Once discarded as out-dated and worthless, antique fireplaces are now much sought after—both for the character they impart to a living space and for the improved resale value they bring to an older home. To reinstall a fireplace insert or surround that was once removed, you can either buy an original example from an architectural salvage company or choose from the range of good-quality reproductions and contemporary designs available today.
Before you rebuild your old fireplace, however, be sure to see that the fireplace opening, hearth, and chimney are all in good condition. It's best to get a professional inspection and bring your plans to your local building codes office or building inspector to make sure your project conform to all the appropriate regulations.
Position the insert into the fireplace so its cantered in the opening. Check that it’s plumb and square. If the opening is larger than the front plate of the insert, fill in the space at the sides with mortared bricks. If there's space above the insert add a concrete lintel supported by brickwork at each side. If the opening is not in the centre of the chimney, move the insert sideways to accommodate the chimney location.
Position the surround temporarily to see that it fits snugly against the wall and insert the grate. If necessary, pull the insert forward to butt up against the back of the surround. Now remove the surround, pack a fiberglass-rope gasket behind the rim of the insert, and seal the gap with appropriate cement. If necessary use heat-resistant anchors and threaded fasteners to secure the components to the masonry.
The method for installing a surround will depend on its design. If you have an antique, modifications may he required it’s often best to get expert help. Wooden and cast-iron types are usually made in one piece and secured with threaded fasteners at each side.
Hold the surround against the wall and centre it. Check that the surround is level and plumb, then mark the positions of any fasteners, remove the surround, install anchors in the wall and screw the surround in place. Use the mortar to shape the channel or throat that connects the Firebox With the flue.
Although there are many different varieties, installation of most combination inserts involve first assembling the grate, usually by bolting the convection tubes to the grate supports that elevate the units off the firebox door and the doors are assembled and secured. Many grates are faststanding and simply slid in and out of the firebox for period cleaning.
The tops of convection tubes generally sit against a vented portion along the top of the door frame, so that heated air rising through them as the fire burns is directed outward. A blower assembly is attached to the lower portion of the door to draw the air needed for combustion into the lower ends of the tubes and assist in forcing out upward and out again into the room.
The doors themselves fit around the perimeter of the fireplace surround and are held in place with masonry bolts. Installation is usually a matter of drilling into the masonry installing bolt anchors, then attaching the door frame using the bolts supplied with the unit. In addition most manufacturers recommend sealing the gap between the insert frame and the fireplace surround with fiberglass rope to prevent heat leaks.