The Three Biggest Risks for DIY Fireplace Installation in Portland, Oregon

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Installing a fireplace can be a great way to add warmth, ambiance, and value to your Portland home. However, attempting a DIY fireplace installation comes with significant risks that homeowners need to be aware of. In this article, we’ll discuss the three biggest risks associated with DIY fireplace installation and why it’s crucial to seek professional guidance from a reputable fireplace company or chimney sweep near you to ensure a safe and compliant installation.

Risk 1: Selecting the Wrong Fuel Type and System

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When installing a fireplace, the first step is to select the fuel type you want to burn. The options include traditional wood burning, gas, wood pellet burning systems, and electric power. Each fuel source and system type has unique characteristics that affect heat output, design proportions, and the viewing area of the firebox, logs, and flame. It’s essential to understand the specifications and requirements for each fuel type and system. In Portland, gas and electric fireplaces are popular due to their convenience and efficiency. However, selecting the wrong fuel type or system for your space can lead to inefficient heating, higher energy costs, and potential safety hazards. When choosing a fuel type, consider factors such as:

  • Available space for the fireplace and chimney
  • Desired heat output and efficiency
  • Ease of use and maintenance
  • Environmental impact and sustainability
  • Local availability of fuel sources

Consulting with a professional fireplace company or chimney sweep can help you make an informed decision based on your specific needs and preferences. They can assess your space, provide recommendations, and ensure that the selected fuel type and system are compatible with your home and local building codes.

Risk 2: Improper Installation and Clearance to Combustibles

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Once you’ve selected your desired fuel type, a certified professional should consult the Underwriters Laboratory Specifications Sheet of Installation. This 60-page book outlines how the fireplace needs to be set and how all the finishing materials should be arranged around it to maintain proper clearances for airspace, cooling, and cleaning to combustibles.

The installation requirements vary for different fuel types.

Wood-burning systems often require larger, masonry surrounds because masonry is non-combustible and slowly collects and releases heat back into the room. Gas fireplaces, on the other hand, typically have more minimalistic designs with tighter clearances to combustibles. Improper installation and inadequate clearance to combustibles can lead to overheating, fire hazards, and potential damage to your home.

In Portland, the Portland Building Code (PBC) and the Oregon Residential Specialty Code (ORSC) provide specific requirements for fireplace installation, including clearances to combustibles, ventilation, and chimney construction. Some key considerations for proper installation and clearance include:

  • Adequate distance between the fireplace and combustible materials such as walls, floors, and furniture
  • Proper ventilation and chimney construction are necessary to ensure safe exhaust of smoke and gases
  • Use of non-combustible materials such as brick, stone, or tile for the fireplace surround and hearth
  • Compliance with local building codes and manufacturer’s instructions

Hiring a professional chimney repair or fireplace repair service ensures that your fireplace is installed correctly and safely. Hiring someone like Portland Fireplace and Chimney ensures that your team has the knowledge, skills, and tools to navigate complex installation requirements and adhere to local building codes and regulations.

Risk 3: Failing to Obtain Proper Inspections and Permits

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Before installing a fireplace, it’s crucial to have a preliminary inspection performed. The NFPA 2-11, the code for fireplaces, chimneys, and vents, requires a certified inspector to conduct a level 2 inspection. During this inspection, the existing system or the space for the new system is measured to determine if the desired fireplace is suitable for the area.

After installation, the local county or authority having jurisdiction for building permits in Portland must inspect the new system. They will cross-reference the installation with the manufacturer’s instructions sheet. If the installation does not follow these instructions, the manufacturer’s warranty may be voided, and insurance may not cover any losses resulting from the installation.

DIY installers often make mistakes such as purchasing unsuitable fireplaces, improper installation, and using combustible materials in non-combustible areas. To avoid these issues, it’s essential to obtain the necessary permits and inspections. In Portland, a building permit is required for the installation, alteration, or replacement of a fireplace, and inspections are mandatory to ensure compliance with local codes and regulations. Failing to obtain proper inspections and permits can result in:

  • Unsafe fireplace installation that poses a fire hazard
  • Voided manufacturer’s warranty and insurance coverage
  • Fines and penalties for non-compliance with local building codes
  • Difficulty selling your home due to undocumented or non-compliant fireplace installation

A professional fireplace inspection service can help you navigate the permit and inspection process. They can ensure that your fireplace installation meets all necessary requirements and passes inspections, giving you peace of mind and protecting your investment.

Be Careful and Thorough installing your Fireplace


Proper fireplace installation is crucial for the safety and comfort of your Portland home. While DIY installation may seem like a cost-effective option, the risks associated with selecting the wrong fuel type, improper installation, and failing to obtain necessary inspections and permits can lead to severe consequences and very high costs. Even if you are completing the project yourself, building a network of professional guidance from certified inspectors and installers in the Portland area can help ensure your fireplace is installed safely, efficiently, and in compliance with local building codes.

If you decide that the adventure of installing your own fireplace is too much for you, then give Portland Fireplace and Chimney a call. We can discuss the trouble with your installation, come up with aesthetic and safe solutions that match and enhance your interior design, and deliver the fireplace you imagined. Our team is the most trained in the area and our organization leads the local Chimney Sweep Guild and teaches proper safety to other chimney sweeps in the Pacific Northwest region. Not to mention, we have over 80 five-star reviews. Trust the experts to help you navigate the process and ensure that your fireplace is installed correctly and in compliance with local regulations.


How do install a fireplace?

Installing a fireplace requires a level of comfort, heavy construction, and precision. The first step is to complete a proper assessment of the space where the fireplace will be installed. This includes checking for any potential obstructions in the living space, as well as through the roof and insulation. Using the proper measurements when deciding on the fireplace design is the most common mistake that the inexperienced installer makes.

Next, select the appropriate type of fireplace for the space. Wood-burning, gas, or electric have different space and mantle requirements that do not fit every space. Your burn box for a wood-burning fireplace will need a lot more space than an electric insert. Each type has its specific installation requirements that must be followed meticulously for optimal performance and safety. Installation itself involves carefully following the manufacturer’s instructions for assembly and connecting the fireplace to the chimney or venting system. Those instructions can be 60 pages long or longer, requiring appropriate design requirements to be made. Once you’ve installed the fireplace and connected it properly, it is crucial to test the fireplace before use to ensure that it is operating correctly and safely.

Can I install a fireplace in my house?

Yes, you can install a fireplace in your house. The level of difficulty will vary based on the fuel type and the space before the installation. That said, many homeowners find that the potential risk of installing a fireplace is too high and would rather hire a professional to complete the installation to specs. When dealing with combustibles in your home, it is often better safe than sorry.

Yes, fireplaces are legal in Oregon. If you are thinking of getting one installed in your house, you will need to get the permits to install it – which are required throughout the state.

What is the cheapest way to install a fireplace?

The cheapest way to install a fireplace is to get a factory-built or zero-clearance fireplace. These are typically really lightweight and linear, so require a lot less construction than a traditional masonry fireplace.

Does a fireplace add value to your home?

Yes, adding a fireplace to your home can increase resale value by 6–12%, according to the National Association of Real Estate Appraisers. Plus, you can recover 100% of the expenses associated with the fireplace installation. There are many reasons why fireplaces can increase a property’s value.

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