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How To Replace A Fireplace Insert

By Lawrence Macmillan August 15, 2021

Do you want to replace your wood-burning or gas fireplace with a modern electric unit?  Then we're here to help! Installing an electric fireplace insert, whether a wood insert or a firebox, is typically a simple process. You shouldn't require many tools, and it shouldn't take all day.

In this tutorial, we'll cover the most basic methods and the tools you'll need to get the job done in no time.  We also let you know where you may want the services of a professional installer, if necessary. This guide is split into two key sections; Measuring and Installation. 

Step 1 - Measuring

Almost every time someone has difficulty installing an electric fireplace, it is because the dimensions of their existing fireplace and the insert they purchase do not match. So, before you place an order, double-check your measurements to ensure that the insert you select will fit properly in your fireplace.

Measure the width, depth, and height of the existing fireplace aperture with a tape measure. Compare the measurements to the dimensions provided by the seller for the insert. It's worth noting that most fireplaces become narrower as you travel further back into the room. So, before the fireplace tapers too much, make sure there is enough depth for the insert to fit near the back. 

The dimensions of the fireplace and the dimensions of the insert do not have to be an exact fit. It is OK for the fireplace insert to be slightly smaller than the existing fireplace. You can still put in the insert and make it look nice. If necessary, you can fill the gap with a frame purchased at a hardware store. 

You can also use a slightly larger insert as long as the size issue is with the trim rather than the firebox. Once you've purchased your fireplace insert, it's time to get to work. Please keep in mind that the guidelines below are just that; guidelines. Consult your owner's handbook for specific instructions on how to install an electric fireplace from that brand.

Step 2 - Installation

Cleaning

Remove any additional extras and installations, such as fireplace doors, grates, blowers, or screens, with care. If there is an electrical outlet, leave it plugged in.

You could need it. An electric fireplace insert for an existing fireplace does not necessitate the use of traditional fireplace accessories such as a blower. So remove it and make sure the fireplace is completely naked to check the insert fits.

Now that you've gotten it out of the way, clean away any debris in the fireplace. To remove anything attached to the walls, use a stiff brush. If your fireplace is filthy, you may need to do a more comprehensive cleaning procedure.

Waterproofing

Electricity and water do not mix. If your chimney lacks a rain cap or periodically lets in rainwater, you should address this before installing an electric fireplace. Even a small amount of water seepage can cause damage to your electric insert and constitute a fire hazard. Hire a professional to put a rain cap, also known as a chimney top plate, on your chimney to ensure no water gets through.

Sealing the damper

The damper is used to close and open the fireplace opening into the chimney. It is necessary when using a wood or gas fireplace, however, it serves no function when utilizing an electric fireplace insert. In reality, it may waste energy by allowing cold air to enter and heat to leave up the chimney.

Instead of simply closing the damper, seal it so that it is airtight and no heat escapes through the damper edges. There are numerous methods for sealing the damper. You can use an inflatable pillow, plywood, and foam pipe insulation, or a specialist fireplace sealant.

Power supply

Before you install your insert, you'll need to decide where you'll get your electricity.

Most electric log inserts are powered by conventional home electricity, and you can just plug them in. If you don't want a wire dangling from your fireplace, you'll need to hire an electrician to install a properly grounded power outlet on the inside of your fireplace.

Now, everything should be ready to go, so it is finally time to install the insert. Slide it into the fireplace and install the trim if necessary.

Try it out

Plugin your new fireplace insert and experiment with all of its features and functionalities. Check that it creates a good, bright flame and that the ember bed works properly. Check the remote control as well. If you encounter any issues, consult the troubleshooting section in your product handbook. If it doesn't work, contact customer service.

Add the trim

Simply follow the instructions in your manual to install your trim, since different brands will differ in how they are set up. To conceal gaps on the sides, almost all fireboxes have a separate trim device. If the accompanying trim is insufficient, you can create your own out of plywood or sheet metal. If you have a huge gap at the top, you can lay a block beneath the fireplace unit to rest on.

The last step is to secure the trim. Trim is available in a variety of materials and finishes. Some fireplace inserts are available with a variety of trim finish options. Most have only one trim choice. You can also create bespoke trim out of a variety of materials.

Do all fireplace inserts require electricity?

Do all fireplace inserts require electricity

Some gas log inserts and simple wood-burning fireplace inserts may not require electricity in order to run. If a blower or fan is desired, a cord must be extended from the fireplace insert to a nearby outlet in the room. Alternatively, an auxiliary outlet put in the firebox (if permitted by the manufacturer/local code). As expected, electrical fireplace inserts will require a sufficient supply of electricity.


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