Rebuilding a Fireplace

Answered by Brett ~ April 14, 2011 ~ 1 Comments » | Respond to this question

My house was built in 1918, and while it has a lovely brick fireplace, it isn't functioning, because they ran out of bricks on the inside. (When my parents moved in, upon inspection, they were told that about halfway up the inside, it's just plaster) Is it possible for this to be fixed, or would it be more cost-efficient to just redo the entire fireplace? Thanks.

Kristen ~ New Bedford, Massachusetts

Brett Kulina

Kristen, as your home inspection may have noted, the plaster inside your home's chimney is probably not an acceptable surface material for a working flue. Although a traditional fire-brick flue might be the preferable match for your home's century-old fireplace, there are other types of chimney flue liners that you might choose to install. There are metal and precast-concrete models available. Just make sure the one that you choose meets all Massachusetts state and local fire codes, as well as any other New Bedford building restrictions. Depending on the dimensions of your home's chimney, access to the flue may be limited, which could mean that building a new chimney may ultimately be easier than trying to rebuild the existing one.

It's worth noting that traditional fireplaces can be inefficient and are notorious locations for home heat loss. A more energy efficient option for you could be to leave the existing chimney as is, and instead install some triple-wall insulated stove pipe within the existing plaster flue. This would give you the option to use a freestanding stove, which could sit on the hearth within the brick stove box, or a more traditional looking stove insert. These types of stoves can be more energy efficient, burn cleaner, and would give you the option to fuel the stove with wood, natural gas, or propane. If you decide on a gas fired stove, then you probably don't need to install triple wall insulated pipe, but rather could use the less expensive, non-insulated stove pipe. Again, check the local codes in your area, and consider consulting a contractor who specializes in chimney repair and installation.

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