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Frequently Asked ???
Gas Logs - General
Gas Logs - Vent Free

Gas Logs - Vented
Fireplaces - General
Fireplaces - Smoking
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Frequently Asked ???

 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Fireplaces - General

Q: 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 "logs"?
A: 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.

Q: Having 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?
A: Direct 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.

Q: I 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 stove.
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?
A: Re-pointing, 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 visually pleasing.
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.

Q: I 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.

Q: This 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.

Q: Is 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.
A: It is 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.

Q: I 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 made?
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?
A: 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 same flue?
A: Wood 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 same chimney.

Q: Would 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?
A: 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.

Q:
Do you recommend a fan blower in a circulating fireplace to force air from the bottom, around the unit and out the top vents?
A: A 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.

Q: We 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 wood?
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 use.

Q: A question. My fireplace only smokes during startup. I feel cold air coming down the flue.
A: You 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.

Q: I 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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