how can I figure out how to install a wood (stove) insert?
August 5, 2014 1:25 PM   Subscribe

I've found a wood insert local to me that looks to be a good deal, a quality unit. The kicker is I am thinking of installing the insert myself. Here's a link to images of the insert. What's the best way to get this done correctly given my skills and experience?

I have a 1940's ranch style house with fireplace. This insert looks to me to be a good fit for my needs.

I'm considering doing the installation myself to save $. I have a standard set of handyman skills, done a lot of light construction and repair and am suitably cautious about something like this. Here are my project question marks.

How can I evaluate the insert independently of what I've been told by the seller (a working stove, evaluated as in good condition and satisfies local codes for emissions), and know that it's a good deal for the price ($500).
How can I get a proper chimney pipe and cap installed, double wall insulated, with correct fittings for this insert?
How can I site the insert properly so it's insulated from my wood floors in its new home in my fireplace?

All in all, I can see a good argument here for a contractor to install given the nature of the work. However, the $2-5k fee plus parts isn't a great argument for this. I think people can do this with the right understanding of what's involved. What are some resources I can to utilize this done right by myself?
posted by diode to Home & Garden (7 answers total)
Your local building inspector can probably tell you the requirements for fireplaces and woodstoves. It is my understanding that inserts are designed to be placed inside an existing fireplace so, assuming your fireplace is to code, you should be good as far as separation from your wood floors IF the fireplace is big enough for the insert.

I would start with the manual, it probably says something about the required size for your fireplace, and then give your building inspector a call and see what he or she has to say. You are probably required to get some sort of permit to install it and you should NOT skip this part.

For the pipe, depending on the size and condition of your chimney you might be able to have a short pipe coming from the insert up a few feet that empties into your chimney or you might need a pipe extending up the entire length of your chimney. I would highly recommend you get your chimney inspected before you install this thing. In fact, that might even be a requirement.

I am not a contractor, a fireplace expert, or anyone who knows much of anything but I did have an insert installed in my fireplace by a contractor and these were all things that we had to consider. In my case we were building new so the firebox was sized and designed for the specific insert we bought.
posted by bondcliff at 1:44 PM on August 5, 2014

It's not in great shape:

the firebrick inside is wrecked: it all has to be replaced (not hard).
it's hard to tell, but the interior metal looks kind of warped and overheated.
the catalytic combustor is missing, and without it the insert is possibly emissions non-compliant.

Get the original installation manual, and see what it says.

And while you're thinking about that 500 dollar price, take a look at this one ..

.. which is also about 500 bucks, but brand new.
posted by the Real Dan at 2:44 PM on August 5, 2014

I'm guessing it's not to code, so if your house burns down you can forget about your insurance.
Better check that out.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 3:11 PM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

The forums on are useful, and experienced woodburners abound. I had my woodstove installed by a professional, and recommend doing the same, or at least having the chimney and stove installation inspected.
posted by theora55 at 3:59 PM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites] is the way to go. That was my primary resource when I installed my wood stove and chimney liner 2 heating seasons ago, and I remain active there.

I wouldn't buy either the used insert you've got your eye on or the fireplace that The Real Dan linked to. The former is in bad shape, while the latter is going to be a very inefficient heater and anyhow isn't designed to fit into an existing fireplace.

Stove installation can absolutely be a DIY job, but you're jumping the gun. Spend some time researching stoves first. Modern stoves are dramatically more efficient and cleaner-burning than the older ones that typically show up on Craigslist. Remember that the faster a stove consumes firewood, the more time you'll spend cutting, splitting, stacking and carrying the wood to feed it. It's just not worth all the time, effort and expense to install an older stove except maybe in your hunting cabin where it won't actually be used all that often.
posted by jon1270 at 6:49 PM on August 5, 2014

Oh, and I may as well tell you now what you'll soon be reading on if you want to heat with wood anytime soon, then you should acquire a bunch of wood as soon as possible. In most areas it's either impossible or prohibitively expensive to buy already-dry firewood in the sort of quantities you need for home heating, so plan on buying it far ahead so that it has lots of time to dry out.

Wood stoves work very poorly with wet fuel. A pattern that repeats itself over and over is that right about this time of year, when nights start to cool off and you get the sense that fall is approaching, people get the idea that it would be nice to have a wood stove. They get one, and then spend all winter struggling to burn wet wood because that's all they can get.
posted by jon1270 at 7:07 PM on August 5, 2014

Thanks, those are some great tips.
posted by diode at 7:33 PM on August 5, 2014

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