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Fireplace Magic

Want to add a cheery hearth to your living room? It's not as hard as you might think, thanks to direct-vent and vent-free fireplaces.

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These general guidelines show the steps involved in installing a fireplace unit against an exterior wall.

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Photo 1: A corner location.

Choose the location. Because they are relatively lightweight, most direct-vent fireplaces require no additional structural support. A corner location (see Photo 1) will readily accommodate the depth of the firebox without taking up too much floor space.

Photo 2: Position the firebox and install venting.

Run intake and exhaust pipes. In this location the windows needed to be boarded up (see Photo 2), but a short section of pipe was run to allow exhaust gases to escape to the outside. The pipe includes an intake that supplies outside air for combustion, preventing the unit from drawing air from inside the home, one of the primary causes of fireplace inefficiency.

Photo 3: Framing in place.

Run supply lines and add framing. Utilities may need to be run to the location of the fireplace. In this case, a gas line had to be installed, and electrical circuits provided for the fireplace blower (a separate element from the unit). Then the unit was framed in place (see Photo 3).

Photo 4: A bit more paint and plaster, and the room will have a whole new focal point.

Finish around the unit. The framing lumber was covered in drywall (see Photo 4), then the surface was taped, mudded, sanded, and painted. A marble mantel will complete this installation. Other options for the finishing touch include new or antique wooden mantels or building your own from various molding profiles.

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