You may have a fireplace that is a “kit” or “zero-clearance” fireplace. These are manufactured fireplace systems that are designed to be installed in a home or apartment without having to build a brick chimney.

Wood exterior chimney "chase" of a "zero-clearance" chimney/fireplace system.
Wood exterior chimney “chase” of a “zero-clearance” chimney/fireplace system.
A fireplace with refractory panels that need to be replaced.
A fireplace with refractory panels that need to be replaced.

New fireplace replacement refractory panels installed.
New fireplace replacement refractory panels installed.





Installing new fireplace replacement refractory panels

First, take measurements of all panels to be replaced. The new panels that you purchase will most likely be of larger dimensions that you will cut your pieces out of. You are going to have to do the math; compare the dimensions of your old pieces to the dimensions of the new piece(s) and determine how many pieces you can get out of one new panel. I have only been able to get two pieces out of a large panel. Order the appropriate number of new panels.

Use a carpenter’s pencil to draw out your dimensions on the new panels. Next, you will have to have a 4.5-inch angle grinder and a thin diamond wet/dry blade for the grinder. I recommend 7 amps or higher for a grinder. The blade can be used wet or dry and can be purchased at Harbor Freight or any good hardware store.

When I cut panels, I like to cut them on an old moving blanket or some similar material that will cushion the panel and absorb the vibration of the grinder, which is quite substantial. Do not cut these panels on a hard surface, as you will risk cracking them during the cutting process.

Clips and self-tapping screws.

You may have to fabricate and install fastening clips to keep the vertical panels from falling over after you install them in the fireplace. The clips can be fabricated from pieces of step flashing by cutting them to size with metal shears.

I use #8 x 1/2″ self-tapping metal screws to attach the clips I have made to the firebox. #8 screws require a 1/4″ driver bit for your drill. The nice thing about self-tapping screws is that you do not have to drill pilot holes for the screws. The screws have their own drill bit formed into the end of the screw!

(c) 2019 Clifford Brand