Monday, September 26, 2011


FIRE - adding a fireplace

Remember I mentioned that things happen simultaneously? It is hard to blog things when the job begins on one day and ends days, weeks or even a month or more later. I keep the photos in specific files in my computer. Sometimes they are grouped by date and sometimes by job. The fireplace is one that is happening over a few months.

Back in June, after we closed on the property, Jim and I began to look for a fireplace. Our purpose for the fireplace is as a back up heat source; but we also like the “look” of a fireplace – you know, a roaring fire on a chilly winter night, and you are cuddled up in a blanket with candles burning through out the house.
We ended up at Willow Creek Hearth and Leisure (

After our first trip to the showroom we decided to go with a gas fireplace. They are extremely efficient (meaning extremely low heat loss) and you have something pretty to look at. We already knew that a standard fireplace is extremely inefficient, even if you add doors and a fan. The majority of the heat goes up the flue with the smoke and so does the heat in your home when you have a fire and when you don’t. Since our purpose for the fireplace is as a back up heat source we thought gas would be best.

Then we started thinking about the 80+ logs left over from clearing our property. We were also told that a burning log gives off as much co2 as a tree that has fallen and is rotting. We also started to reconsider our personal position on burning fossil fuels. We went back to Willow Creek for a second look.
We decided to go with a wood stove made by Appalachian Stove. The company is located in Asheville, the stoves are very efficient (75 – 85%), and a few small logs can burn for about 13 hours. We picked the Gemini-XL because it is almost flush against the wall and we don’t have any room to spare in the living area. It can also heat 1200 – 2200 square feet. It may put out so much heat that we will have to open a window. The down side is that once the fire is going the glass window becomes covered with soot and you can’t see the fire. Ultimately, we chose heating capabilities over looks.

The fireplace comes with a thermostatically controlled blower. That feature is a positive for getting heat into the room but a slight negative in that it needs electricity to run. If we are able to put in PV panels then that issue will be solved. Fortunately, we can still have a fire for several hours even if the fan is not operating. But, if we are out of power for several days then we need to unscrew the casing for the fan and remove it so it is not damaged by the heat. We did opt for a propane generator in case the power goes out but of course that brings us back to burning a fossil fuel again.

If we had more space in the house we could have gone with a free standing wood stove; one we could have cooked on in an emergency. Our situation, life style, and choice options ultimately dictated what we selected. This has been a “learn as you go” project for us. Who knows how things might change if we were to start from the beginning and do it all over again.  

Friday, August 5th Jim started designing the hearth with rocks from our property. 

 By August 9th he selected the configuration he liked best and tried it out in the house.

On Monday, August 15th, Jim Burelson and his crew built the fireplace chase and created a base, connected to the floor trusses, to support the fireplace.



On August 19th Craig, from Willow Creek, delivered the stove. Thankfully, Josh our roofer and Jessie our electrician were on hand to help unload it (500 lbs). I don’t know what would have happened if they hadn’t been here.

 On Tuesday, August 23rd, Craig and Julio installed the fireplace flue. Eventually  Jessie and Dane connected the electrical to the breaker box.


First they cut a hole in the roof and Jim cut a hole above the fireplace. Then Craig climbed in to position the flue. It was a tight squeeze to get out. 

 They placed the cap on the flue on the roof.
 Next they installed the chimney.

Today, September 26th, Miguel and Jorge were here to put in our insulation and they added Rockwool, a fire safe insulation ( . Al brought us some pieces of Durock which is a drywall board made of cement ( ). It doesn’t absorb moisture so it is great for places like bathrooms, and it is really strong so it is great as a base for decorative surfaces like tile, marble or stone. Jim will be putting this around the fireplace so he can add a decorative rock finish.

It will be a while before the whole job is finished. Jim will Durock to the wall and a stone veneer. Some time this winter we will be burning some of the logs Ted Inman cut down in late June.   

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