What should I do with non working living room fireplace? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 11 Old 11-07-2009, 05:20 PM - Thread Starter
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We have a non working fireplace in the living room, I'm not sure exactly what the problem is, it is a brick fireplace, something is off/wrong with the flu. Repairs to make it a normal fireplace are supposedly pretty expensive, maybe even $10,000 expensive. We learned this when we bought the house 2.5 years ago, and got $11,000 off the agreed upon price of the house. So, we really want to do something with it. I'm not into a regular fireplace because if it is going to be really expensive I think I would rather something that actually can heat the house a little. Our heating needs are pretty small because we are in N. California but from Boston, so it just doesn't seem cold to us here. We haven't used heat yet this year, probably won't until at least December or until we have guests (who always think our house is ). I figure if I can get it working it can be our sole heating source, but I definitely need suggestions and help! Do I go with a gas insert for ease? Wood burning stove insert? Is one healthier as far as toxins? Is one cheaper? Is one more fun? Is one more ? TIA!
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#2 of 11 Old 11-07-2009, 06:39 PM
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Okay, well I don't have a house with a fireplace, but we are thinking of putting them in.

Upstairs (which will likely never happen) it would be pretty much decorative and not used as a heat source and I'd go with wood burning because it is so fireplace-y. We don't have easy access to firewood.

Downstairs where we are planning on putting one in and using it as the sole heat source for that area, we will be doing ventless gas, hands down. When I want heat, I want it on demand and to be able to turn it on/off easily and not really have to think about it.

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#3 of 11 Old 11-08-2009, 01:58 AM
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I would do a wood burning insert. We have a gas fireplace that puts out heat but it's expensive to run. Plus, a fire with real wood crackling is so comfy.
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#4 of 11 Old 11-08-2009, 02:33 AM
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Do you know exactly what the problem is? If not I would get someone out there to find out what it is, it could be something as simple as something dead in there or its never been cleaned. If you know what the problem is call around, it may not be as expensive as you were lead to believe. I mean you could build a new fireplace for less then $10k. If you just want to decorate it I've seen a lot of people put candles in them and its really pretty even when not lit.

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#5 of 11 Old 11-08-2009, 09:24 AM
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We have a wood-burning insert in our fireplace on the main floor. Ours happens to be an older cast-iron stove and TBH, it's kind of ugly. But I can cook on top of it and it has saved us tons of money over the years.

In an older flue, often times, the mortar dries out, becomes brittle and that poses a danger of the fire (and the smoke in a flue can be just as hot as the fire itself) penetrating the walls of the flue and igniting the wood structure... therefore creating an impressive chimney fire... and burning your house down.

With wood-burning inserts, they don't have to go inside the flue to make any repairs. They put in a UL listed flexible steel liner (or you can go with clay, but that is really expensive) that is insulated against allowing any fire through the flue wall.

I'm not sure where you are, but for a few thousand dollars, you can get a very nice looking (flush to the fireplace face) wood-burning insert. It would heat your home and also give you an alternative source of heat in case of power outage.

Information on steel liners.

Also google for wood burning inserts and you'll find a ton of information.

One more good resource: hearth.com They have a forum there that has all information about alternative heating, including wood.
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#6 of 11 Old 11-08-2009, 11:47 PM
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Well, I'd say you need to get several quotes to determine the problem. Replacing a flue should actually be around $500 in our high COL area. I say this because we have 2 nonworking fireplaces and a furnace chimney that was crumbling. We have since had the furnace chimney rebuilt and lined - that was maybe $2000 because liners are expensive. I got several quotes and they ranged from $2000ish ranges to a completely insane $10000 - for work on 3 chimney/fireplaces. So, $10,000 for one fireplace, one flue, sounds very very high. However, if you need a liner and mortar rebuilt and a new crown, I'd expect to spend several thousand at minimum.

I do also want to add that there was little agreement between estimates about what was actually wrong (aside from the motar on the furnance chimney) and how much it would cost to fix it. We also looked at fireplace inserts and they cost a couple thousand and you still need a chimney liner which is a couple thousand more. We decided to wait on the other two fireplaces for the time being because it is just not worth 5k+ to use to have a fireplace. One problem with one fireplace is due to the fact that someone stuck a regular wood burning stove in the opening w/o a liner or damper. As a result there is major cresote build-up (they ran the pipe from the stove maybe 4' up the chimney) and they removed the damper so cold air just poured down the chimney. You need to install (not just stick in the opening) any stove that you use.
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#7 of 11 Old 11-08-2009, 11:52 PM
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#8 of 11 Old 11-09-2009, 02:18 PM - Thread Starter
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Wow, this is all very helpful! Thanks!
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#9 of 11 Old 11-09-2009, 11:37 PM
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I have a working wood burning fireplace, and I really want a wood-burning insert. It is on my wish list.

Wife to DH (06/10) and Mummy to DD (07/08).

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#10 of 11 Old 11-11-2009, 10:29 AM
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I have a gas fireplace..(LOVE THE REMOTE-something we have both always wanted we splurged on a couple of years ago) I don't have much info to add but I would start calling around and getting several estimates and see what each company says is the problem and what their solutation would be. At least once you get somebody out there you can find out some info about your problem and if you thought you might want an insert.....

....also there is thatt "fuel" for example for portable Real Flame Fireplaces..I forgot the name it comes in a can I think it is supposed to be clean burning alcohol in a gel type form gel fuel you can light it (a real flame complete with crackling sounds)....say you light them and then need to go to the store you can cap it with the metal top, the flame goes out...you come home, stir it and relight it..just an idea.

:energ y
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#11 of 11 Old 11-12-2009, 01:45 PM
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I'm not sure how well fireplaces actually heat houses or rooms. If the house wasn't built at a time when fireplaces were used for heating, they can only do so much. I think they are more for show. I don't know a lot about how wood burning inserts change a modern fireplace, but I do know older ones had "heatilators" to bring some of the heat from the chimney back into the room. Most of the heat from a regular fireplace goes right up the chimney.

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