Brick Veneer Insulation, Firebox Masonry Stoves and Growing Sassafras Trees

MOTHER's experts offer advice on brick veneer and energy costs; using a fireplace insert as the firebox for a masonry stove; and saving the red sassafras tree in Indiana.

| July/August 1984

Is brick veneer considered appropriate for super-insulated houses? I'd like to brick my home, but I don't want to decrease the energy efficiency of my dwelling. 

Brick veneer adds significantly to the construction cost of a house but does little to increase (or decrease) the structure's energy efficiency. In most cases, adding a brick wrap can be justified only by the resulting look. If you intend simply to cover the structure as it stands, using a whole-brick veneer, the drawing in the Image Gallery illustrates one technique that's commonly used for ranch and split-level homes.

On the other hand, you might want to consider a product such as the exterior wall system put out by Pan-Brick, Inc. The Pan-Brick panels combine plywood sheathing, closed-cell polyurethane insulation, and a veneer of kiln-fired clay brick slices in one easy-to-install building component. In addition, the prefab panels boast an R value of 8.7 (compared with the R-1.2 of regular brick veneer) and are said to cost 20 percent less than a tier of full-dimension brick. Such a product can be especially attractive for retrofit applications in which a whole-brick wall isn't necessary. If your local lumberyard isn't familiar with this system, contact the folks at Pan-Brick, and they'll put you in touch with the nearest distributor.

— Michael Scott 

A Masonry Stove Insert

I'm wondering if I could use a fireplace insert as the firebox for a masonry stove. I'd build channels for convection and provide ample mass for radiant heat storage. 

Yes, you could, but I have three suggestions for doing so, all of which pertain to the unit's durability and maintenance. First, don't place the rigid mortared masonry in direct contact with the bulk of the insert. Instead, leave space to allow for thermal expansion differences between the insert and the masonry. Second, because you may need to do maintenance work on the heater or even replace the whole unit in the future, I'd suggest designing the installation so that the insert can be removed with a minimum of masonry breakage. (You'll achieve some of the benefits of a masonry stove just by having the heater surrounded by brick, even if the material doesn't touch the heater and the fuel gases merely pass up through an ordinary chimney.) And, finally, select a relatively rugged and simple insert, to maximize your stove's life expectancy and minimize maintenance troubles.

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