Perhaps I wasn't clear on what our intentions are here, so I'll give it another go.
First, I'll admit that I don't know what a Class A fireplace is, and when I mentioned a stacked stone hearth up to the ceiling, I was thinking more aesthetics than function. What kind of stove do you have? One thing I can tell you for sure is that, whatever we end up with, it won't be uninstalled for the summer, which makes the aesthetics a high priority. This installation will be in the main room of the house, and will be one of the first things seen when walking in.
So, with all that being said, we want an alternate source of heat for the house (currently all electric, and it ain't pretty), and I like the idea of having heat if/when we lose power. With that in mind, we were first considering a gas fireplace. No mess inside the house, easy to use, small footprint, and aesthetically pleasing. Sounds perfect, right? Once i found out about what LPG pricing is like these days, I changed my mind on that in a hurry. There's no Natural Gas available in this area. I also discovered (thank heaven for the internet), that gas fireplaces are not terribly efficient, which sealed that for me.
A friend started telling me about the free-standing coal stove he has in his living room, and how he switched from LPG to coal after one season of using LPG. With that information in mind, it was my hope that I'd be able to find a coal fireplace (ie Hitzer 503 stoker) that could be installed in the same fashion as a gas fireplace, but no joy. I really didn't want to add the cost of installing a full masonry fireplace into which I would then install the insert. This is what led me to contact Hitzer to ask that very question. Maybe I'm being penny-wise and pound-foolish? I'd appreciate thoughts on that. I haven't really considered a true fireplace, but maybe I should?
I am looking at other options, such as the Hitzer 608 free-standing stoker, but I have to work with the decorating committee on that. If the footprint required for the hearth is too large, it probably won't fly too well.
So, this is my dilemma: do I install a true fireplace so I can have the insert, or do I build a hearth that will support the free-standers? One of the appeals of coal (for me, at least) is what appears to be minimal mess for maximum heat, vs wood, or pellets.
I'm not trying to have this done for this winter, but I want to be ready for the next, for sure!
As I said earlier, my biggest challenge at times seems to be figuring out which questions to ask! From what I've seen here,though, it looks like I've found myself a home!
Sorry if I rambled a bit, and thanks for checking in on me!