How To Install A Fireplace Insert

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If you have ever dreamed of spending the evening sitting in front of your own fireplace, now is the time to install one. Today’s gas fireplaces come equipped with features to make that installation quick, convenient, and flexible. The most popular fireplaces for new installations are Direct Vent Fireplaces. These fireplaces fit against a wall or corner and vent through an exterior wall, meaning they do not even need a chimney. Most models run on either natural gas or propane. If you want the ultimate in convenience, choose a model with a hand-held remote to light the fireplace, maintain the room temperature, and automatically turn the fireplace off when you go to bed. For more information on heating your home with fireplaces, see Alternative Ways To Heat Your Home.

Prepare The Installation Area

  • Decide where to place the fireplace. Is it best against a wall or corner? Choose a location that the fireplace can vent through an outside wall. A helpful tool for finding the right location is to cut out a large piece of cardboard as a mock fireplace, and move it from spot to spot to find the best location within the room. Decide whether the fireplace should sit on the floor, on a stone or brick slab, or on an elevated hearth.
  • If you have some basic experience with drywall and carpentry, installing the fireplace will take about a day. Building the surround, hearth and mantle will take another day. Finishing the drywall, taping and mudding could add another hour a day for the next several days during the week. Work slow and you’ll be rewarded with a fireplace project you will be proud of.
  • Once the location is set, begin building a recess in the wall to accept the fireplace. This will require removing the drywall or plaster to open up the wall. Remember to allow one inch of clearance around the fireplace. Remove any wall studs that interfere with the installation and add a header to maintain the structural integrity of the wall interior. Cover the interior of the recessed area with drywall.
  • To build a surround that extends into the room, frame the surround and hearth with 2 x 4 lumber and cover with drywall.

Install Venting For A New Fireplace

Direct vent fireplaces use a 7-inch diameter pipe with a 4-inch pipe inside. Cut a hole through the exterior wall of the house for the direct vent stovepipe and thimble. A double walled stovepipe is necessary for the installation. The inside pipe pumps the exhaust to the outside, while the outer pipe provides cold air to the fireplace. The thimble is the sheet metal plate that allows the vent pipe to pass safely through the exterior wall. Remember to allow a 1-inch clearance between the thimble and any wood inside the wall.

Connect The Gas To The New Fireplace

Run a gas supply line to the new fireplace location. Most cities and counties will require these lines to be “black pipe” for gas. Do not use galvanized pipe as this has a tendency to flake off during years of use, plugging up shut off valves and burners. If you are not experienced with home repairs, and have not worked with gas lines before, do not attempt to connect your fireplace to the gas line yourself. Calling a professional is well worth the potential risk.

Installing The Fireplace Kit

With the wall recess or surround complete, lift the fireplace unit into position and connect the vent pipe and gas lines. Attach the fireplace unit to the surround and install the fireplace hood or front panels. Calk around the stovepipe where it exits the exterior wall and attach the termination hood. Turn on the gas and check for leaks. When satisfied, test the fireplace by lighting the gas log.

Adding The Fireplace Mantel & Surround

Building a new mantle does require good woodworking skills. Most home centers and lumberyards have pre-fabricated mantels and fireplace surrounds in a number of widths and heights. The pre-fabricated mantels are easy to install with a minimum of fuss. The biggest task is to install them level and plumb. Take your time and be fussy about the fit against the wall and hearth. Both mantels and surrounds can be painted, stained, or faux finished to resemble stone or other materials and become the accent point of your new fireplace.

Tools Needed For A Fireplace Installation

Hammer Utility knife Framing square Tape measure Level Circular saw Electric drill Saber saw 2-inch dimensional lumber Nails Tin snips Taping knives for drywall Drywall Drywall tape Joint compound Mud pan Long straight edge for cutting drywall Drywall screws Calk Sandpaper Paint & primer Brushes Painters masking tape

Last Updated: February 27, 2012
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About Bill Washburn William "Bill" Washburn has a BA in advertising from the Art Center College of Design and has taught at the University of Southern California and Northrup University. Writing from a well-connected studio in the rural foothills of the west coast, he is a frequent speaker at local art associations and has published numerous articles discussing periods of art history and the fundamentals of drawing and painting. William is a master gardener who grows his own culinary herbs, organic heirloom vegetables and a variety of fruits. He writes frequently about his gardening experiences on his website Pioneer Dad. He is an accomplished advertising writer, fine art painter, and art director with more than 20 years' experience. 

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