8" between them, you can use two caps. If not, a
cap like the "Big Top" should be used. If you can use
two, measure the outside of each clay flue liner. If the "Big
Top" is appropriate, measure the outside of both flue
liners. The individual caps are a friction fit (using spring
steel legs) and are removed by pulling straight up. If the clay
flue liner sticks up 2", the legs are not needed and the
screw tab on the corners of the cap work fine. If you go with the
"Big Top" the bottom of the cap is anchored to the
chimney with the hardware provided. To clean the top of the cap
only is removed.
have just discovered the hard way that our county building codes
prohibit propane fueled log lighters. Why is that?
A: Many places in the country
do allow them. The reason some areas do not is that all indoor
propane gas appliances are required to have a pilot light. You
cannot have a pilot light inside the firebox on a wood fire. So
it is a catch 22. I have concerns concerning L.P. (propane) gas
log lighters for wood fires. L.P. gas is heavier than air. If
ashes buildup over the lighter and you hold a match over the
ashes, it is possible for the L.P. gas to run out of the
fireplace and to the floor (much the same as a glass of water
would). By the time the L.P. gas fills the area to the height of
the match. A very dangerous situation could occur. Without the
ash covering the burner, the risk is greatly reduced.
Q: I noticed a
product made by Rutland that claims to clean your fireplace and
chimney of creosote when sprinkled on top of a fire. My
father-in-law says just throw salt on my fire to do the same
thing. Has anyone tried either? Do they work?
A: Salt does work, but is
corrosive to all metal parts like the damper and rain cap, or the
whole thing if prefab. Do not use salt. Rutland is a good
cleaner. But, it is no substitute for chimney cleaning. It's like
swishing tooth paste around in your mouth and not using a brush!!
Q: How do I find out
what kind of pre-fab fireplace I have?
A: Look on the inside of the
firebox, normally on the right side above the side brick or metal
panel close to the front. Another place some manufacturers put it
is the top of the screen rail above the mesh screen. You are
looking for a metal plate about the size of a business card. It
will be pop riveted to the side of the firebox. It will have the
manufacturers name, model number, serial number, and UL approval
number. The UL approval number is of no use in finding out what
you have, it is a number that starts with a single letter
followed by 6 or 7 numbers.
Q: I'm a city girl
that just brought my 1st home which includes a beautiful
fireplace. The seller didn't use the fireplace for many years. I
know that I will have to have it inspected and cleaned before
using it but I don't even know how or what to do for the
fireplace. The fireplace has a glass door. How safe is it to burn
A: Get a certified chimney
sweep to come to your house and do an inspection. They will let
you know if your fireplace is safe to use with wood or gas. They
will let you know if there is anything not satisfactory or not to
code about your fireplace. Do not build a fire until you have it inspected. I was a chimney
sweep for six years (1980-1986). I saw many odd things with
fireplaces, especially unused ones. Get it checked out before
question. My fireplace only smokes during startup. I feel cold
air coming down the flue.
may simply need to get the flue warmed up before lighting the
fire. Take four pieces of newspaper. Lay them on
the floor offsetting the corners to make an 16 pointed
"star". Roll it up into a funnel shape. Tightly twist
the small end closed. This is your handle. Hold inside the
firebox and light a "star point". Hold big lit end down
for 3 to 5 seconds until fire in funnel gets going good. Turn and
point big, flaming end toward damper. You will be able to hear
the draft change directions. The air rushing out the chimney will
pull the flames creating a rushing, jet engine kind of sound. Be
careful not to get burned.
just found that there is no insulation in the walls around my
fireplace. From in the attic I can see all the way down to the
firebox. Is it safe to blow in insulation to fill around the
firebox and up the wall? Does it take a special kind due to the
heat? We have gas logs.
A: Most prefab fireplaces
cool the pipe by allowing air to go into the pipe right at the
top of the firebox. To block that would create a fire hazard even
with gas logs. Insulating the room side of the chase is a good
idea. Fiberglass bats should be used. I fire escape ladder will
give you easy access down to the firebox. The firebox is not real
stable on the top. You can put your weight on it if done on the
edges. Do not step on the top close to the pipe. This insulation
may not get within two inches of the pipe.
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May 14, 2013
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