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TWEAKS+inspiration : Fireplace, Finally

Who doesn't love a cracklin' wood fire - the smell, the warmth, the ... Wait, a fire is a lot of work. Growing up in Portland, we had a pot belly stove in our living room, a precursor to the small Scandinavian wood stoves available now. Every fall, it was a family event to pile a cord (or more) of wood in preparation for winter fires. The stove was our secondary source of heat as we only had electric baseboards.

The first houses Phillip and I bought had wood fireplaces and I loved having a roaring fire. When we moved into our current house in Oakland, CA, there were ceramic logs in the fireplace. Huh? This was new to me. You light the gas and you have a fire. It was a hot fire but noisy, energy inefficient and hard to light as the gas valve key was almost beyond a human wingspan from where to light the gas.

Eventually, we updated the logs, changed the hardware on the glass doors and painted the vents and glass door edges gray. It would do. For years, we tried to get a self-contained natural gas insert. One copmpany looked and said it would take two weeks as they had to rebuild the fireplace and the chimney. Most never called back. Last spring, we were on a mission to get this fireplace replaced. I called 5 or 6 companies. No one was interested in coming to see. Two said to send photos but we never heard back. One guy asked for measurements but we never heard back. Another guy argued that it was impossible. At least we heard back.

Then, in early October, we tried again. We found a San Jose, family owned company glowingly reviewed on YELP. Would they come to Oakland an hour away? I gave them a call and Sharon told me how the process would work. What happened next was pretty special. They did everything they said they would and we've got a new fireplace. Let's see what happened.

At our measuring appointment, Anthony (president of Wright Lighting and Fireside and seen above) told us there were only a few models that would fit our irregular fireplace. He said that due to Covid related "let's fix up the house," raw material shortages and national shipping issues, they might not be available at all but he'd do his best. He found two models from different companies at different price points. We choose the more expensive option as it had 6 levels of fan and BTU's of 32,500. It's efficiency rated at 74.97%.

Three weeks after our measuring appointment, this last Thursday, Anothony installed the insert himself. He said it was a one-man job and it would take about 5 hours. Sure enough, 5 hours later, we were up and running.

So happy to see that liner leave. It would soon be replaced by black porcelain-coated reflective liners. Anthony worked so efficiently, a fine-tuned process. I didn't want to bother him taking photos so each time he went to his truck, I scooped in for a quick photo.

Next step was to remove the bottom grate and base.

Almost there. Gotta say I was a bit worried about soot coming through the house but Anothony left everything spotless.

Now the box was completely empty. A new outlet was added on the right (for the blower plug).

This model required the upper vent stay in place. Anthony sprayed it black for a cohesive look.

The 400 lbs firebox gets hooked up. Oh, this is exciting!

It fits! Woo-hoo!

Here's the firebox without its decorative facings. You can see the two vents that go up the chimney for a direct vent fireplace - one pipe carries exhaust gases to the outdoors, while a larger outer pipe draws in combustion air for the unit to operate. I think.

Anthony arranges the "oak" ceramic fire logs and assorted colored embers which will glow.

Here's a look at the insert before trim work was added.

On go the facings.

Oh, I think I'm in love!

True to his word, 5 hours later, we had a cozy, energy efficient fireplace. What's not to love?

For more info :

Installation : Wright Lighting and Fireside. San Jose, CA. Anthony Ghanati, president. 408.827.3989.


Fireplace Insert : Model Enviro 32X. Made in Vancouver, BC.


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