Wood Burning Fireplace - Outdoor and Indoor

All about wood burning fireplaces. Articles about fireplace parts and accesoires - fireplace inserts, chimney, mantels. Indoor and Outdoor patio fireplace designs.

Fire place inserts. Introduction

qIf you enjoy using your masonry fireplace but don't like the associated energy costs, you might want to consider purchasing a fireplace insert. An insert is basically a wood stove designed to fit into a conventional open fireplace.

Gas inserts consist of a gas log set installed into a steel or cast iron heat exchanger and are usually sealed on the front with glass. Many of these units have fans to move the heat, and are also available with remote controls, wall switches or wall-mounted thermostats.

Fireplace inserts are heavy, often weighing more than 400 pounds. Since wood-burning inserts need to be removed when the chimney is being cleaned and maintained, they can be awkward and heavy to handle. It is a job best left to a professional chimney sweep.

In some cases, however, you do not have to remove the insert to clean the chimney. The insert can stay in place during cleaning if you install a full relining collar, a stainless steel pipe that connects to the insert and goes to the top of the chimney.

You might need to purchase accessories such as a blower, glass door, or catalytic combustor to go with the insert.

How to clean a fire place chimney?


An open wood fireplace consists of a hearth where wood is burned for heat and a chimney flue for expelling the smoke. Because heat can be lost with the smoke, a fireplace insert is often installed to increase heat retention. A freestanding wood stove, pellet stove, and gas stove also decorates and warms a home and requires some of the same maintenance and repair as a fireplace. (The terms "stove" and "fireplace" typically are used interchangeably.)

All fireplaces have the same two requirements: regulated air to feed the fire and a means of expelling smoke and fumes. A shuttered damper in the chimney provides an exit for smoke as well as creates an updraft that draws fresh air to the fire. Many new fireplace designs also use outside air intake vents under the fireplace so as not to draw warm air from the room. Gas fireplaces often have an inlet/outlet vent that expels fumes through a duct in an outside wall while drawing in fresh air.

Pellet stoves burn pellets made from sawdust and mill shavings; the pellets are loaded into a hopper at the top or front of the stove and delivered to the combustion chamber at a controlled rate by a motorized auger. Combustion air, blown into the chamber, develops superheated air. Room air is drawn across the heat exchanger by a fan, heated, and then returned to the room. Residual combustion gasses are vented outside, normally through a 3-inch flue that exits out the unit's back or top.

Sweep a chimney:

  1. Remove all loose items from the fire surround and the hearth.
  2. Cover the fireplace opening with a heavy fabric cover and seal it with duct tape. Also cover nearby flooring and furniture with a dropcloth.
  3. From atop the roof, push a chimney brush from the chimney top down toward the fireplace below, moving the brush up and down to loosen debris.
  4. Continue pushing the brush down the chimney by adding extension canes and moving the brush to loosen debris.
  5. When the brush reaches the bottom of the chimney, withdraw the brush.
  6. Allow the dust to settle for at least one hour before removing the cover over the fireplace opening.
  7. Use a shop vacuum cleaner to remove debris from the fireplace floor and the smoke shelf.

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How to build a Fireplace Mantel?

vsA fireplace is usually just a black hole in the wall until it is framed by decorative elements called a surround and mantel. The mantel makes the fireplace a focal point and sets the style for a room. If you have recently installed a zero-clearance fireplace or want to change the style of an existing masonry fireplace, you have two options: using a mantel kit or building one yourself. A mantel kit usually comes partially assembled with a surround that you can cut to suit the dimensions of your fireplace. If you have the skills and tools, you can design and build a mantel from premium boards and either stock or custom-milled moldings. Here are the basics for building a fireplace mantel using either of these two options.

Before you buy or design a fireplace mantel, check with your local building department for important fire-safety guidelines specifying required side and top clearance between a fireplace opening and any combustible materials.

1. Plan the Mantel: Take accurate measurements and make a sketch of the fireplace. Drill pilot holes, as shown, to determine what solid backing (if any) is behind the wall where the mantel will be installed. Choose a suitable size and style mantel, or design your own mantel making scaled working drawings (elevations and section views).

  • Tip: Buy samples of available moldings so you know what you have to work with. Cut and assemble short, cross-section models of the sides, frieze board, and mantel shelf with a hot-melt glue gun to help you visualize the design and determine nailing and fastening requirements.

2. Install Noncombustible Surround: Masonry fireplaces will already have brick or stone around the immediate firebox opening. To give a zero-clearance fireplace a more traditional look, you may want to install tile, veneer stone or brick, or another noncombustible surround material around the immediate firebox opening. Most of these materials are simply adhered to the wall with the appropriate adhesive and the joints are grouted. Cutting is usually done with a wet saw, which is a safe, easy-to-use rental tool.

3. Mill Custom Moldings: If you have a well-equipped workshop with a table saw, a router, and power sanders, you can mill moldings to imitate or duplicate ones that you've seen in a book or magazine. Here, a router with a guide and a half-round bit are used to make the fluted sides of a mantel. Use only the best woods and very sharp blades and bits. Progressively sand your molding with papers from 80- to 400-grit that are wrapped over foam blocks that have be cut to duplicate the molding's profile.

4. Attach the Wood Surround: Attach the wood surround to the wall using construction adhesive and the appropriate fasteners. If possible, locate fasteners where they will be covered by subsequent moldings. Countersink and later fill all holes that are not covered.

5. Build Up Molding: Take precise measurements and don't forget: "Measure twice and cut once." A professional-quality miter box or, preferably, a 10-inch power miter saw are required for the precision miters and crosscuts. Both are available at tool rental outlets.

  • Tip: Glue all joints but be sure to wipe off all excess glue with a damp cloth, especially if you plan to stain the wood. Glue will prevent proper staining.

6. Apply Finish: After a final sanding, meticulously clean the surface with a tack cloth. Mask the wall and other adjoining surfaces that are not being finished. Brush or wipe on stain, smooth the surface with 0000-grade steel wool, and apply at least three coats of polyurethane or another clear protective coating. If you prefer a painted finish, apply a paint primer, lightly sand with very fine sandpaper, and apply two or more coats of trim enamel.

Materials List

  • Mantel kit, or boards and moldings
  • Hot-melt glue gun
  • Router, table saw, power sanders
  • Safety glasses

Noncombustible Surround:

  • Tile, stone, or other surround material
  • Suitable cutting and installation tools
  • Adhesive, mortar, grout, or other installation materials

Mantel Installation:

  • Tape measure
  • Combination and framing squares
  • Miter box or 10-inch power miter saw
  • Finishing nails and other fasteners
  • Hammer and nail sets
  • Drill/driver, bits, drills, countersinks, and other accessories
  • Sandpaper (80-, 120-, 220-, and 400-grit)
  • Rubber sanding block
  • Caulk, glue, and construction adhesive

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