Make it burn (Townhouse #13)

Once the floors were in I could start building the crowning jewel of the basement – the fireplace!

We bought this fireplace insert from Amazon because it was the most highly rated. I had wanted to direct-plumb a real (but ventless) gas fireplace, but ventless fireplaces are super expensive. Plus, gas makes me nervous – probably because I’ve never lived with it. But still, it introduces risk to the tenants so I decided to go a safer, if less impressive, route. Electric would have to do.

PuraFlame 30″ Western Electric Fireplace Insert with Remote Control

People said this particular one was one of the more realistic ones out there. And it sure does look slick, with its giant glass front and the depth of the firebox. So I had my electrician install a new electric subpanel and a dedicated 20amp circuit just for the fireplace. Overkill, but… better safe than sorry. (Can you tell I tend to overthink everything? Thanks, anxiety.)

Started by adding a couple of ledger board type things along the back of the mantel and the back of the hearth. These are screwed across the wall and into the studs with 3″ screws. They provide me with a way to attach whatever smaller parts I need to later without worrying about using drywall anchors or shear force or whatever – there’s wood wherever I need. Speeds up the process a whole bunch.


Second step: building the box frames that will become the surround and act as the hearth, then covering them with skins made of the leftover 1/4″ plywood. (The hearth box at the bottom got 3/4″ plywood because it has a greater risk of being kicked or sat on.)


I added window moulding under the mantel and thin corner cove moulding all along under the lip of the hearth. These would be painted later, but because I wanted the mantel to be stained rather than painted I skinned over its framework with 1/4″ real oak boards.



I love my Porter Cable nail guns and air compressor! They really were indispensible for all the trim, especially the next step of adding trim to the front pieces. And before caulking and painting we had to make sure the insert would fit…



I had a ridiculously cute helper for the painting step:


She begs to come along and help with painting!

I used the same stain on the mantel that I used on the upstairs railing. Doesn’t quite match the floors, but it’s as close as the Sherwin Williams store could find. I did a couple coats to make it as dark as I could.


And that is good enough.


Looks pretty good… Can’t wait to get the baseboards and have the electricity finished up enough that we can put in the insert for real!

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