My brother has all stone fireplace and in addition to the cost of the mason work he had problems with his foundation from the additional weight. His fireplace and chimney are stone all the way to the top. He wound up having to add support under the foundation after a couple of years when cracking and settling occurred. I dont need to tell you that foundation repair is expensive.
Taking all this into consideration we decided to install a fireplace insert or as you may have heard it called a pre-made firebox. In addition to being lighter it is also much more energy efficient.
With the additional savings from a stone fireplace we bought a double-sided fireplace, it is one insert that has two sides. This solved many problems. Not only is it beautiful but it also takes up less space and uses one flue (it is one fireplace it just looks like two).
Both sides of the Fireplace insert are finished with complementary décor to match the room, and if you didnt know it was one fireplace insert you would swear it was two fireplaces. The great room side is finished using cultured stone like the outside of the house and the master suite side is finished in marble. The cultured stone also saves on weight and looks wonderful.
Another good tip that I can give you is put in a gas lighter. A gas lighter makes life much easier when you build a fire. Most all of the fireplace inserts have a knock out in the side of the firebox to put a pipe through for the gas lighter. If you do not have natural gas you can hook it up to propane. On one of our houses I used a gas bottle for the lighter because the house was all electric and I had no gas available.
Make sure you at least run the gas line during the install, you can always go back and hook it up later. It is tough to run the pipe once the wall is sealed up. You may even want to install a gas log at a later date; the gas line will come in handy for that also.
One final piece of advice is make certain you follow the curing instruction that come with the fireplace insert. The refractory is green or uncured and needs to be dried out slowly with a few small fires before you really build a big roaring one. My fireplace insert called for three smaller fires and then I could build a big one.
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