Are you one of those handy homeowners who love the idea of sprucing up your living space with a DIY fireplace? Do you think you have the experience to tackle the job mostly on your own? Well, if that's the case, then this article is for you. Even if you know your way around a tool box, there are a lot of things that go into fireplace installation. So, we created this article to walk you through the steps of fireplace installation along with the tools you will need along the way.
We will include the basic fireplace tools you have to have to complete your installation. Plus, we will discuss a few "pro" tools that will ease the process along. A few recommended brands that have been tried and tested by our NFI certified techs will be peppered throughout the article as well.
Upgrading to "pro" tools will save you a lot of time and frustration. It is estimated that you could cut your work time by 30% if you invest money in pro tools. And who wants to spend more time than they have to sawing away at a pile of lumber? Not us. Work smarter not harder friends. So, let's get started with a general list of fireplace tools you will need for many steps along the way.
General Tools for All Steps
A good tape measure and carpenters pencil will be crucial for measuring and marking lumber, pipe and anything else you need exact measurements for. We recommend the Stanley Fat Max tape measure. It is very sturdy, so you won't have to deal with readjusting a crumbling tape measure every five seconds. It comes in a variety of sizes but 25' is a great option for this type of job.
Throughout the framing process, you will need to use a framing square. This tool will help you make sure each piece of the frame is vertical and perfectly square so that no issues arise later on.
A level will be handy during the framing process as well, though it has many other uses during the venting and finishing stages too.
When you get into venting, checking pipe connections or electrical work, a good flashlight and some electrical tape will come in handy. Extra light will help you see inside those tight places that may be necessary for setup. Electrical tape will help with securing connections and guard wires.
- pencil and ruler
A stapler has many purposes but, for this job, the main one will be securing insulation to outside walls and chimney chases. If you are looking for one made completely of metal, that rarely jams and will last a lifetime, we recommend the Arrow T50 stapler. It's tested and proven itself worthy over and over again.
Lastly, at various points throughout the fireplace installation, you will have the option to use the upgraded "pro" power tools. If you decide to go this route, an extension cord will be needed for power drills or saws. Nothing would be more annoying than getting a good tool but being chained to a wall with no slack in the cord to reach your job.
Those are the basic fireplace tools you will need throughout your installation to make sure this DIY fireplace stays on the right track.
Plumbing / Electrical
You may not want to hear this, but when it comes to electrical and plumbing, we recommend you leave that to the professionals. Those are two of the most important, and most complicated, parts of the installation. So, to ensure everything goes right, it is best to hire a licensed plumber and electrician.
Thankfully, not all fireplaces will require both, so your appliance will determine if you have to invest in both professionals. Gas fireplaces will need plumbing and any fireplace with blowers or an IPI pilot will need electrical. A good rule of thumb would be to have the plumber or electrician not completely install the electrical /plumbing at this point.
It may seem weird to leave it slightly undone, but they should get it to a good place where you can finish it up once the unit is in position. Not having the piping and wiring secured before you put in the unit, will give you the flexibility to put the fireplace where it needs to go versus trying to adjust the unit around your plumbing.
Now it's time to cut some wood! Woo hoo! If you are really in need of a good arm workout, a hand saw should do the trick for cutting lumber ( and getting your biceps ripped.) Two birds. One saw.
This is where the tape measure, framing square, and carpenters pencil we talked about earlier come into play. A tape measure and framing square will guide you in getting exact measurements, so you can mark the lengths off with a pencil and saw the lumber for the fireplace enclosure. Later you can use the saw for vent system pass-throughs or roof pass throughs.
When those biceps of yours get a bit worn down and are in need of a break, switching to a circular saw will speed up the wood cutting process significantly. Circular saws can be purchased for as low as $40 though, we recommend the Makita 5007F. While this isn't the cheapest option in the market, this saw is fairly inexpensive and well made, so you will get your money's worth out of this tool.
Also, something to note is that if you are doing corner installations, it would be worth investing in a miter saw. This is a great tool to do angled cuts that will ensure accuracy and be way simpler than trying to accomplish this with a hand saw. We recommend the Metabo 10 inch compound saw that you can get for around $100.
- Ramset Driver
Next, you'll need a Ramset driver. Driving anchor nails through wooden floor plates and into a concrete slab would be next to impossible without this tool. It is usually around $50, but essential to securing the enclosure.
Now, once you have the framing created, it's time to get your fireplace into place. You will need a dolly to move the fireplace from where it ended up after delivery to right beside the frame. The dolly will come in handy even more so if you are working on this project solo. If you have a few friends helping you, all three of you may be able to muscle it across the room and closer to the frame.
- carrying fireplace
If you happen to have a hearth taller than 6 inches you may need a floor jack to lift the fireplace over the ledge. You don't have to have this tool, however, it will save your back some stress and strain.
After the frame is complete and the unit is in position to be installed, you can lift it into the frame and begin securing it with a few other handy tools.
Squeeze clamps are not required, but they are useful for holding lumber in place before you nail everything into position. If you are working alone, this is another one of those tools that will prove invaluable in smoothing out the process of your work.
- squeeze clamps
Next, you will need to decide whether you are going the route of using a framing hammer or an electric drill to secure the fireplace into position. A good electric drill or a framing nailer, airline and air compressor will have your nails in place in no time. If you plan to do more installations or other projects around your house, investing a few hundred dollars in either of these would be worth the money.
If you'd prefer to stick with the simple hammer and nails, we recommend Estwing hammers. They are reasonably priced, durable and well balanced.
Once the unit is secured into your frame, pull out a good 2ft level to finish this part of the job. Lay the level across the top of the frame to ensure it is plumb and... well, level. Once you believe everything is secure and laid out properly, this will bring you to the end of the framing portion of your installation. Great job! You are halfway to the finish line.
When it comes time to start vent work, you will need a ladder to pass pipe through the ceiling or attic. An extension ladder may also be needed to gain roof access for the venting system terminations. Once you have an idea of where the pipe needs to go, a stud finder will help locate wall studs or ceiling joists before making cuts for vent pipe pass-throughs.
Sheet metal snips will be a big help when you are installing the firestop. Firestops are required for venting to pass through floors or ceiling. You may need the snips to adjust the sizing based on the framework you are passing through.
Next, we have the plumb bob. This strangely named, but useful tool, is essentially a weight attached to the end of a string. While not exactly rocket science in its creation, it does offer precise details about where vent pipes can be run through a ceiling in relation to the vent collar of your fireplace. Thankfully, like Shakira's hips, plumb bobs don't lie.
- plumb bob
Lastly, don't forget your caulking gun. Roof sealant, that adheres flashing and piping, often comes in cans and can be awkward and messy to apply. A caulking gun will ensure it goes where it is supposed to and is applied in a uniform fashion.
Once you made it this far, you only have a few minor things to tidy up before your new fireplace is ready to roll. Keep it up!
After the framing and venting are complete, you can go back and secure the electrical and plumbing configurations that were left undone in the beginning. It will be much simpler to do it this way, because you will have everything in place and very quickly attach what is left. A flashlight and electrical tape will come in handy while you are trying to complete electrical connections and keep wires from chafing.
If you have to install any offsets or fittings to route a gas supply line to the base of a gas fireplace or log set, you will need pipe wrenches. They will tighten flare fittings and gas line connections.
Wire strippers/snips will be needed to attach wire leads on the junction box and cut back jacketing on the electrical lead. You can also get use from this tool when installing a wall switch to control your gas fireplace.
After reading through all this we *hope* you are looking forward to using these fireplace tools and installing a new fireplace in your home. There is a shortage of passionate and qualified installers these days. While this article in no way makes you an expert, we hope it piqued your curiosity and maybe made you consider learning more about the trade. If you have questions, please reach out to our NFI certified techs at 800.203.1642.