If you’re thinking about purchasing a wood burning fireplace insert, you know that installation costs are going to add a lot to your already high purchase bill. You may be looking to cut that expensive fee by doing it yourself. This is definitely possible, but it’s not going to be easy. So how do you install a wood burning fireplace insert?

1. Check your county’s regulations

The first step is to check with the fire inspections and regulations team in your county. They may require a professional installation team to install your insert for you, and for good reason!  Installing a fireplace insert incorrectly can be a serious fire safety hazard. If installed incorrectly, that brand new insert could become one of the most dangerous items in your home.

Here are a couple of mistakes you could make and the hazards they could cause:

  1. Incorrectly installing and sealing the chimney liner.  This can lead to build up of creosote, a flammable substance, in the chimney.  The creosote can ignite and cause chimney fires.  This mistake could also allow smoke and toxic fumes into your home, instead of sending them up the chimney.
  2. Damaging the insert while putting it into place.  Fireplace inserts are heavy and awkward to manage.  Unless handled properly, you can damage the insert without even knowing it.  When damaged, fireplace inserts become fire hazards.
  3. Guessing how to solve unanticipated problems.  Installing an insert is complicated , and you will undoubtedly run into some issues: a dirty chimney, a poorly fitting insert, a tricky electric hook up, etc.  Professionals have experience dealing with all sorts of issues like these and can solve these problems.  If you try and solve these problems but do a poor job or are unknowingly unsuccessful, your fireplace is a serious hazard in your home.

All this being said, if you take the process slow, one step at time, you can be successful! Read through the following steps carefully then watch the video at the end of the article. Don’t start the process until you understand each step, and comment below with any questions you have.

2. Measure your masonry fireplace

  1. Measure height and width: Take three measurements at three different places and record the smallest of the three. If your fireplace has a lintel, record the height from the bottom of the firebox to the lintel. If it has an arch, also record the height from the bottom of the firebox to the highest point on the arch.
  2. Measure depth: Measure from the face of the firebox to the back wall.
  3. Measure clearance: Measure the distance from the top and sides of the firebox to combustible materials (probably your walls or the mantel).

3. Prepare your masonry fireplace

Unless you are the first person to live in your home, you won’t know what obstacles could be within your masonry fireplace. A previous resident may have installed a damper. You might have to remove a firepan, which will release ash and creosote into your home; how much depends on how many fires previous residents burned. You could have to grind some brick or stone away so that the fireplace will be flush.

This preparatory step is extremely important, but also the most difficult. Every fireplace is a little bit different as are the ways and places that firepans, dampers, etc. are installed. This means there is no easy “4-step guide to preparing your fireplace.” You’ll have to improvise and research the best solutions to the problems as they come up.

fireplace damper
A damper like this one is welded into place and difficult to remove

4. Line the chimney

Today’s fire safety standards require the whole chimney to be lined. You’ll need to purchase chimney liner, which is a stainless steel flue (usually 6-inches in diameter, but check your specific insert to see what size you should buy) inside a larger aluminum pipe; between these two layers is insulation.

You’ll need to get up on the roof and push the insert all the way down the chimney. You can also use a pulling cone and rope. Attach the pulling cone to the liner and tie rope to it. Toss the rope down the chimney and pull from the masonry fireplace while a second person stands on the roof to guide the liner.

Vortex Restoration

To connect the insert to the chimney liner, you will need two parts. One is an adapter that attaches to the end of the liner and angles to allow a horizontal connection to the insert. (Your specific insert may need a unique adapter. Ask your manufacturer.) The second is a small round piece that fits into the top of the insert and will be connected into the other end of the adapter. Put the adapter on the liner and the small circular piece on the end of the adapter.

The image to the right: Service Sales

chimney adapter

5. Push your insert into place

Insert your fireplace insert slowly and carefully. You’ll have to wiggle it in a little bit at a time. Before completely pushing it into place, make sure to plug in your blower if necessary. Connect that small circular piece to the top of the insert.

6. Add a chimney cap

Trim any excess chimney liner on the roof end, then attach a chimney cap.

chimney cap

7. Add the surround or other decor

If your fireplace has a surround or panels or a screen or anything else that needs to be installed, now is the time to do it. Then light your first fire!

Take a look at this video to see this whole process taking place.

This is obviously a complicated process! There is a reason many people choose to have these inserts professionally installed. If you choose to do it yourself, take it slow, and don’t skip any steps! The safety of your home and all who live in it will be at risk if you do.

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