Fireplace Advice - Wood & Gas

chris11895November 2, 2012

Hi,

We've broken ground and I'm looking for advice on our fireplaces. Our architect spec'd a Rumsford fireplace in our family room and in the Master Bedroom above it. I can't see myself carrying wood upstairs so what I'm wondering is if I can do gas upstairs and traditional Rumsford wood burning doenstairs? If so, how is this done? Our architect said I could not do this, however, I sometimes find that he says "no" to things when he doesn't like the idea. He also has a tendency to over complicate things. Anyhow, is this possible or is my Architect correct?

Lastly, does anyone know the ballpark of a setup like this? We're in Mass. I have a quote for the full masoned fireplaces on both floors and it is $$$ so I'm wondering if the second floor gas will save us money too.

Thanks in advance!

Christine

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renovator8

Well, this IS complicated. If the lower fireplace is masonry, it will probably have a masonry chimney and the gas fireplace is factory built so it would have a double walled metal chimney (flue in center and intake air in the outer part).

There might be a way to enclose these chimneys in the same enclosure but it would take some careful design and perhaps some added expense.

How do you feel about a metal chimney above the roof?

How do you feel about a thru-the-wall vent for the upstairs gas fireplace?

    Bookmark   November 2, 2012 at 1:46PM
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chris11895

Thanks for the response!

Could we cover the metal chimney with stone veneer? We planned on doing brick and painting it white with a black cap strip.
What would the vent in the gas fireplace look like? Our style is Traditional, we collect a lot of antiques. For the first floor I care a lot about it being a traditional fireplace. I'm more relaxed about the bedroom.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2012 at 2:20PM
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renovator8

It might be tough attaching a brick chimney and a simulated brick enclosure together but I guess it's possible. The cap design would be a challenge.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2012 at 3:13PM
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laxgal

Would it be possible to move the bedroom gas fireplace to an exterior wall and just vent it to the outside separately? Then you wouldn't need to alter the chimney for the wood-burning fireplace downstairs and it may be more cost effective. Don't know if that would fit with your design or not.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2012 at 3:28PM
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chris11895

Ooo, I hadn't thought of that. Let me go study the plans and see if that's possible. Thanks!

    Bookmark   November 2, 2012 at 4:54PM
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renovator8

Keep in mind that the thru-the-wall vent is not the best architectural choice but the hybrid chimney isn't either.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2012 at 7:09PM
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david_cary

The thru the wall vent is the most cost effective choice and honestly, unless it is on the front of the house, I can't imagine people would care about it. You still get the masonry chimney at the top from the downstairs fireplace.

The biggest issue with a gas fireplace in the bedroom is that usually the bedroom gets too hot too fast. A modern gas fireplace coupled with modern insulation/infiltration means that you turn the fireplace on and the rooom is 75+ in 15 minutes. I don't know about you, but I hate to sleep or do other bedroom activities in that kind of heat.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 8:48AM
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worthy

There are also vent-free fireplaces, banned in Canada and some US states.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 11:44AM
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mtnrdredux_gw

A gas fireplace can look traditional. We added a fireplace to our octagonal living room. A traditional fpl with a masonary chimney would have looked odd, since the walls angle in as they go up, and been costly, since the chimney would need to exceed the height of the building which is over 20 feet at the very top of the cupola.

We got a Town and Country 42". The only time i think they look fake is when they are off and you see the glass. We have a large, old, beehive screen we keep in front which I think finesses that quite well. I must say it gets the room very warm very fast. You need to think about that because you want to see a flame for the ambience, but you don't want to get blasted out of the room. If you have to keep it low to avoid overheating the room, you will never get to see the flame.

I do want to comment on the wall vent and "honestly, unless it is on the front of the house, I can't imagine people would care about it." Well, imagine. I am very unhappy with our vent, which the GC, architect and vendor insists is due to code here in CT. It looks UFO like and is quite a protuberance. If i had seen it in advance, I might have looked for another solution. So I would ask to see exactly what the vent will look like --- a drawing.

Lastly, we have three WBF and the one gas fpl. While I admit I probably use the gas five times as much as the WBF, I would not want to go w/o a WBF. Sometimes, there is no substitute for the crackling sound and the logs shifting, the scents, etc... So I agree, get both!

    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 11:29PM
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david_cary

In the south, the UFO look is so common that it goes unnoticed. Similar to plumbing vents on the top of a house or a dryer vent. I suppose where it is not common, you just haven't gotten used to it yet.

Mine is on the back side wall that is truly never seen. Right next to the a/c compressors which are 50 times more of an eyesore. Also next to the electric and gas meters which are 10 times more an eyesore...

On a more visible side, we have a kitchen vent that is bigger but painted.

It is really pretty small and some landscaping will hide it and it really pales in comparison to others. As I walk around my house (mentally) there are a lot of unattractive things when it comes right down to it.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2012 at 5:09AM
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athensmomof3

I have seen big vents and smaller ones. Neither are attractive. I think the best solution is to put it on the least visible side of the house where all the other junk is (gas meter, electric meter, a/c units, etc.)

As an aside, we have a painted brick house and our landscape guy recommended we paint the "stuff" attached to the house, which is congregated on one side - sprinkler system, cable input box, phone input box, gas meter, electrical box, photocell sensor for mailbox light, etc. We did and it looks SO much better - that is a lot of stuff! They just sprayed it the color of our house and then we landscaped in front of it.

He also suggested we paint the cable/phone towers and electrical box at the street mulch brown before we landscaped it. They are sort of snuggled against the woods with landscaping in front and they fade into the pine straw. We also painted our well before it was landscaped (the rock we needed was enormous and uglier than the well).

    Bookmark   November 4, 2012 at 5:16AM
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renovator8

    Bookmark   November 4, 2012 at 6:55AM
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mtnrdredux_gw

We also have a fpl at our lakehouse, in NY, and that is about what the vent looks like.

But for whatever reason, in my renovation here in CT, look at what I ended up with! And as I said, everyone tells me that it is due to code. The mfr, the vendor, the architect, the GC. As I told them, no one would expect that and someone should have known and let us know ahead of time. Not sure what can be done now. Thankfully it is in a part of the house where it is out of the way, but, still ....

Yours may look like all the ones pictured, just saying I would ask first.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2012 at 8:23AM
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renovator8

Building codes usually say that installation must comply with the manufacturer's instructions and the overhang shown would comply with typical clearances. It's not about heat but moisture entering the roof vent above but even that seems to meet typical installation clearances.

If the code in your area required such an installation it is probably a local amendment or part of the state fuel/gas code not the IRC.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2012 at 10:51AM
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mtnrdredux_gw

Yes, I said, it was due to code here in my town in CT. I would just make sure you know what the exterior vent will look like and where it will be. Because there are in fact situations where I think most people would NOT like it (like mine)

    Bookmark   November 4, 2012 at 11:26AM
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david_cary

OK - that is pretty horrific. Sounds like a changeout after closing....

    Bookmark   November 4, 2012 at 6:46PM
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mtnrdredux_gw

Thanks for agreeing, I guess : )

What do you mean by a changeout after closing? And do you think there is anything I can do?

    Bookmark   November 4, 2012 at 6:56PM
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mtnrdredux_gw

Scratch that. I assume you are saying that, if this is a new build and we haven't closed yet, we should change it after inspections.

This was an 18 month whole house reno and large addition. We've been in the house over a year now. I can't find any party who wants to be the one to change it. Maybe I will talk to our building inspector and find out what he's thinking...

    Bookmark   November 4, 2012 at 7:36PM
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chris11895

Maybe bring the building inspector the other pictures posted here and ask why yours can't look like them? It seems odd that it sticks out that far.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2012 at 5:53PM
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mtnrdredux_gw

Sure does! By the way, i forgot to mention, too, that when you put in a gas fpl be sure to have a hearth that mimics the height and size of a WBF. To me, very high fpl hearths (or worse yet, none at all), are a dead give away for a fake fpl.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2012 at 8:30PM
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renovator8

Get a copy of the applicable code and see if you think the building inspector is interpreting it correctly.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2012 at 6:36AM
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