Different types of fireplaces don’t differ much in use — just follow the proper safety steps and set a log on fire. Installation does vary, though, and particularly so for zero-clearance fireplaces. We’ll explore the benefits of zero-clearance fireplaces as well as their installation process so that you know what to expect now, rather than being taken by surprise later.
Benefits of Zero-Clearance Fireplaces
As beautiful as traditional fireplaces may be with their intricate stonework, they’re fairly useless in terms of heating homes.. Zero-clearance fireplaces heat more effectively because of a built-in air exchange system. This system actively draws in cold air while pushing out hot air, circulating it around the firepit itself.
Also known as fireplace inserts or prefab fireplaces, zero-clearance fireplaces are closed-combustion fireboxes that you install into existing fireplaces to improve their efficiency. They have a number of advantages working for them:
- You can install them in any location, as they do not require a buffer zone.
- They are less expensive to install than traditional stonework fireplaces.
- Many models are direct vent and require no additional venting, meaning that you can safely and easily install them in any room.
- They possess an energy efficiency rating of up to 70 percent, whereas traditional masonry fireplaces only reach up to 10 percent.
- You can choose which fuel type you want to use.
- Designs exist to match any style.
- Zero-clearance fireplaces are better insulated than their traditional counterparts, minimizing the maintenance necessary to keep the fireplace safely operational.
Installing Prefab Fireplaces
If your prefab fireplace comes with a hearth, you’ll start the installation process by anchoring it to the foundation walls. If it doesn’t have a hearth, you’ll need to pour one similarly to how you would with a traditional fireplace.
If foundations are not necessary, you can jump right to positioning the fireplace on your subfloor. In order to find the correct placement, drop a plumb bob from the top of the chimney to align the fireplace and the first section of the flue.
Before you frame or encase the unit, you need to erect the chimney. This is a two-person job: One person holds the section in place while the other locks it down. Install the first section of chimney over the fireplace unit and lock the pieces together according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Continue locking subsequent pieces together up through the chimney.
Once you get to the ceiling, you’ll need to place the firestop. Cut a hole in the bridging between the joists to get through the ceiling and roof, and then place the firestop in that hole.
When the chimney is finally above the roof, close the remaining opening, apply flashing over the flue, and nail it to the roof frame. Next, apply roofing to cover the flashing, avoiding the lower flange. Lastly, fit a storm collar over the flue to prevent water leakage, and then a chimney cap on top of that.
Considering the demands of roofing, carpentry, masonry, and just having enough hands, hiring professionals to install your prefab fireplace is far more reasonable.
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