Part of the interior makeover will replace the open fire in the lounge with a slow combustion wood heater. This is primarily for ambience and will provide a backup heat source if needed.

The insert will be a Lopi Flush Wood Large with Shadowbox fascia (bronze), chosen for it's efficiency and relatively large window in a fan-assisted unit. I decided not to go for a period styled insert in favour of the larger window size and simpler style. The original open fireplace quite possibly never had a mantle, just a simple brick and stone opening. I'm still looking for a mantle design that might suit the room.

The installation documented in the images below, as a one man operation, was a slow and very considered process. First, remove everything that could be detached to lighten the load. Complete this insert weighs 250kg and without door and liner bricks probably around 225kg. The main problem lifting it vertically was getting enough distance between the insert and suspension point for the ratchet block to work properly. After that it was a matter of ensuring the inserts centre of gravity stayed in line with the block, otherwise I would have a disaster on my hands.

The design for the insert surround allows it all to be taken apart for access.

1. Lopi Flush Wood Large with Shadowbox Fascia (Black)

2. Bronze Shadowbox fascia. The actual bronze shadowbox is not this bright (see below)

3. New Lopi insert hoisted off the trailer

4. Lopi insert hauled inside. The hoist mechanism was used again, this time horizontally across the floor inside, one click at a time

5. Old open fireplace cleaned out. Insert at far right under plastic waiting for it's final move

6. Repaired brickwork using high temperature mortar

7. The surround fascia (15mm compressed fibre cement sheet) will be hung off these blocks, made from the same fibre cement sheet material. The top edge is angled 15 degrees. Builders epoxy bog was used to fill behind to provide a level bed and anchor bolts used to fix to the wall

8. The floor for the Lopi insert is 15mm fibre cement sheet on Hebel blocks. The floor of the open fireplace was leveled with leveling cement mix and a wet lime mortar used between the blocks and cement sheet. The construction is not bonded so is free to expand and contract

9. 15 mm fibre cement sheet used to pack out around the opening behind the fascia. These all need to provide an even flat surface behind the fascia. Cement was used to fill behind the horizontal strip at the top, hence the timber supporting a temporary plywood form under the strip

10. The surround fascia rear view showing the corresponding hanging blocks. The fascia can be removed again if necessary once installed. More blocks to be added at the bottom

11. Surround fascia installed.Panel at the bottom will also be removable. The design of the insert floor (above) and packing strips allows wiring to be routed behind the surround fascia and bottom panel. The surrounds and hearth will be finished decoratively later

12. The Lopi insert installed. The power cable for the insert blower fans can be seen emerging at bottom-right. A mantle can be built onto the surround fascia and a shelf below the insert. They are planned but I'm holding off until I decide what I want for the final finish

For the final move of the insert into the new cavity I used the ratchet block hoist again. I assembled a platform in front of the cavity then suspended the insert via the hoist from the scaffold frame. To get the height needed I strapped two 12x2 inch hardwood planks edge-up across the top of the scaffold to act as a beam. The strap connected to the hoist passed down between the two planks to minimise the risk of the planks "tripping" (flipping 90 degrees). I could then very slowly roll the entire scaffold (on its casters) over the temporary platform drop zone and then lower the insert. Once on the platform with the scaffold out of the way the hoist suspension point was relocated to the beam above the cavity opening just to take some of the weight off the front of the insert as the insert was rolled from the platform into the cavity. The insert comes with tiny rollers at the rear just for this one-off operation (nice addition Lopi) but it is still necessary to lift the front half of the insert (about 115kg) to use them. Taking the load off also was to avoid tipping or damaging the front edge of the new floor of the cavity. That saved me having to build a more elaborate temporary platform.

13. Long shot to show insert relative to the room.

The surround height is 1525mm. Floor to beams is 3300 mm

Flue Installation

The 9 metre extension ladder in the photos was bought specifically for this job and an extra ladder will be useful for several projects I have planned. At a collapsed length of just over 5 metres it's tricky to get it to the vertical position even before extending it. Even though I'm above average height I am just short of reaching the ladder's mid point or centre of gravity so, without a second person to help me, I need to anker the bottom somehow to swing the ladder to vertical.

I spent the next weekend installing the solid tube stainless steel flue. First I needed to remove the old open fireplace chimney cowl, which I assume this was a latter addition.

The old cement flaunching was cracked and mostly loose and easily cleaned off. Then the old cowl had to be raised and chocked little by little until the 400mm section extending down into the chimney was clear and the bottom edge could sit on a couple of wood battens. Getting it down from there was easy. I attached a rope to the top and from a safe distance away gave it a solid sharp yank so that it would clear the ladder on the way down. Conveniently, it rotated a full 360 degrees on decent and hit the soft ground base first before coming to rest on it's side.

The cowl had a bullet hole in it clearly shot from one of the two hills across the main road (you know who you are if you are still living :-) A pretty deliberate and dangerous potshot.

Not incidently, for safety I have tied the ladder securely to the chimney at the top.

14. Old cowl

15. Old cowl

16. Old cowl gone, lying on the ground where it landed.

17. Old cowl, complete with [the obligatory] bullet hole

Someone clearly took a pot shot at the cowl at some point. The bullet presumably ended up in the fire place below because there is no exit hole. I'll retain it for its historical significance and turn it into either a garden feature or a lamp stand.

The flue was pre assembled at ground level on the floor in the living room then, on the first dry windless day, partially disassembled again to drop it down the chimney from above. To support the drop down the chimney, a rope was threaded through the whole flue length and then attached to a short rod across the bottom of the flue. The first (lower) 2.5 metre section was raised to the top via a second rope, lifted and lowered into the chimney and hung via the support rope while an octopus strap with vinyl sleeve for grip held the flue as the next 1 metre section was reattached. Gently dropping the entire flue another metre the last (top-most) 2 metre section was reattached and the whole flue lowered and finally connected to the insert from below. 2.5 metres was the most I could manipulate safely.

Unfortunately I don't have any photos of that process because, having a fear of heights, I was focused on self-preservation and completely forgot about photos. (Before starting with this DIY project my climbing limit was just four rungs up a ladder.)

18. New cowl attached to a chimney plate collar on a plate that is now under new cement flaunching. Some white knuckles on the ladder while the other hand holds the phone/camera.

19. Finished.

Not much to look at but from a restoration perspective it's closer to the original appearance.

The first firing of the insert was a success. The flue drafted nicely right from the start. This initial firing is to bake the paint on the insert and an opportunity to test everything and get an idea of the heat it can generate.

20. First fire