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My fireplace box is 21" x 29", 8" deep. This is what it looks like now:

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The previous owners bolted a sheet of metal to it and stuck a heater in front. I pulled out the heater after turning off the gas and started peeking behind the metal, to find (what I think is) a metal flue within. It's rectangular and about the size of a gutter downspout.

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It is not connected to any other units in the building using a gas fireplace. Can I cut this part off so I can have a clear box for setting in a rack of electric powered "logs" after paint the brick inside? And how do I cut this metal more cleanly or remove the bolted on and painted over steel bit?

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    it's hard to see what's going on. you may as well remove the whole cover, it's damaged now, – Jasen Feb 25 at 7:53
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    If all you're doing is installing electric logs, it shouldn't matter much where you put them. You've already damaged the cover, as @Jasen noted, so you're going to remove it completely anyway, so do so now. Then take a look at what you've got left. You may discover why the previous owner covered it up, and wish you'd never messed with it, you may find an excellent space to use. – FreeMan Feb 25 at 12:39
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It sounds like your original setup was a gas log, maybe some heat but mostly decorative. All the electric models I know of are zero clearance so you should have no problems installing an electric model in that space.

I would probably seal it off so no heat was lost up the stack as you won’t need a vent with all electric. But follow the manufacturers instructions and it will be fine.

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