Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Let's Build A Fireplace

... without burning the house down.

A must have item when we were looking for a new place was a fireplace. Our old house had one that I used with a Vermont Castings wood stove. Nothing better than fighting between the cats and your significant other for that prime spot in front of the stove. When looking at this place I was disappointed that there was none (didn't know about the foyer gas fireplace yet), but decided that I could certainly build one in the parlor. So about 2 months after starting the project I found a great deal on EBAY for a Vermont Castings Resolute Acclaim wood stove, same model I had at our old house. This one was complete with accessories too. This model does not have the catalyst built in, but surprisingly is still quite efficient when burning good wood. Load it up at bed time and it'll go most of the night. And at about 2000 sq. ft. rating, should put a good dent in my heating needs, actually heated the entire old house.

So armed with a stove, it was time to come up with a plan. I was hoping to build on an outside wall, which would have made running a chimney much easier, but the parlor layout just didn't work. So ended up building on the interior wall backing up to back staircase/basement wall. Checking the floors above, I had common walls through the 3rd floor to run along and build a chase around the piping (don't want to be in the middle of a room!). With a location solved, next was coming up with a hearth plan. The floors appeared to be 2 inch wide oak with a sub floor. I figured I would take up the floor a few feet from the wall, build my hearth with cement board on top of the sub floor, then build back the oak around it. This would give me extra pieces of floor to use for patches where the PO's drilled holes, etc.

I had an unexpected surprise when I pulled the floor up, which I'll get into in my next post. But any who, with the floor up and a hearth base built, next was adding reinforcement for the chimney supports. There is a main support that mounts to the wall just above the clean out Tee that support the entire chimney, so this had to be anchored to some substantial wood. Also had to build a support box in the ceiling for the fire block. Each floor has to have a fire block that the chimney run through. I am using Duratech piping system made by Duravent. They have several variations but I'm going with the best line they have. It's double-wall stainless steel, and not cheap - but I'm not going to play around when it comes to fire. It's actually quite easy to install, the 4 foot sections twist and lock together. As far as building a chase, only 2 inches clearance is required.

With my supporting built, next I needed to shim the studs and put up the drywall and cement board before I can build the actual fireplace. Then I was ready to build the chimney for the first story into the second floor bedroom. After triple checking my marks for the floor above, I cut out the flooring in the bedroom so the chimney could come through, fortunately I was spot on, only get one chance. After I set the height of the clean out T to the back of the stove, everything was locked down and was ready to start building a fireplace.

The design is a cross between the fireplace at the old house, and the fireplace in the Swarthmore house we almost bought. The "fireplace" is just a chase for the stove piping, but will give a more authentic appearance then having exposed piping or a small chase surrounding the pipe, plus allows us to have a mantel. Basically when done will appear to be a real fireplace with a stove inserted in the hearth like our old house was. The walls of the structure will be covered in cement backer board, then covered with a brick veneer, inside and out. This will meet code and give an authentic appearance. The hearth will be either tiled or slate. Would love to match the green arts & crafts tile in the foyer, but way to expensive. I made sure to add a nailer around the mantel level, which will be oak and wrap around the sides and end against the back wall.

Looks good so far

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