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Old 02-24-2015, 12:22 AM   #1
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Fireplace - originally gas or wood?


Hello all! So I have been looking into this topic for quite some time and finally, finding no viable information, I decided to see if I could find help directly.

My wife and I bought a house last summer, built in the early 60's and in the living room is a beautiful old cast iron type fireplace. It was part of the charm of the place. Unfortunately, it is currently set up as a gas stove... with a radial type insert that is terribly noisy and heats up a pile of volcanic rocks.

Now, I would love to either convert or re-convert it to wood burning, just for the tradition and charm. Not to mention, as I said, the gas is loud and doesn't put out much heat anyway.. that and the fact that I do not trust setup to begin with so we just don't use the thing.

Where the problem comes in, is that I can't tell if the thing was originally wood - which would mean I could easily and SAFELY convert it back into wood... or if it was designed for gas only. I have read every post and article I can find, so I understand the dangers. Yes, I could just call an expert... but as I live a minimum of an hour away from such an expert, I'd rather see if I can get some more input before I shell out any money for someone to just look at it and charge me a service fee. Ultimately, of course, I will do that if need be, but I'm hoping someone here might have some insight.

This is the evidence which leads me to believe that it was originally a wood stove.

1. Large, black iron stove type fixture sitting atop a brick pedestal.
2. Age of house
3. Log holding insert (currently holding the volcanic rocks and a brick.
4. Chimney is 18' in circumference
5. Appears to have some ash stains inside
6. A built in, adjustable griddle which swings over the fire.
7. A matching set of fireplace tools which are useless with gas.
8. Gas line comes in from behind but enters into the side of the stove.

Now the reasons that make me second guess myself.

1. Seemingly thin, metal chimney
2. Chimney and stove gets very hot to the touch when burning the gas - I know wood burns much hotter.
3. Just plain wood paneling behind the stove.
4. A cheap, flue mid-way up the chimney which can be turned by hand - basically a spinning metal plate with a handle.
5. Shallow interior. The stove is big, but it would not hold full sized logs.


As you can see, the evidence, in my limited knowledge is a toss up. I certainly don't want to burn wood in a stove and chimney that isn't rated for it. If I can't figure it out, it will likely just go unused, which is a shame since it is a nice part of the house. Inefficiency aside, sometimes it's nice to just get in front a fire and watch the flames and smell the smoke.

If anyone can guide me further in this issue, I would greatly appreciate it!

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Last edited by MisterWhoBrew; 02-24-2015 at 12:25 AM.
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Old 02-24-2015, 06:26 AM   #2
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Some pictures might help us see what you're looking at. You might also take these pictures to the expert in town next time you're there. Most fireplace/gas stove sellers are more than helpful with tons of free advise.

You should have an expert determine the safety of the stove and chimney before it is used with whatever fuel is used.

Some of your observations are red herrings. Fire place tools could be for looks only. I have a coal scuttle beside my fireplace but I can't burn coal. Full size logs don't fit? Everyone's idea of full size is different. Wood paneling is too close? Maybe it shouldn't have been there for any type of fireplace.

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Old 02-24-2015, 07:10 AM   #3
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Please do not rely on what I am posting to make your final decision but use it to further your knowledge.

The old method way of venting wood and coal stoves was to use a piece of thin metal pipe to connect to a usually masonry "flue" or "thimble" which was mortared into a masonry chimney. This thin metal pipe container a "damper", a metal disc such as you described whose function was to control the draw and limit the fire size. The damper was used in conjunction with the vents on the front or side of the stove.

Poor people or utility installs sometimes used the thimble to pass through a wall and then continue with pipe; not considered safe by modern standards.

Build a hot fire, open the vents and damper, and I have seen the stove pipe be cherry red; again not safe by modern standards. A jacketed, well insulated stove like a "Warm Morning" was often used as close as 3' from a wall, again not safe by modern standards.

IMO, if you do not have a masonry chimney or modern triple wall pipe with a stainless steel liner you are not safe to burn wood. Further if you have a masonry chimney and it does not have a flue liner you probably are still not safe. Only an inspection by a qualified person can determine that.
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Old 02-24-2015, 01:08 PM   #4
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Pictures would be helpful. But by all means have a expert in your area actually look at it.

For reference the wood burner in my fathers garage is a single wall pipe up to about 6' from the ceiling, then it is a triple wall to the outside. It also has a hand dampener.

A single wall pipe burning anything will get warm/hot. It helps with the heat transfer. Also it is probably 2' at most away from the drywall walls, be we installed a 24 ga heat shield around the corner it sits in.
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Old 02-24-2015, 01:36 PM   #5
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Thanks for the responses. I'll attach some pics to this post, which I intended to do last night but it was after midnight when I posted the topic.
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Old 02-24-2015, 01:37 PM   #6
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Old 02-24-2015, 01:57 PM   #7
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What's on the the other side of the ceiling?

That is where a starting point for serious discussion starts.

Even with the brick I consider it too close to the wall.
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Old 02-24-2015, 02:04 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MisterWhoBrew View Post
it is currently set up as a gas stove... with a radial type insert that is terribly noisy and heats up a pile of volcanic rocks.
The thing in post #6, picture #6, reminds me of something someone described to be once, verbally, as being in his house. Apparently a dual-fuel fireplace, gas or wood, and the option of using the gas to ignite the wood, no kindling.
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Old 02-24-2015, 02:22 PM   #9
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@Colbyt.... I couldn't get close enough to it for a picture without significant belly crawling as it is on the complete opposite end of the house from the attic access.

What I can tell you is that it is a silver pipe of the same or slightly smaller size as the one on the fireplace. The only alternative I can offer, for the time being, is to snap a picture of the chimney that exits the roof.

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Old 02-24-2015, 03:00 PM   #10
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Does it have a label on it anywhere, maybe the back? With out a UL Listing (or similar) I wouldn't even think about burning wood in it..........
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Old 02-24-2015, 03:06 PM   #11
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When you give up and crawl over there it should have something printed or stamped on it. Same size makes think double wall gas vent type B. Usually a wood burning chimney is larger and triple wall. I only have about 6-8" opening in the top of my firebox but it changes over to 12 or 14" right after that.
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Old 02-24-2015, 04:25 PM   #12
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Well hot dang, I think you may be right Colbyt... that is identical to what I saw. That is disappointing, but I appreciate everyone's help. I'm going to put a call in to a chimney sweep tomorrow and at least get the thing checked out as is for peace of mind.

Or should I call some other service? This is my first home, so I'm getting to learn all this sort of stuff the hard way!

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