If your home has an open masonry fireplace, you may want to consider having a fireplace insert installed. A fireplace insert is a fireplace contained in a metal box that converts your home’s inefficient, masonry fireplace into a gas, wood-burning, or pellet stove. Many homeowners in the Washington DC Metro Area find installing a fireplace insert to be a great option to increase energy efficiency while maintaining the natural beauty of a fireplace. For this reason, many chimney and fireplace companies like ours find fireplace inserts to be in high demand.
How does a fireplace insert work? In simplest terms, a fireplace insert consists of two parts: a steel shell and a firebox. The firebox is designed to contain a fire (and its heat) so that rest of the room is heated with minimal waste. The steel shell surrounding the box helps to improve efficiency. Together, these two components work to make your home’s fireplace safer and more energy efficient.
Types of Fireplace Inserts
There are many different types of fireplace inserts, though a few of the most common types include
Not sure which is right for your needs? Explore some details about each fireplace insert below.
Gas Fireplace Inserts
When you’re looking to convert your fireplace into an efficient and low-maintenance option, gas fireplace inserts are an excellent choice. Some of the key benefits of installing a gas fireplace insert in your home include:
- Unrivaled ease of use! Just flip a switch to get your fire started; no need to buy firewood or pellets.
- Low maintenance! No ashes to clean out after each use and no dangerous creosote deposits to worry about building up.
- More precise temperature control than a wood-burning or pellet fireplace.
- Environmental friendliness! Fewer pollutants released into the atmosphere.
If you’re considering a gas fireplace insert, it is worth noting that the cost of fuel to run your gas fireplace will likely remain higher than the cost of firewood or wood pellets, so this should also be taken into consideration as you make your choice.
Wood-Burning Fireplace Inserts
If you prefer the look of real wood burning and the classic “crackle” of a traditional fireplace, then simply installing a wood-burning fireplace insert could be a wise choice. Some of the top benefits of wood-burning fireplace insert installation include:
- Being able to retain the look and feel of a “real” fire.
- Achieving the smell of wood burning, which many people enjoy.
- Improved energy efficiency when compared to an open wood-burning fireplace.
- Added safety when compared to an open fireplace.
Furthermore, the cost of purchasing firewood tends to be much less expensive than paying for gas or even pellets for a pellet stove. Keep in mind, however, that you will need a place to store firewood inside or outside of your home, and you will need to clean out your fireplace after you use it.
Pellet Stove Fireplace Inserts
For a compromise in benefits between a gas fireplace insert and a wood-burning fireplace insert, a pellet stove insert can be a smart decision. Pellet stove fireplaces operate by burning small pellets of compressed wood for safe and energy-efficient home heating. Some of the critical benefits of a pellet stove fireplace insert are:
- A lack of creosote or other potentially dangerous build-ups.
- Environmental friendliness! Pellet stoves produce very little smoke.
- The energy efficiency of a gas fireplace with a more realistic look and feel.
- Easy maintenance.
Other Important Considerations for Fireplace Inserts
While there are indeed many benefits of having a fireplace insert installed in your home, there are also some important considerations worth keeping in mind before you schedule an installation. For starters, with most types of fireplace inserts, your home will need to have an existing and functioning chimney for safe ventilation of pollutants and gases created as a fire burns. If your home’s chimney is in disrepair, this is something you’ll need to address before an insert can be installed and operated.
Overall, installation of a fireplace insert in your home can be a great way to improve energy efficiency and make your home’s fireplace safer. Now all that’s left to do is decide on the type of insert that best suits your needs and find a reputable company to handle the installation!
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 fewer 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. The hassle of handling wood is a common reason why many people change their convert their wood-burning fireplaces into gas as you see here.
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 are 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:
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.
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.
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 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.
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, 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 dealing with 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.
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.
Installing a fireplace in your home is a great way to add warmth, ambiance, and even resale value! However, if you don’t have a chimney in your home or if you lack a chimney in the area where you wish to install your fireplace, you may be wondering if your dreams of having a fireplace are out-of-reach. This is a common issue for people seeking our services in Washington DC. The good news is that there are a few fireplace installation options that do not require an existing chimney. Which one is right for you?
Stoves present an excellent option for homeowners that want a more natural wood experience. Stoves can be purchased to use either gas, wood pellets or real wood. Stoves are vented through a metal pipe. The pipe extends from the stove through the roof. The top of the pipe is covered with a chimney cap. There is no need for a brick chimney surrounding the pipe. Stoves are the most attractive option for homes that do not originally have fireplaces.
Benefits of installing stoves
The beautiful thing about these stoves is that they can be installed just about anywhere and require just a small amount of retrofitting to create the proper pipe exhaust system, which will safely carry gases produced by a fire outside the home. Typically, pellet and wood-burning stoves are installed along a perimeter wall of a home. From there, a flue can be fitted that runs from the top of the stove and out through the roof of the home.
Some other advantages of wood/pellet stove installation:
- Cheaper installation
- Can burn real wood
- Does not have the potential health risks of ventless fireplaces
- More options and styles to choose from
A ventless fireplace is another alternative for homeowners without an existing chimney or external ventilation. These types of fireplaces run on either natural gas or propane and are designed in such a way that the fuel is burned efficiently enough to produce very little carbon monoxide. The remaining byproducts are released back into the home at levels that are considered to be safe. The result is that you have a fireplace that has no chimney or pipe of any kind. After installing a ventless fireplace, it is important to follow these maintenance tips.
Benefits of ventless fireplaces
Because these ventless fireplaces do not require a chimney or other ventilation system to be built, they also tend to be slightly cheaper to install than traditional fireplaces.
Due to the lack of a pipe, ventless systems can be installed in spaces that may be difficult or impossible to install any other type of fireplace or stove.
Important Safety Considerations
Ventless fireplaces are UL listed and approved based on the significantly reduced amount of fumes released back into the home compared to a regular vented system. However, the fumes released by these systems can affect persons in the room who may be sensitive to them. Ventless systems are particularly a concern when used when small children or people with respiratory issues are present. People with allergies can also have problems with this system.
There is much debate about the safety of ventless fireplaces. Ventless fireplace installation is a service offered by our fireplace installation team. However, we see ventless systems as a last resort.
These are just a few options to consider for homeowners who want a fireplace installed but don’t have access to a chimney. Whichever route you decide to go, be sure to find an experienced and skilled installation team to get the job done properly.
The project required repairs to the wood fireplace and the chimney. The fireplace repairs were minor compared to the chimney. However, there was a significant difference between the appearance of the fireplace before and after repairs. The chimney work included installing a new crown and new flue liners.
Part 1 – Installing custom steel arch plate fireplace door
Before replacing screen and andirons
After installing arch plate fireplace door.
We removed the old fireplace screens and andirons and installed a custom steel arch plate fireplace door. The new hardware gave the fireplace a more modern look.
Part 2 – Floating cast concrete crown installation
Before floating cast crown installation
After floating cast crown installation
The old crown was deteriorating and falling apart. We knew this job required a crown similar to what we installed in a previous repair project in Ellicott City, MD. We rebuilt it with a new floating cast concrete crown. Which is 5″-6″ thick, sits on a stainless steel sheet, reinforced with mesh, has PWR waterproofing powder added to the concrete mix to waterproof it and has an expansion joint around the flue liners. You can learn more about float cast concrete crowns here.
Part 3 Install Chimney Flue Liner
Before chimney liner repair
After chimney liner repair
The flue liners for the fireplaces were cracked and shifted and needed to be relined. The new stainless steel lining systems were installed and we sealed the bottom of the liners with Chamber Tech 2000. The smoke chamber for both fireplaces we built properly and had a smooth transition leading up to the flue liner so all we had to do was seal the bottoms of the liners. We also installed 2 Lock Top II dampers for the fireplaces.
The Finished Chimney and Fireplace Project
This is the completed before and after pictures. The most noticeable difference is the new floating cast concrete crown. This chimney will outlast any other chimney in this neighborhood simply because of how the crown was rebuilt. It will protect the masonry below it for years to come.
On May 18th, 2016 I went to Mrs. Irshad’s home in Silver Spring, MD to give her an estimate to fix a brick chimney that was leaking. Her wood burning fireplace was working fine. However, the brick chimney was leaking. Before my visit, she had two other companies attempt to repair the chimney who were unsuccessful. As she tried to contact the other companies to tell them that the chimney was still leaking, they brushed her off and never came back to address her issues. As a result, she had paid for repairs and her chimney still leaks every time it rains. When I arrived that day, she was very skeptical and didn’t think I would be able to help her, and I don’t blame her for feeling that since two other companies burned her before my visit. This job reminded me of a chimney repair job that we did in Potomac, MD earlier this year.
After introducing myself I asked where the leak was coming in, and she showed me that the water would leak in her garage from the ceiling. Then I asked what the previous companies had done to try to fix the problem and let me just say that some people have no business doing this type of work. I feel bad for Mrs. Irshad because she spent her money with these companies to fix a problem and once they got paid to do the repairs which weren’t even proper fixes they never came back to help her address the leak.
The first thing I did to evaluate the leak was pulling out my hose and perform a water test on the flashing. I was already pretty sure that the flashing was the issue based on where the leak was coming from. Leaking flashing is one of the common causes of chimney leaks. Based on the water test I was able to confirm that the leak was coming from the flashing. At that point I was 100% confident that the job required chimney flashing repair. This also reassured Mrs. Irshad that the flashing was indeed the source of the problem and made her feel a lot more comfortable about the repairs I recommended. Here are some pictures of the job from start to finish.
This is during the site visit where I water tested the flashing and found out it was the source of the leak.
The other companies tried to fix the problem by applying silicone over the old seals on the counter flashing.
They also decided to put painters tape on the roof and siding and tar over it. This is just a horrible attempt at fixing the problem. It shows that this person had no idea what he was doing. The issue was actually where the arrow is, for some reason it was missing flashing in that area.
Once I removed the tar and blue tape, I found that the inside corner was missing flashing. The customer told me that when they applied the tar, it slowed the leak down a little bit which makes sense since it was missing flashing.
We removed the shingles and both the counter and base flashing. We then installed tar paper and new base flashing and shingles.
Here we have the base flashing and shingles installed.
This is the finished product we installed the counter flashing into the mortar joints and then sealed it. We’ve had some heavy rains since the repairs were made and Mrs. Irshad has had no leaks since!