Sonora Lodge – Custom Case Study

VGF has designed and installed many custom projects over the years, indoor, outdoor, large, and small. Here you’ll find a collection a few favourite projects, some straight-forward, some filled with challenges, and others that are just plain ‘ole fun. We put them together to form the Vancouver Gas Fireplaces Custom Case Studies.



Vancouver Gas Fireplaces was contacted almost two years ago regarding the design and fabrication of an over-sized fireplace for a new lodge at Sonora Resort, a Desolation Sound luxury lodge in British Columbia. The fireplace concept called for a see-through firebox, twelve feet wide by three feet high and four feet deep. It was to feature stone style burners throughout the unit. The structure was not in place to support a masonry fireplace of this magnitude, so a custom zero clearance fabrication was needed with the burners set into it.

The only change we suggested to their design was the use of conventional log style burners as opposed to rock style burners. This was because Sonora was using propane to fuel the fireplace. Propane burns a lot dirtier than natural gas and with rock style burners, the flames tend to impinge on the rocks, causing excessive carboning.

Vancouver Gas Fireplaces gave a budget proposal for the project including fabrication of the zero clearance enclosure, the burners, control systems and venting system. In all honesty, given the size of the unit, the budget and the logistics of getting this unit up to the site, we did not expect much to come of it. However much to our surprise, our proposal was accepted some months later and we started the design work. It was only when we visited the site to verify the installation details that we realized what a first class operation this project was. The project manager arranged flights up to the resort and made sure all the appropriate people were on hand to go over any issues regarding the installation.

The lodge itself was a spectacular post and beam construction with a soaring main room ceiling over twenty-five feet in height. The quality of the site workmanship and the condition of the site were amongst the best we had ever seen. All this convinced us that this client truly cared about the end product and was willing to persevere to get their vision completed. One of our biggest challenges was logistically dealing with this several-ton fabricated body. In the end the fireplace was barged up to the resort from Vancouver and put into place by crane.

The controls for the fireplace, which consisted of four valves with ignition modules, transformers and interlocking controls, were pre-mounted on backing panels, and pre-wired and gassed as much as possible to make it as plug and play as it could be. The 22″ ID A vent chimney had to be specially ordered to deal with the approximately 600,000 BTU burner set-up. All the equipment along with the burners, logs and grates was also barged up to the site.

All the main installation of the controls, venting and burners were done by the site forces who were exceptionally competent and used to taking on non-standard installation issues. We went up to the site for final balancing and commissioning. Despite the allowance for six seven-inch intakes, it was still a challenge getting enough air in for combustion and dilution. Once we had the unit set up and running we turned up the gas to provide a larger picture—always a risky move. As a result, the unit is not burning quite as we would like and we will be going back for adjustments. With a unit this size, it is not uncommon to have to adjust several times.

The final result was a very large and dramatic fireplace surrounded by beautiful finishing and artwork. The striking outcome demonstrates what a client’s commitment to quality can create.

Thinking about a custom fireplace?

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Vancouver Gas Fireplaces’ custom fabrications and installations are designed and tested to exceed UL/ULC standards and associated sections pertaining to the harmonized North American Gas Code.
In British Columbia our custom projects are subject to an
independent preliminary review by the Equipment Approvals Manager of the Gas Safety Authority of British Columbia and a subsequent field review and inspection by Independent Arms Length Government Inspectors.
Our installations and fabrications outside of British Columbia have been independently tested and approved by ULC, Inreteck and other certified and recognized independent testing agencies through out North America as specifically required by local jurisdictions.