When we built our mountain home, we wanted a wood-burning fireplace. We paid quite a bit extra for a fireplace that would burn wood, especially considering the fact that the chimney would be almost two stories tall. We gave the height and width of the desired fireplace to our contractor, assuming (and NEVER assume) that the depth of a fireplace was standard.
It is a very tall chimney
So we did get a wood-burning fireplace but despite a very deep chimney box, the fireplace itself was almost as shallow as the condo-sized fireplaces designed to burn logs from the grocery store. We were disappointed to say the least, but decided to install gas logs so we would have a fire. The fireplace was beautiful and the fire was beautiful, but it gave us no warmth at all. All the heat was pulled up the tall chimney.
In mid-October, I read Betsy's blog. (here) Betsy is a dyed-in-the-wool lover of wood-burning fireplaces. Yet she described a gas log insert that actually warmed the room. I showed the post to my husband and we began researching these new types of vented gas logs.
Before the construction began
We visited a fireplace and hearth showroom and talked with the owner. He was delighted that I had several pictures of the fireplace on my iPod. We decided on a unit made by Mendota. After some discussion, the owner gave us a "ballpark" figure for removing the old insert and replacing it with the new unit. I gulped audibly but my husband said, "great." So the owner came to our house for a home evaluation. Imagine our surprise when he said they could begin installation in mid-November and we would have the new fire for Thanksgiving.
The work was more extensive than I had imagined. They cut a large hole in the chimney and did a lot of the work from the deck outside. The weather was perfect, albeit a bit chilly, and the workers were precise. They lettered and numbered each shingle as they removed it and stacked them in order so they could be replaced in exactly the same spot.
A couple of workers, one inside the firebox and one in the great room.
Looking through the firebox to the deck outside.
And looking through the hole from the outside to the floor of the room inside.
Each evening the workers carefully closed up the hole with insulation and plywood. Despite some of the coldest weather we've had, our great room was actually warmer even with the cut. That made us realize just how much heat had been sucked up the chimney, even when we didn't have a fire.
The next step would involve cutting through some of the stone (one-and-a-half inches on each side and three inches from the top). While they made every attempt to keep the dust level down, it was still quite messy and I covered the furniture with sheets. Cutting through stone inside a room is simply messy and there's no way around it. After the tedious job of cutting the stone, it was time to place the new insert. Next would come the electrician to wire for all the remote-controlled activity and the lights inside. (Yes, the insert has lights that we can turn on to illuminate the logs when they are not burning, or even when they are.) The gas line was already present but needed to be upgraded. And then would come the tedious task of removing the hearth.
More to come...