Flame on! Hints for upgrading your fireplace | SteamboatToday.com
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Flame on! Hints for upgrading your fireplace

Bob Payne
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
Hunting for a mantel to refurbish can be the start of your fireplace adventure.

In any room where contemplation or conversation occurs, the fireplace is often a focal point. With a little inspiration, a few tools and a weekend’s effort, here are six ways to make it even more so. 

 Install a mantel

Of all fireplace projects, adding a mantel can result in the most dramatic transformation. And many companies offer mantel kits that can be assembled and installed in hours. When ordering, make sure the mantel’s distance from the firebox, which is the inside of the fireplace, meets local and national fire codes. To install, you typically have to do no more, after a bit of measuring and marking, than attach several lengths of 2×4 to the wall and then screw the mantel into them (it’s not unlike hanging a big picture frame). 

Add glass fireplace doors

As long as you don’t make the common mistake of keeping them closed when a fire is blazing, glass fireplace doors, available in styles from traditional to contemporary, can make a fireplace not only more attractive but also more functional. They help a dying fire keep a room warmer longer, and they hide the unsightliness and odor of half-burned logs gone cold. As with a mantel, installing glass fireplace doors is a good weekend project because most of the work is in getting the measurements right, which manufacturers and dealers can help with. 

Even easier than hanging a fireplace mirror: leaning one on the wall. Just be sure your mantel is deep enough, use a hook or mirror clip to attach the top to the wall, and be sure it reflects something attractive.

 Hang a mirror

Because a fireplace so easily draws the eye, the space above it is ideal for displaying anything you want to catch attention with. Art works well here, but even better is a mirror. Not only can it add sparkle when a fire is lit, but if you like to change the look of a mantel with the season, a mirror reflects it instead of clashes with it. The only difference between hanging a mirror over a fireplace and anywhere else is that you will likely have to attach it by drilling into brick. For that, use a carbon-tipped masonry bit and insert expansion anchors into the hole.

The contrast of glossy black surround, checkerboard marble floor and robin’s egg walls gives this fireplace true star power.

Gas fireplace hints from a local expert

For a few localized fireplace hints, we went to Wolf Bennett of Mountain Home Stove, which has been keeping the Yampa Valley warm since 2002. Following are a few of his recommendations:

Heat or ambiance? This is the main question you need to answer. If heat, how large a space are you warming? You also need to decide between built-in (fireplace) or free-standing (stove). Inserts go into an existing wood-burning fireplace. There are many options around looks, features, shapes and utility in gas-burning fireplaces.

Fuel type: There are a variety of fuel types to choose from, including wood, pellet, propane or natural gas, and electric. Deciding that is one of the first big considerations to make. 

Budget: Are you thinking Lexus or Subaru? Sure, you can get a budget appliance from Home Depot, but in the hearth industry, you get what you pay for in terms of quality, technology, options and local support. 

Wood-burning limitations: New regulations are on the horizon requiring emissions of 2.0 gr/hour or less. In our air shed, most structures can operate one EPA-certified wood appliance. New-tech wood fireplaces and stoves have very long burn times and use less wood.

Pellet burning: Consider this as wood burning on a thermostat. Still falling under the 2020 emission regulations, pellet stoves/inserts are highly engineered devices that require maintenance and power. They are highly efficient and burn very clean but are not for everyone. 

Gas technologies: How do you want to operate your gas fire? Standing pilot units are simple – like an older non-computerized car. Parts still wear out eventually, but they are easy to diagnose and repair. You flip a switch or set a thermostat to turn it on and off; these controls can be wired or wireless (the latter using batteries). Intermittent pilot ignition (“IPI”) units light the pilot on a demand for heat. Newer ones let you set the unit to a standing/continuous pilot mode during the coldest months then change the ignition mode to pilot-on-demand during the shoulder and summer seasons. Newer IPI controls include buttons to change the flame height, fan speed and ambiance light.

Venting: This is the way the exhaust/smoke leaves your house. Ventless gas stoves and fireplaces are not allowed here. Wood venting, or chimneys, must go up through the roof and higher. Gas venting generally can go up and out a wall. Wood chimney venting is different than gas, and they are not interchangeable. Have a professional design and install these systems and talk you through the requirements.


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