What you need to know about gas fireplaces

 gas fireplace

There is a growing trend of gas fireplaces installations like ours in Washington DC.  There are many reasons for this pattern.  Some homeowners love not having to clean up ash.  For many other homeowners, it comes down to how easy they are to use.  Gas fireplaces also require less chimney repairs.  There are many aspects to gas fireplaces.   Below is essential information that you will need to know about gas fireplaces. 

Advantages of Gas Fireplaces

Easy to Use

Gas fireplaces are incredibly straightforward and easy to use. The temperature can be set quickly, and they typically can be turned on or off at the push of a button.  Just press a button and enjoy the warm, toasty feeling that you always want in the winter.

No Carrying or Chopping Wood

There is nothing fun about carrying stacks of wood in the bitter cold of winters in Washington DC.  Chopping wood in the inclement weather is even worse.  Even if you pick up wood from a local store, you still have to carry it.  Many people choose gas to eliminate these inconvenience of carrying, chopping and handling the wood. 

Easy Clean-Up

Wood leaves ashes when it burns.  Gas does not. You don’t have to scoop out ashes when you’re done or clean soot off the grids of your fireplace. 

Read this article to learn additional benefits of gas fireplaces.

Disadvantages of Gas Fireplaces

Higher Purchase Price

Perhaps the most significant obstacle of a gas fireplace, on the other hand, can be summed up in a single word: cost. According to the experts at HouseLogic, gas fireplaces have purchase prices that range 20%-30% higher than other options. 

Higher Fuel Cost Compared to Wood

Gas fireplaces, as their name suggests, burn natural gas instead of wood or other fuel sources during operation. Depending on how much you’re paying for natural gas in your area of the country, along with how often you have the gas fireplace on in the first place, you could easily be looking at an operational cost of several thousand dollars per season. 

With wood, on the other hand, all you have to concern yourself with is the cost of wood. Buying bundles of wood from a store is usually cheaper than natural gas.  If you have a tree in your backyard that you’ve been thinking about chopping down all summer long, you’ve got enough wood to last you quite awhile to be sure.  However, you may need to ask yourself what you are going to do the next season?

Types of Gas Fireplaces

Note that there are also a few different types of gas fireplaces that you can choose from depending on your needs. These include ones like:

Gas Logs

These are the cheapest option concerning gas fireplace installation, as they’re mainly just a stack of ceramic logs with a built-in gas burner that sits inside your existing fireplace.

Fireplace Inserts

Gas fireplace inserts are installed within an existing fireplace opening.  In doing so, they convert inefficient wood fireplaces into energy efficient, easy to use gas fireplaces.  

Free Standing Fireplaces

 As the name suggests, these are free standing gas fireplaces that do NOT require your home have an existing fireplace or a chimney installed. Free standing fireplaces vent through a metal pipe that extends from the unit out the roof.  Installation requirements result in this being the most expensive gas fireplace option. 

Ventless Fireplaces

Gas fireplaces are also available in “ventless” and “vented” varieties. Vented options discharge all heat and exhaust up a chimney, while ventless units discharge into your house.  Manufacturer of ventless fireplaces claims that the discharge does not present a health risk.  However, many chimney professionals do not offer ventless out of safety concerns created by gases being released in the home.  We recommend against going with ventless units.  

Properly Maintaining Gas Fireplaces: Things to Consider

Once you’ve actually installed a gas fireplace in your home, the final thing you have to concern yourself with is maintenance. Gas fireplaces are far easier to maintain in the long run than their wood-burning cousins, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few things to keep in mind.

  • Remember that dust, dirt and other elements can build upon the ports of your gas fireplace – eventually leading to clogging and inefficient burning. Always make sure to safely clean this build up at least once every few weeks for the best results.
  • You should always have an annual inspection, cleaning, and adjustment of your gas fireplace performed to help address small problems before they have a chance to become much bigger and more expensive ones down the road.
  • Clean the glass on both sides of your gas fireplace with glass cleaner at least once per month to prevent buildup.
  • If you have a vented gas fireplace, always pay careful attention to the unit’s outside vent to make sure that dirt or debris are not blocking it.
  • Inspect the gas fireplace gasket at least once a month to make sure that it isn’t cracked or missing any pieces. If it is, get this issue taken care of immediately.
Want to know more about gas fireplace maintenance?  Read this article
 

Gas Fireplace Installation: Breaking It Down

The gas fireplace installation process itself isn’t necessarily the most complicated task in the world, but it should not be seen as a DIY project.  We strongly suggest hiring a licensed chimney company to install your gas fireplace.  Here are some of the steps involved with installing a gas fireplace.

  • Review the manufacturer’s directions before choosing a location for your fireplace so that you are aware of all required clearances. Clearances from the fireplace box to the surrounding walls (along with the wood framing) will be specified in these directions.

Note that the vent will also need to be kept a certain distance away from insulation, wood and any other type of material that might combust.

Start by building a fireplace platform, which acts as a foundation to keep the base of your fireplace up and off the ground so that heat has a way to dissipate during use. You’ll typically build the frame (again – follow the specific manufacturer’s directions), cover it with drywall or another recommended material and secure it in place.

Unless you’re using a ventless gas fireplace (which we do not recommend), you’ll need to punch a hole in the wall of your home to install the vent that will eventually attach to the fireplace itself.

Once the actual fireplace unit is in place on top of the frame, you’ll need to build the wall surrounds that both help to keep it in place and help it achieve the desired look and feel.  After this, you’ll likely want to add a mantel to the top of the structure for the sake of functionality.

At this point, you’ll also need to run a gas line directly to the gas fireplace unit itself. You may even need to run an electrical line if you’re installing a fan, a remote control or another type of optional item.

Now, you’re ready to finish everything off. Once the gas fireplace unit is secure and in place (and you don’t need immediate access to the rear to install gas or electrical lines), you can cover the area in wood and drywall and paint to give it the proper finishing touches.

As you can see, there are many steps involved in installing a gas fireplace.  It is important to remember that you are installing something that generates heat.  When done correctly, installing a gas fireplace is lovely.  When done incorrectly, it can threaten the safety of your home.  Improperly installing a gas unit can lead to house fires.  It is always best to hire a professional repair technician.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a straightforward and efficient way to heat your home during those cold winter months of the year, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better option than gas fireplaces.  Pick the right type to fit your needs.  Perform the recommended maintenance and your investment in a gas fireplace will serve you and your loved ones well for years to come.

 

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.

 

 Gas Fireplace Safety & Maintenance: What You Must Know

 gas fireplace safety

Having a gas fireplace can be an incredible luxury for any homeowner, especially during those cooler months of the year. Furthermore, many homeowners also enjoy the fact that gas fireplaces require less care, cleaning, and maintenance than a traditional wood-burning fireplace. Ease of maintenance is one of the common reasons why homeowners install gas fireplaces.  Still, there are some important steps all owners should take to maintain proper gas fireplace safety and prevent gas fireplace repairs.

Schedule Annual Fireplace Inspections

The single most important thing you can do to prolong the safe use of your gas fireplace is to schedule an annual fireplace inspection and cleaning with a reputable professional chimney repair company.  This is a great way to have all the components of your gas fireplace checked out to ensure everything is in safe working order—and to have any necessary small repairs made before they become more expensive and problematic.

Specific aspects of your fireplace a professional should check during an inspection include:

  • smoke flumes and vents
  • gas line
  • ignition system
  • fans (where applicable)

You can also find additional info about when a chimney cleaning is needed here.  

Check the Exterior Vent Monthly

Your gas fireplace most likely has a vent somewhere on the exterior of your home; this vent has an important responsibility of carrying any smoke and carbon monoxide from a fire safely out of your home. Inspection of this vent should already be done by a professional as part of your annual inspection. 

It is never a bad idea to exercise additional precautions. Once a month, check the exterior vent for yourself and make sure it’s clear of any debris or obstructions that could otherwise pose a carbon monoxide risk to your household. And of course, always keep at least one carbon monoxide detector in your home.

Clean Out Fireplace and Glass Regularly

Proper gas fireplace safety also requires homeowners to clean out your fireplace monthly. Since it’s not wood-burning, this task shouldn’t be too time-consuming.  Still, taking the time to get rid of any cobwebs or other debris is a good idea.

You should also use a quality glass cleaner to wipe down the inside and outside of your fireplace screen, which will keep it from becoming stained or otherwise permanently discolored. This is a small part of gas fireplace safety that will allow you to continue enjoying your fireplace to the fullest extent.

Don’t Ignore Signs of Problems

Finally, should anything ever seem “off” about the operation of your gas fireplace, call a professional chimney repair company and stop using your gas fireplace right away. Always go with your gut instinct and do not ignore a potential problem. When it comes to the safety of your gas fireplace, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Some potential “red flags” to be on the lookout for include:

  • ·         odd smells coming from your fireplace
  • ·         difficulty getting pilot light to ignite
  • ·         smoke coming from your fireplace

By taking the time to maintain your gas fireplace properly, you can enjoy safe operation for many years to come!

 

 

Floating cast crown & chimney rebuild in Maryland

damaged chimney crown

The homeowners just purchased their Owings, MD home and they knew from the home inspection that the chimney needed some masonry repairs. As you can see the bricks are spalling (spalling happens when moisture gets into the bricks freezes and pops the brick faces out).  This crown was in a condition similar to a chimney project that we rebuilt in Ellicott City.

Why the home needed a chimney rebuild?

cracked concrete chimney crown

This happens because of the design flaws in the construction of the chimney. Below is I will list some of the flaws based on the arrows.

Green arrow– They did not install an expansion joint around the flue liners. When the flue is in use and heat is going through it, it will expand. Without an expansion joint the flue liners will eventually crack the crown as they expand during the heating process. You can see that has happened here with the large cracks running from the chimney liners to the edge of the crown.

Yellow arrow– The crown is pitched to the edge of the bricks leaving it fragile. The crown itself isn’t thick enough, to begin with, but when they pitched it off to the edges it leaves a very thin surface where water will collect, freeze and crack the edges.

Red arrow– The bricks at the top of the chimney are corbelled inwards (stepped in). This leaves a place for water to sit and soak into the chimney. This is also a place where you can have vegetation growing on the chimney like the one above. The vegetation can and will have the roots destroy the chimney if left unattended.

All this damage to the to the top of the stack will also cause leaking into the fireplace.  You can find out more about common causes of chimney leaks in our previous article.

How we rebuilt the chimney

chimney repair scaffolding

When we build or rebuild chimneys, we will corbel the bricks out, and from there we will build a new floating cast concrete crown that sits on a stainless steel sheet, re-enforced with mesh and has the expansion joints around the flue liners.  You can learn more about floating cast concrete crown here.

chimney repair technician

Once the chimney was rebuilt, we applied Chimney Saver waterproofing to prevent the same moisture issues from occurring.

Job Complete – Rebuilt Chimney

finished chimney crown repair

We also installed new counter flashing which in tucked into the mortar bed joints of the chimney.

final crown repair and chimney rebuild

Rebuild completed! We were able to get a pretty good match on the brick and mortar. Another satisfied customer from All Pro Chimney Service.

Danger discovered while rebuilding brick chimney

chimney rebuild in Silver Spring, MD
 
We were contacted by the customer because they were concerned about the gap between the house and the chimney on their home in Silver Spring, MD. When I went out for the initial site visit, I discovered the chimney was not constructed up to code had some major issues and concluded that this was not going to be a standard brick chimney repair.  Rebuilding the brick chimney was the best option.  As the job progressed we discovered several dangerous issues that threatened the home.  

chinney built over electrical service

unsafe chimney installation

The first issue is that the chimney was built directly over the electrical service for the house. Yes, that’s right, some “genius”  thought that having the power line go through the chimney was safe! Luckily the customer did not use the fireplace much over the past years.  

There is nothing more important than safety.  Before starting repairing the brick chimney, we had to have the power cut off, and new electrical service was routed safely around the chimney. 

chimney mortar  install over siding
 
The second issue is that the chimney was built over the siding and not secured to the house with wall ties. The absence of wall ties is part or the reason why the stack pulled away from the house. Improperly built shoulders are a frequent cause of chimney leaks.

improper flue liner installation
 
The third issue is that flue liner was resting against homes framing members as it penetrated the roof. There should be 4″ of solid masonry with 1″ air space between the two.  

3 sided chimney build
 
The fourth issue is that the chimney was built with only three sides. This is the other reason why the chimney pulled away from the house. There’s supposed to be a row of bricks between the flue liner and the house, and that’s where the wall ties would secure the chimney to the house. When we demolished the chimney, we found that the flue liner was resting on the siding and power line.

silver spring, md chimney demolition
 
It took us a couple of days to demolish the chimney down to the footer. We inspected the footer and found it to be in good condition.

plywood underneath firebricks in chimney
 
The fifth issue we found was that there was plywood directly underneath the firebricks which were actually charred. This may not cause a chimney leak.  However, it certainly could cause a house fire. 

gap in fireplace hearth
 
During the initial visit, I noticed this gap on the hearth which is where the embers got through to char the plywood below it.

chimney rebuild in progress
 
Rebuild the brick chimney in progress: We cut out the plywood and poured concrete to fill the cavity.
 

rebuilding brick chimney in progress
Rebuilding the brick chimney in progress: This is the new hearth (firebox floor) being built for the wood burning fireplace.
 rebuilding chimney firebox installation
Rebuild in progress: Here we have the chimney rebuild in progress, the firebox is complete, and the damper is installed.

cut siding during rebuilding chimney
 
Rebuild in progress: We cut out the siding built the chimney back up with a row of brick between the flue liner and the house.

rebuilt chimney penetrating roof
 
Rebuild in progress: Here we have the chimney penetrating the roof.


 
Rebuild complete: We installed a new stainless steel cap, built a new concrete crown and installed new counter flashing. We were careful to use the proper flashing technique to prevent leaking chimney flashing. 
rebuilding brick chimney in silver spring, md
 
Here is the pic that was taken after rebuilding the brick chimney was completed from the ground up.