Install a fireplace in a house without one?

akkwMay 21, 2007

Hi, clueless newbie here... thank you for any help! We are thinking of purchasing a house out of state which is about 20 years old and it's a great house but it doesn't have a fireplace. We REALLY love woodburning fireplaces and not having one is a deal breaker. Problem is, there are not that many houses to choose from in this neighborhood so we are wondering how much it would cost (and if it's even possible?) to install a woodburning fireplace in a house without one.

What things would we need to consider? Any estimates on how difficult this would be, and how much it would cost, are much appreciated.

Also, if we decide to go with one of the (very few) newer houses available there, can you tell me if it's possible to change out a gas fireplace for a woodburning one? (Does no one like woodburning fireplaces anymore except for us?)

When looking at all these newer house I'm confused by all the terminology -- pre-fab fireplaces, ventless, masonry, etc. Is it always the case that you can't change out a ventless gas fireplace (or a "pre-fab" gas fireplace) for a woodburning one? Conversely, it is usually the case that if there is a "masonry" fireplace present, with gas logs, that it could easily be converted to woodburning?

Sorry for all the questions. We are on a crazy timeline due to a job transfer and have to buy a house in this new area during a 4 day househunting trip we'll be taking in a week or two. Just trying to gather as much info as possible! Thank you :)

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I'm not one of the pros who post here sometimes, just a regular guy whose been shopping stoves and fireplaces lately.

It's always possible to retrofit a wood burner IF your pockets are deep enough and local codes permit you to use one: some towns are banning new WBFPs due to pollution concerns.

Costwise, if the home is one story, it will cost less than a 2 story. If you can live with the look of a metal stove pipe protruding from the roof, it will save a lot over the cost of a brick chimney. If your roofing is fiberglass or composite shingles, it will be cheaper to install and flash the penetration than on wood shingle or metal roof.

The least expensive way to get there would be to use a wood burning stove, rather than a FP: less framing and facing costs. Next up the price scale would be a pre-fab fireplace unit venting by way of a double wall pipe. The zero clearence units allow the framing to come right up to the unit, but you must not burn them with the doors open [if you like the sounds and smells of a wood fire] or they can get too hot, and set fire to the framing.

Massonry fireplaces are the full blown brick or stone units that don't use a pre-made firebox. The weight of these units usually requires some structural considerations, and the hand labor makes them the most expensive way to go. The most charming to look at, the least efficient in terms of heat.

I'd be very surprised if it were ever possible to convert a direct vent gas to a wood burner. Virtually all the parts are different, even the vent pipe. At most [and if you are lucky] you might find a wood burner that could sit within the existing framing of gas, but the wood units are usually considerably bigger, especially deeper: gas units tend to be very shallow.

BTW: 'ventless' is gas only: like a gas cook range, it burns cleanly enough that the combustion materials don't need to be vented to the outdoors. They are pretty controversial.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2007 at 7:09PM
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A regular fireplace installation could cost you more money than you'll get back in savings as fireplaces are heat LOSERS.
Another alternative is a "Built in Stove", or BIS. They have all the appearances of a fireplace without the hassle of heat loss.
I am not suggesting you use the company I linked to at the bottom of this post as I am quite sure there are other manufacturers out there. But they ARE very efficient and install just like a "zero clearance" cheap fireplace. But they are genuine heaters which saves on oil or gas heat.

Here is a link that might be useful: Built in Stoves

    Bookmark   May 23, 2007 at 7:25AM
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Any gas fireplace would have to be completely torn out in order to install a woodburning fireplace. No parts are interchangeable.
A freestanding woodstove is your best bet.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2007 at 12:38PM
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Fire Rock makes a masonry firepalce system that could solve the issue. You may want to go to their website and call tehm for more info - if nothing else they could probably answer some of your general questions about fireplace construction. Also try -- for videos of how the product works.

Here is a link that might be useful: Firerock Masonry Fireplace Systems

    Bookmark   May 25, 2007 at 8:25AM
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I live in a neighborhood of 20 year old houses. Some of the houses (mine also) have masonry fireplaces with brick chimneys on the outside of the home. Some other houses have a metal lined conventional fireplace with a "chimney" on the outside of the home, but the chimney looks like a framed and sided box to conceal a metal chimney pipe. Adding this "pipe" to the side of a house has got to be way cheaper than new masonry work. I'd visit a fireplace contractor and ask about the price.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2007 at 10:08AM
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In my opinion, beware very much so of Fire Rock.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2008 at 7:32PM
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You can install a prefab fireplace that burns wood. It does not need a masonry chimney; it's made of metal and is much less labor intensive and costly to install. It works pretty much like a masonry fireplace, and most of the heat goes up the chimney. Such a device will have a stove pipe sort of thing going up along the siding of your house, but you can cover it with a housing that matches your siding, so it will look like a bump-out. There are, however, stoves and some new tech fireplaces that are energy efficient, but they are expensive. Your most inexpensive alternative is to get a direct vent gas stove with gas logs in it. It will give you serious heat, not pollute your indoor air, and be energy efficient. But if you have your heart set on an old fashioned wood burning fireplace and don't care about energy efficiency or pollution, the prefab fireplace is probably the least costly way to go. For more info, go the the website. They have a chat room frequented by individuals who live, sleep and breath fireplaces.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2008 at 1:40PM
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