Practical Woodworking: Using Fireplace Inserts to Save Money

Foremost Design
The National Association of Home Builders reports that fireplaces are in the top three features that new homebuyers look for. The bad news is that although they can be pleasing to look at, fireplaces often are designed with significant air gaps. This design can waste as much as 8 percent of furnace-heated air by sending it straight out of the chimney. This inefficiency can reflect quickly in your monthly bills. Fortunately, there is one woodworking project that can easily alleviate this dilemma: using fireplace inserts.

Getting Pro Help

In most cases, a professional will install the insert to make sure that you get efficient ventilation and correct placement. He will draft-proof your fireplace area using the insert. The insert’s shell can keep the heat inside the room, where you need it, and away from the masonry. Many will argue that the upfront cost can be quite large (around $2000 to $4000, including installation). The sum will depend on a few factors: the model and brand you choose, as well as the current condition of your chimney (will it need relining?). However, looking at the big picture, the long term savings will definitely be worth it. This is an investment that will definitely pay for itself – something you will notice quickly with your monthly bills.

DIY Woodworking

If you’re more of a weekend do-it-yourself man, though, you can create your own insert with some basic materials, understanding, and time. For instance, you can create an insert that will look like cut logs. This will let you hide your fireplace opening when you are not using it. The good thing about this is that you can easily swap it for any other insert or fire grille when you need to use your fireplace again.

If you are interested in making your own, here is the step-by-step woodworking plan:

  1. Use the driest tree branches possible. With a band saw, cut the branches into two to three-inch pucks (perfect cuts aren’t necessary – rough them up a little). The irregular cuts will give a sense of personality and realism. Use smaller cuts to fill gaps in between the bigger ones.
  2. If you have mill marks (from using a band saw), use a sander to make the pucks’ surfaces clean and uniform.
  3. Spend some time staining using oil (or another preference). This also seals and protects the wood from damage, on top of giving it a prettier aesthetic. Let the wood soak up the oil. Remove any excess oil before letting it air-dry.
  4. Measure the opening of the fireplace before putting the screen in. Measure all corners, especially if you have an opening that isn’t perfectly square or has irregular edges. Finally, transfer the fireplace measurements onto a half-inch plywood sheet and then cut it out.
  5. After cutting it out, spray your backboard using a couple of matte black spray paint coats.
  6. Once you are certain that the backboard’s paint job is entirely dry, glue the wood pucks on to one side. You can also fasten them manually with screws if you prefer, but regular wood glue will do the job just fine, too. Begin with the bigger wood pucks and use enough glue. Arrange the pucks over your backboard. Keep doing this, and work your way down to the tiniest pucks towards the end. It’s best to scatter the different sized pucks for a better look. End it by gluing the smallest ones in between the gaps made by the bigger pucks.
  7. Now, it’s a matter of letting the glue dry up completely. You can marvel at your finished product. You can make your fireplace have a convincing look and make your visitors feel like it’s really stacked with full logs because of the different cut depths of your wood pucks.
  8. On to installation – carefully place the screen and push it into the opening of the fireplace. Gently keep on pushing it in until you’re certain that it is secure and completely seated, kept in place by friction.

All that’s left now is to enjoy your DIY woodworking plan put into place. This is a great conversation starter, as well as the center of attention in the room. Whenever you need to use your fire, simply take out the faux screen.

Of course, this is only good to go if you’re 100% confident on taking on the woodworking project. For those interested in more of our plans, here you can find more woodworking furniture plans – let us know how your next project turned out!

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