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Build Your Own Fireplace

What would make any living area much more inviting?

A fireplace.

Most homeowners would kill for this classic and timeless addition. Surprisingly enough anyone can install one in living room, den or family room. Some models do require professional installation but most can be turned into a weekend DIY project. It’s not a simple task but it’s not an overly complicated one either. Done properly a fireplace can be yours in no time.

Before you do anything acclimate yourself to a fireplace’s anatomy. The average fireplace has had the same design since ancient times. It consists of a hearth, which protects the floor from the fire’s heat: the firebox which houses the flame, and is responsible for bringing heat into the room, the flue which guides the smoke up into the chimney and the chimney itself which brings the smoke out of the house and into the atmosphere. The last two can be replaced with a vent similar to a kitchen vent that will lead the smoke out through a first floor opening. You will have to sacrifice most of a wall for your fireplace.

The next question will be is what wall will work best? Usually traditional fireplaces are constructed outside of a building’s exterior wall. This is done by creating an opening for the fireplace. It will allow it to either to “flow” into the room or to intersect the framework. The opening is braced with durable studs on each side with double headers. This is to ensure that the frame has adequate structural strength. The opening will be as wide as your fireplace will be and will extend vertically as well, from the hearth to the smoke chamber.(right below the flue’s start).

You can also situate your fireplace on an interior wall however this is a bit more complicated to install. It is constructed through openings that have been prepared in the floor, ceiling and roof. Installing an interior wall fireplace requires a variety of different trades people however you can do the job if you’re an expert DIYer. You just simply have to lay out your fireplace so that it’s centered in all three areas and it’s placed properly on the fireplace’s foundation. Don’t begin work until all the openings have been properly cut. and wires and plumbing have been rerouted. Also make sure that the joists , headers and even rafters are braced. There are different ways of locating and laying out a fireplace depending on what you want. Remember that measurements taken at the opening to center the fireplace in this area are transferred. This is done so that the firebox and hearth will be centered properly located when they’re constructed. Use a plumb bob, straight edge or level to transfer these numbers from the opening to the foundation.

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The next step is what fireplace will work for you and your home. There are four different kinds to choose from. The first is the traditional wood burning one. This will provide primary, or nowadays, secondary heat to a home. Newer , prefabricated ones are more energy efficient than traditional masonry fireplaces. Wood fireplaces must use a venting system . In a conventional open faced fireplace the chimney serves as the vent. Its’ drawback is that it will pull war air up the chimney and out of the house. A prefabricated fireplace also has an enclosed firebox made of some kind of material that will hold the fire’s heat from the flue gases. This allows for more heat to be radiated into the room. Fireplace systems will incorporate a damper in the flue that can be closed when the fire is extinguished. Otherwise warm air will continue to pour of the home, thanks to a draft that’s been created by an open flue.

Another option is a gas fireplace that uses natural or LP (propane) gases. Again this type can be your house’s primary source of heat or act as a secondary one. Conventional models require a venting system along with a smoke dome or chimney installed through your roof. Newer gas fireplaces can be vented through the wall using a power vent. What’s good about this type of fireplace is that built in units need no special flooring or hearth front. It can also easily be converted to a gas fireplace if you want.

Some homes have the vented gas log types. These are a bit more complicated and require not only a venting system but also a smoke dome or chimney installed on the roof. A gas log fireplace operate at a range of 60,000 to 90,000 BTUs and unfortunately lose heat as they do require the chimney damper to be open. These types do have a plus side. They are manufactured from high temperature and heat resistant ceramic or cement and come in a variety of finishes. These can be placed directly on the fire grate or lay on a flame pan that’s covered with a bed of volcanic granules for a more realistic looking fire. Vented gas log systems require no electricity to operate either. They can even fit into existing fireplaces with a gas hooking and can be installed in any UL listed solid fuel burning fireplace.

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The last type is the vent free gas log fireplace. It operates with the chimney damper closed thus preventing heat loss. It also has an adjustable input of 40,000 BTUs. Any unit made after 1980 includes an oxygen depletion sensor or ODS that shuts off the heater and gas flow if the room’s oxygen level becomes inadequate. Vent free gas log fireplaces have another great safety feature – an automatic shut off valve. It shuts off the gas flow if the pilot light has been extinguished or the gas flow is interrupted. These, like the vented gas log sorts are made of high temperature resistant, heat resistant ceramic or cement in a variety of finishes . Again they can be put on top of fire grates or flame pans covered with volcanic granules. The vent free gals log fireplace requires no electricity that means more warmth at very little cost. It also simply fits into a fireplace with a gas hook up and can be installed into any UL solid fuel burning fireplace. It can also be replaced in any American gas Association (AGA) design certified vent free fireplace listed for use.

What else would a fireplace need? One thing is air tight firebox that can be inserted into the fireplace and mimic some of the effects of a wood burning stove. Most of these types draw air from the room , circulate it around the insert and then return warm air to the area. Some firebox units have blowers to evenly distribute the heat. Another integral part is the grate. This holds burning logs off the hearth and prevents then from rolling forward onto the floor. If you have both a grate and an andiron they will allow air to circulate and fed the fire while the ashes burn away from the burning wood. The andiron is simply composed of metal bars with decorative front shafts. This holds your woodpile in place.

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Fireplaces should always have glass enclosures. These improve a fireplace’s performance by controlling the air intake. Doing such makes the wood burn more slowly and retains more heat in the firebox. It also pulls less warm air from the house. A glass enclosure allows you to leave fires unattended as well as allowing for a clearer view of the fire while keeping smoke and sparks out of the room. Most enclosures have a built in draft at the base to direct air to the bottom of the fireplace’s opening. This lets you easily start and control your fires. It also mounts security against the fireplace’s face and overlaps the opening. This keeps it safe for both toddlers and pets. A minor addition to your new fireplace is the fireplace set which consists of a shovel, rake and poker. You usually buy this last when the entire installation is done.

This is the basic knowledge you should have when choosing your fireplace and its’ location. . Carefully select what you want as well as what is right for your house. Once this is done you can then begin the actual installation.

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