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32v: Fireplace

We ran out of propane when camping last fall and woke up to a 40-something degree camper.¬† ūüôĀ
Fortunately the campground sold propane but we had to wait a few hours until the office was open.

Now we only open one tank at a time so we are aware when one is empty.  I also got to thinking about an electric heater as a backup.  Hence this post about adding a fireplace.   

Update April, 2021: Tested the fireplace camping for the first time this past weekend.  The temperature sensor seems to be off by 10 degrees or more Рwith the RV inside temperature at 56, I had to bump the fireplace setting to 75 (it goes in 5 degree increments) before it kicked on. 
With the fireplace on high, it brought the inside temp up by 12 degrees in an hour (heating only the kitchen/main area, not garage or bedroom).¬† I think this might be one of our most impactful additions so far….

I chose the Furrion 30″ log style (model¬†RV-FF30SW15A-BL).¬† I could have gone with a smaller unit that would not require tearing into the cabinet frame, but I would still have to build some sort of mounting brackets so I figured I may as well go for broke.¬† I looked at some other 30″ models but Furrion (surprisingly) was similar in price or even cheaper.

Guys, ladies, whoever might be doing this work — I highly recommend doing it without showing your significant other the various stages!¬† ¬†I think my poor wife would have a heart attack if she saw the work in progress.¬† Between all the tools and materials completely taking over the kitchen, the demo work on the beautiful cabinet, etc….

I briefly considered building a cabinet in front of the kitchen island, but oh so briefly.¬† That would be a considerable amount of “finish” work that would have to look good and match the rest of the trailer.¬† I would likely want to extend the kitchen counter onto it for more usable space and didn’t want to go down that path.¬† Plus it would narrow that walkway by at least 8″.

So instead I opted to put it under the TV.¬† Down low (next to power distribution panel) would mean a very small fireplace and I didn’t think it would look right.¬† So it seemed like the only reasonable spot would be to cut out the space where the cabinet doors are and removing the shelf inside.

Cabinet doors removed, shelf removed.

I have found that in our model the shelf supports are all “stapled” in with U shaped finish nails.¬† Does a great job hiding the fasteners because they are so small, but makes it really tough to remove anything without tearing it up, especially that paper thin lauan material they use for shelves, walls, etc!¬†

They also use a strip of particle board for the shelf front, giving the shelf more strength, an edge to keep things from sliding off the shelf, and an attractive front.  You can see examples of these boards on the shelves below the stereo.  Just like in the kitchen and bedroom shelves, they use corrugated fasteners, which I hate!  I have not found a good way to remove them without tearing up the board.  Next time I may try to cut it out with a utility knife. 

I measured the fireplace instead of using the dimensions in the instructions.¬† I wanted to remove as little of the cabinet as I could, but I also wanted to fit it snugly.¬† I didn’t want to build out a really solid frame for it because of the extra weight, having to remove the bottom shelf, not having adequate points to tie into, etc.¬† For example, the left legs of the frame would have to extend to the floor for proper support, but cannot because the power panel is in the way.

This is the “frame” I ended up with.¬† I used scrap lumber I had on hand (aaannnd you can tell!) but I didn’t really care how it looked.¬† I might have been able to build something nicer from 1×2 but I wanted to keep it light if possible yet solid.¬†
The mounting holes on the stove are a few inches from the edge, so I needed larger blocks of wood (screwed into existing “supports” inside the cabinet).
To stabilize the top I added a thin plywood shelf, which serves as the new bottom of the cabinet above the fireplace. 

The fireplace inserted.  There are two ways to mount it Рfully recessed and sticking out an inch or two to expose the intake vents.  I was not crazy about the look of that so I went with fully recessed.   Not being wise in the mystical ways of electric fireplaces, I opted to place the shelf an inch or so above these vents, just in case.  

You can see at the top corners of the unit where I trimmed the wood around it to accommodate the screw heads not flush with the fireplace.¬† That’s how tight this thing fits!

I got ahead of myself a little.
Taking a step back and removing the fireplace, this is the hole drilled for the plug.¬† I used a 1/2″ hole saw, then a utility knife to shape it a little and fit the plug.

I installed an outlet in the lower cabinet, next to the surge suppressor (red arrow in the photo below).¬† Since this is a 1500 watt heater it will draw 12.5 amps.¬† Sizing for the 125% rule places us at 15.6 amps, just above a 15 amp breaker.¬† I didn’t want to have to be careful what else might be plugged in at the time, so I opted just to add another breaker (circled in yellow in photo below).¬† I had a Square-D 20 amp on hand that fortunately had the correct mounting configuration.¬† Also fortunate for me, there was a spare spot in the power panel for the new breaker – all I had to do was cut out the plastic “blank” covering it.¬†¬†

I used 12 gauge to wire in the new breaker, running it out of sight over the surge suppressor and into the wall above the outlet.

Ok this is a weird angle.  I took this shot from inside the cabinet (where the fireplace will sit), looking up at the shelf that I added.

I wanted to re-attach the particle board decorative piece that ran in front of the original shelf, but the sides of it are severely chewed up from removing the corrugated fasteners originally holding it in place.

I used three L shaped corner brackets (a.k.a. angle irons?) to fasten this piece to the shelf.  I doubt it has any strength to it but hopefully it holds up ok!
I had to cut out channels for the L brackets in the shelf itself, so that the board would mount flush with it.

This is the left hand cabinet door, after cutting it down to about 10 and a half inches.

I cut the door about two thirds of the way down, testing to see how clean I could make the cut (cleaner = less obvious when put back together).  The inside panel slides out, and I set that aside.  I found little round rubber pellets in the tracks where the filler panel slides into, sort of spongy like a pencil eraser.  I suppose to keep them from moving around/rattling/etc.  but they were throwing me off when measuring where to cut the filler panel to cut it down.

After cutting the bottom as low as I could without impacting the decorative grooves, I measured the filler panel (which needs to extend past the upper frame about 1/2″ or so to rest inside the bottom frame) and cut it.

I glued the frame back together with wood glue, then stapled one side for extra support and placed the hinge so it would help hold the other side together.

Fortunately, I could still use the same upper hinge holes already in the cabinet, so I didn’t have to find a way to hide/fill them.¬† The lower hinge holes are cut out or covered by the fireplace glass.

Also of great luck:¬† I needed to move the top hinge down a little to take advantage of the existing holes in the cabinet.¬† ¬†Fortunately, the bottom hole of the three screws holding the hinge to the door was in the perfect place to become the top screw!¬† It’s crazy how these things work out sometimes; I’m putting my money on divine intervention here.¬†

I moved the door catches (that were originally located on the middle shelf) up to the top, so it was simply a matter of inserting the door-side piece (the “male” piece) into the catch.¬† I closed the cabinet door against it and pressed hard from the backside – the door piece has two barbs on it that marked on the door exactly where it should go.

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