Choosing between Fireplaces vs Fireplace Inserts

 gas fireplace insert

Imagine snuggling up to a roaring fire on a cold winter’s night or hanging stockings across the mantle during the holidays.  A fireplace can add a sense of contentment and style, not to mention warmth and comfort.  Many homes in the Washington DC Metro Area have beautiful fireplaces.  Many homeowners contract with companies like ours for fireplace installation.  Whether they are considering upgrading an existing fireplace or installing a new fireplace in a home that does not have one, many homeowners find themselves choosing between installing fireplaces and installing a fireplace insert.  There are a lot of things to consider when deciding between a fireplace and an insert. 

 Cost and Maintenance Are Important Factors

Traditional fireplaces are usually made of brick or stone and contain a flue and chimney.  While they look beautiful, these open hearths can be costly to install and challenging to maintain.   If your home does not already have a chimney, building a fireplace will require a major renovation. First, a cavity must be created, then the chimney built and proper ventilation installed. That doesn’t include the indoor structure and mantle, which itself can add thousands onto the project budget.

It is usually more costly to install a fireplace.  However, many people like the look and comfort offered by a traditional fireplace. 

The classic look of traditional fireplace

Traditional Fireplaces have a classic look that many people find irresistible.  Inserts are more efficient.  However, in some homes, the modern design of fireplace inserts can conflict with the furniture and décor of the home.  We see this often in homes in historic areas in Washington DC such as Georgetown.  A fireplace insert can look modern to the level that they look out of place in the room.

 

Inserts Offer a Good Alternative

What if you already have a traditional fireplace that needs significant repairs, but cannot afford to rebuild it? Consider a fireplace insert. These beautifully designed metal boxes are an excellent way to salvage an already built fireplace, by allowing you to have a similar look and feel of a traditional fireplace with lower installation and maintenance costs.  They also tend to be significantly more energy efficient.

Here are some insert options to consider:

* Pellet Inserts: If you want a more traditional look and feel for your fireplace, a pellet insert may be the answer. This allows you to burn pellets in the hearth giving you the look of real flames and even the smell of burning wood.

* Gas: Those who want a low-maintenance option may want to consider a gas fireplace insert. This gives the look of a real fire without the inconvenience of collecting, storing and carrying wood.  It also eliminates messy cleanup.  Simply flick a switch and flames appear. Turn it off when you are done and walk away.  You can find an article that reviews the benefits of a gas fireplace in further detail here.  You may also want to look at this previously completed project. 

Fireplace inserts offer an array of advantages:

* Low Cost: Costing only a few hundred dollars, inserts are a low-cost way to add style to any room.

* Faster Installation: Can be completed in half the time of rebuilding a fireplace. 

* Stylish:  Modern inserts offer a more trendy look than a traditional fireplace presents.

* Can Be Placed Almost Anywhere:  Inserts can also be installed in smaller spaces since they don’t need the same clearances as their wood-burning counterparts. 

Which is Best For You?

When considering adding a fireplace to your home ask yourself these important questions:

  • What kind of look am I after?
  • Does my home already have a chimney?
  • What’s the difference in the cost?
  • How much maintenance am I willing to handle?

Fireplaces add comfort and style to any room. Whether you choose an open-air hearth or an insert is simply a matter of taste and cost. Both look beautiful and can give you years of enjoyment.  

5 Tips For Hiring A Chimney Sweep In Washington DC

chimney sweep tips

There are a lot of cleaning that you can do around your home on your own. However, when it comes to cleaning your chimney and making sure that it is in the best condition possible, you want to rely on a professional chimney sweep in Washington DC. After seeing these signs that you need a cleaning, it is important to hire the right chimney company.  In Washington DC homeowners want companies like ours that will do the job right at a competitive price.  Here are some tips for hiring a chimney company in Washington DC.  

1. Look for a company that believes in preventing problems before they become costly.  

A good chimney sweep looks for future problems in addition to existing chimney.  Some chimney companies only look for blaring problems.  They ignore minor problems in the hopes that they can charge more when the minor issue becomes a major problem later.  The best chimney sweeps look for signs of future problems and make recommendations.  Doing so often results in lower repair costs.  It is always cheaper to address minor chimney issues before turns into major repair needs. 

2. Choose a chimney sweep that offers additional services

You want to choose a company that can help you in a variety of different areas.  Doing so allows for you to take full benefit of their expertise.  Otherwise, you will ultimately end up hiring more than one company – and there is simply no reason for this.

Some of the most common services offered include:

  • Cleaning of chimney
  • Masonry repairs
  • Flashing repair
  • Waterproofing of chimney
  • Crown and caps repair
  • Purging of smoke chamber

 

In addition to cleaning the chimney and fireplace, it is also beneficial to look at any other services that the company might offer, such as dryer vent cleaning. After all, once you find a company, it’s best to rely on them for various other services around your home as well.

3. Read Up on the Chimney Sweep Companies Reputation

You should always look into the reputation of the company.  Your research should include sources such as online reviews, testimonials and their membership with professional organizations like the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA).  Past customers reviews are a powerful resource.  If a large number of homeowners in your area have good things to say about the company, you are likely to have a similar experience.  Positive reviews will help you makes sure the company that understands how to sweep a chimney in a professional manner.  Taking a little bit of time to investigate the company before you hire them will ensure that you get the best services at the best possible price.

4. Find Out About Chimney Sweep Licensing

Washington DC requires that companies who provide chimney services to be licensed.  You want to make sure that the business that you choose is licensed and insured. Being licensed shows that they are professional and have taken the proper steps to be compliant with the regulations.  If you allow a company to come in and they are not licensed or carry adequate insurance, any damage could potentially be your responsibility.

5.  Ask for a Quote

You also need to ask for a quote for the services that you require.  Pricing should be relatively straightforward. When you get into repairs and installations, the company might need to come out and provide an inspection before they can provide a quote.   Most companies charge for inspections and cleanings.  However, they should not charge a fee to provide a price quote.  Unfortunately, there are some cases where a quote cannot be given without performing a full inspection. 

Rebuild leaning chimney in Washington DC

 damaged chimney in Washington DC

BEFORE

The owners of this home in Washington DC hired our Washington DC chimney repair team to rebuild their leaning chimney in Washington DC.  Above is a picture of the chimney.  You can see that the chimney is leaning towards the house.  This occurred because the mortar joints had deteriorated. The mortar joints had deteriorated over time from moisture getting into the chimney.  It is possible that the moisture may have come from the concrete crown and worked its way down the chimney or it may also be from the condensation of the flue gasses in the chimney or both. In this particular case, I believe it’s a result of both.  This project reminded me of a previous rebuild.  

 chimney demolition in washington dc

 

Here we are starting the demo and taking the chimney down. The leaning chimney could not be corrected without rebuilding it. 

 installing chimney liner in DC

 

Once the chimney was rebuilt we installed a stainless steel liner for the fireplace and the gas boiler and water heater in the basement. We install the liners after the brickwork, so they are not in the way while we are laying the bricks. During the demolition of the chimney, we removed the old terracotta flue liners to make room for the stainless steel liners.

 insulating installed chimney liners

 

Once the liners were installed, we insulated around the liners with a minimum 1″ of Premier Mix poured insulation which is a mixture of vermiculite and Portland cement. This plus 4″ of solid masonry is required for the liners to meet the manufacturers UL Listing for zero clearance.

 

 

 

In the basement, we installed two stainless steel tees inside the wall for the water heater and gas boiler to hook up to.

 

 

We parged the smoke chamber of the fireplace with Chamber Tech 2000 to seal any gaps and to correct the corbelling bricks.

 

 

Once the liners were installed, we completed the rebuild by pouring a new floating cast concrete crown and installing new copper counter flashing that is tucked into the mortar bed joints of the chimney. The chimney will be painted at a later date along with the rest of the house.

 

AFTER!!!

The chimney has been completely rebuilt including the liner, crown, and caps.

 

 

5 Reasonswhy it is best to install a gas fireplace

 gas fireplace

Using a gas fireplace provide an affordable, convenient way to add warmth to your home.  Many homeowners in Washington DC have made the wise decision of having a gas fireplace installed in their home.  There are plenty of reasons why you should make the investment – and when you understand the benefits, it’s all the more reason to have one in your home.

1. Gas fireplaces are better for the environment

A gas fireplace allows you to go green as opposed to using a central furnace or HVAC system. You don’t use all of the rooms in your home to the same level, and there is no reason for you to pay to heat your entire home, including the rooms that remain unoccupied. A gas fireplace allows you to heat the room where everyone is located. In some instances, this can cut your electric bill by 20 to 40%.

2. No brick chimney needed

There is no chimney necessary when you opt for a gas fireplace. When you are looking at installing a fireplace, this needs to be a primary consideration because installing a chimney could be cost prohibitive. Modern technology makes it possible to have a fireplace without the need for a chimney area a single pipe can be run to ensure that the gas vents to the outside and this reduces the cost of installation dramatically.

3. You control the intensity fo the fire in the fireplace

When you have a gas fireplace, you also get to control the fire, including the heat and flame. This means you are going to have to stack firewood into the fireplace and hope for the best. There will be various controls that allow you to determine the intensity of the embers as well as the height of the flames.

Many units provide you with a remote control. This allows you to control the ambiance and warmth of the fire without having to get up from where you are seated. This adds even more convenience and control.

4. Gas fireplaces are easier to cleanup

You’re also going to have an easier cleanup when you choose to go with a gas version. This is because there will be no need to clean out a chimney or get rid of and half-burnt logs. In fact, there will be no need for firewood at all, and this is going to make it easier for you to obtain heat and at a lower cost as well.  Overall, gas fireplaces are easier to maintain.

It’s an Investment to Your Home

When you opt for a gas fireplace, it’s an investment into your home. It has the potential to increase the value of your home. You’re also going to be able to decide on how the fireplace looks, with such decisions to make as:

  • Size of fireplace
  • The number of controls
  • Overall style

Whether you are looking for something rustic or modern, you will be able to find it. It offers up more options than if you were to go with a traditional wood-burning fireplace.

It’s important to understand the reasons for having a gas fireplace so that you can make a more informed decision as to what to install in your home. Gas fireplaces are environmentally friendly, easy to clean and operate, and there are plenty of different styles available in the marketplace.

Gas Fireplace Maintenance Tips

Nothing beats an evening of relaxing in front of your gas fireplace. Best of all, this type of fireplace requires far less cleaning and maintenance work than typical wood fireplaces.  If you fail to conduct proper gas fireplace maintenance, however, you may deal not only with poor efficiency but also a significant safety hazard.  Homeowners in DC who do not properly maintain their gas fireplaces ultimately find themselves needing Washington DC fireplace repairs.  

Keep your gas fireplace clean, safe, and functional by following these simple tips:

Clean your fireplace glass and check for damage

 

Whether you use your fireplace daily or forget it even exists, it is imperative that you clean it at least once each month. During this time, you can check for common problems and follow up with a professional, if necessary.

  • Use a high-quality glass cleaner and a soft cloth to buff both sides of the fireplace’s glass surface. If you wait too long, a cloudy effect may occur — and it could become permanent. 
  • Clean away any buildup of dust or dirt you find inside your fireplace.
  • Determine where the gasket is located and check if it is cracked. If there is any damage to the gasket, contact a chimney repair professional and have it replaced immediately. 
  • Check any bolts that hold the fireplace’s doors in place. If these are not fastened tightly, replace them. You may otherwise risk carbon monoxide entering your home.
  • Clean debris such as dust, dirt, cobwebs, or leaves from the fireplace’s vent. 

Checking and cleaning your gas fireplace should not take long, especially as compared to the cleaning process for a wood-burning fireplace. Regular cleaning is equally important for both types of fireplaces, however, as it improves efficiency and keeps you aware of potential safety hazards.

Have your chimney cleaned

gas fireplace maintenance chimney sweep

In addition to checking your fireplace once a month on your own, you should have a chimney sweep at least once each year. Regular professional maintenance can ensure the utmost safety and efficiency. Experts can determine where inefficiency occurs, why, and how it can be fixed. Additionally, repairs may address these issues:

  • Problems with the thermocouple
  • Problems with the pilot flame
  • Faulty control valves
  • Gas leaks

In addition to having your gas fireplace checked, it’s important to schedule a full chimney sweep each year. The better you maintain your fireplace and chimney, the longer you’ll be able to enjoy your beautiful and functional fireplace.