Last week we discussed the pros and cons of gas vs. wood fireplaces. At the time a reader wrote in the comments:
A lot of the houses in DC that were built around 1900 were built to burn coal, not wood. As such, the fireplaces are around 14″ deep. Because they are roughly 30″ wide by 30″ high, they look big enough – but not only are they not deep enough to burn wood, they were not designed to burn wood and the handle smoke – so the smoke, instead of going up the chimney, billows out into the house. Nothing much can be done about this unless you want to do some extensive modifications to the fireplace.
As for a gas insert, most of those are also made for deeper fireplaces, around 24″ deep. And most are butt ugly.
For mine, after way too much time shopping around, I went with a cast iron surround and gas coal set from the Victorian Fireplace Shop in Richmond. (I also bought mantles from them, but you obviously don’t need one).
In my dining room fp, I fixed up (added a regulator as well as cleaned) an old Humphrey RadiantFire, put an old iron surround into a mantle, put the Humphrey in the fireplace, and it looks great. And warms the entire first floor in the winter.
If you want to see some fotos, I can send some to PoP for posting or we can swap emails (also via PoP).
I also set up a mantle and a surround in my bedroom, forgoing gas for nice and mostly safe candles.
I had a flue lined and the chimney top rebuilt back in 2002 and it cost about $3500 I believe.
Once you open it up, know that you probably don’t have a damper – most likely, you’ll have a open shaft directly to the sky. Nice drafts in the winter, birds in the summer. Good times, especially if you have cats. The easiest way to close it up is to put a damper on top – check out Seal Tight Dampers – the Victorian Fireplace Shop site has some good info and illustrations.
(RadiantFire, not mine: http://chicagoantiquesguide.com/archives/20051025190734.php)
Victorian Fireplace Shop: http://www.gascoals.net
In a recent email with the photos he describes the fireplaces a bit:
“The one with the mirror is in the MBR. Mantle is Beauregard with the Mackintosh surround.
The one with the clock is in the dining room. It has an old seth thomas clock sitting on it, with the humphrey radiantfire set inside.
The mantle is the Lincoln. The surround is part of one from 1800’s england – the back had broken off and the front was salvaged.
The mantles and surrounds are from the victorian fireplace shop.”
If you have a great fireplace send a photo to princeofpetworth(at)gmail(dot)com and include fireplace in the title.