Installing a new fireplace door system is really a simple project providing that the fireplace you are planning to work on was built with a reasonably common sized opening. If you don’t have the proper opening size for an off the shelf fireplace door system that will fit, then you will need to have a custom door assembly made to order.
I have just installed one that was on the shelf at a local home improvement center, and it only took me about 2 hours to remove the old one, clean up the brick and the hearth, then install the new door unit. It seemed to me that the longest section of my time was spent removing the new door system from the packaging!
If you are going to do this project it is wise to shop around and see what options are available, and in which price range will your personal tastes fall. Keep in mind that there are plenty of reputable local fireplace shops around town, and they can usually offer install advice, plus many of them could even quote you the installation if you are not into doing this yourself. If you are so inclined to go into this as a DIY homeowner there are only a few things to look out for which can cause things to go downhill fast. If the fireplace installer did not do a good job of mounting the “Lintel” which is the steel plate at the top front edge of the opening, where you can get the brackets to clamp down on the front and back edges of this thin steel bar, then you may need to do some work on the mortar, or even the brick or tile. If the opening is custom, it may be harder for you to fit a standard door to your fireplace. Once again brickwork, mortar,drilling into the Lintel, and even tile repair could be in your future.
You will need some basic hand tools to accomplish this job. bring along these items and you will be good to go:
razor knife, channel locks, phillips, and flat screwdrivers, flashlight, gloves, hammer, flat chisel, vise grips.
Before you even get the tools out of your truck, lay down some drop cloths, plastic, or newspaper to keep from tracking soot and other crud all over your house. Remove the old doors and screens from the door frame by removing any retaining clips or pins that may hold them in place. Most doors will simply lift up and out when you get the lower hinge pin to clear the bottom hole in the frame. Removing the old door frame is done by first taking out the bottom inside pressure brackets, which push outward on the inside edge of the brickwork inside the fireplace behind the lower right and left corners of the door unit. Next with a shoulder leaned into old door, loosen the top spanner bolts that hold the mounting clips to the steel lintel plate which runs across the top inside edge of the fireplace opening. Sometimes this mounting tab is screwed into the lintel plate with a self tapping metal screw. These screws can be very hard to remove due to the heating and cooling cycles causing them to shrink and expand. At times I have had to cut these away with reciprocating saw or a hacksaw blade.
Once these top brackets are loose, the door can be pulled away from the fireplace opening, then immediately remove this and any other items from the old door out of the work area. This will help you to not bang or scratch the new doors when moving things around.
Clean up the hearth, making sure there are no protrusions in the brickwork, and that the new door system will fit flush to the face of the brick. When you order or pick out the new door you should have made a decision about how much larger the new door will be compared to the existing opening. Typically you will want to cover the existing opening with at least an inch or two of overlap on all sides, left, right, and top. The unit I just put in had an optional two inch high adapter plate that had to be bolted on if you wanted the door top to be higher. I chose to use this riser in order to raise the top edge of the door unit above the blobs of old mortar which was used to seal the old door on it’s top edge. This was nasty looking, and even after I chiseled away most of it, there was still a bit sticking out and I wanted to cover it with the new door unit. Before even bringing the new door frame up onto the hearth I made sure all the corners around the opening were clean and square.
Now it is time to test fit the new door by placing it gently over the fireplace opening, making note of any irregularities which could make the finished product look less than presentable. Take care of any mechanical issues before attaching the mounting hardware. Now we are ready to start working with the new door unit. First you want to take out the doors and screens from the new frame so that they don’t get broken or scratched, this also makes the frame easier to handle when trying to attach it to the fireplace opening. The top brackets included in this door kit were adjustable, and adaptable to many configurations, but I could see where too tall of a new door could cause problems in getting the bracket to attach to the new frame and the old lintel plate across the top inside edge of the fireplace opening.
Now that the door unit has been dry fitted, and if you are happy with the brick and hearth, place the frame up to the opening and center it. Take the top mounting hardware and loosely fit it into the slots on the upper back side of the frame. These brackets are intended to clamp over the flat steel lintel plate running across the top edge of the fireplace opening. There is a hooked end of this bracket opposite the wing bolt, and it has to grip onto the front edge of the lintel plate. The wing bolt type spanner screw is to fix the bracket to the lintel, and there is a hole in this bracket which the other half of your bracket is held onto with a screw. Pushing the frame into the brick and tightening the wing bolt and then tightening the screw into the front bracket should hold the door in place. Once you have tightened both brackets, it is time to install the lower pressure brackets to the left and right bottom edges just inside the door frame. These slip into mating slots or holes on the back face of the frame, and with the wing bolts you force the bottom to stay fixed against the brick. Adjust these wing bolts slowly, first on one side then the other so that you don’t twist the frame. Install any insulation that came with the kit around the inside pockets of the frame, here is where some fireplace rated caulking or extra thick insulation comes in handy.
To caulk or not to caulk, that is the question. Depending who you ask, you will get a number of opinions on whether you should caulk the edges of your new door unit, or is it sufficient to just use insulation like people have done for many many years. If you don’t want to lose heat up the chimney when you are not even using the fireplace, and you don’t want to get soot all over your brick or the walls and ceilings, then you probably want to have very little gap between the brick and the new fireplace cover. The high temperature caulking is preferred by many experts because it makes the unit almost leak free. This gives you the ability to properly control the fire with the damper vents which are built in along the bottom edge of the new door unit!
Your next job is to put your screens and doors on, get the grating back in place, start your kindling going, throw some logs on the fire, sit back and see how well your new fireplace doors operate. If you see any smoke exiting the top or side edges of your new door enclosure, then you may need to adjust the slide vent along the bottom edge of your new door. Try the fire with the glass doors closed, and see how things burn. If you don’t have enough make up air, then the fire will be sluggish, and will produce lots of smoke, and will also not produce a lot of heat. Running a fire in this state too long, or too often can cause creosote to build up inside your chimney, and chimney fires could be the end result.
Use common sense and some basic safety precautions and your new fireplace doors will give you many years of reliable service! good luck, and please comment on this article if you have any thoughts you would like to share. Thanks for reading this!