Converting a Wood Burning Fireplace and Installing a Gas Fireplace.

Answer these two questions before you convert your wood burning fireplace to gas! When you start any kind of a renovation, you need to start with a good understanding of where you are and what you want in the end. Very often, this important step is missed. In this tear down real estate market, we are seeing the fireplace decisions coming too far down the line during the planning process.

The time to think about the fireplace is not after you tear down the chimney. Before you start destruction, understand what you've got. If you are considering converting a wood burning fireplace to gas, ask these questions first. 

1. Do I have a zero clearance wood burning fireplace?

During the 1960s-1980s some home builders used metal fireplaces called Zero Clearance wood burning fireplaces because they didn't require masonry structures to support them. You will be able to tell if you have a zero clearance wood burning fireplace because you will not have a masonry chimney.

These fireplaces are being replaced by gas fireplaces at an increasing rate because the quality of the aesthetics and function of gas fireplaces has improved over the years. More importantly, It's very likely that you will use your gas fireplace more often than your old wood burning fireplace. You can learn about the benefits of a gas fireplace in this blog. 

In order to replace a Zero Clearance wood burning fireplace and install a new gas fireplace you will have to pull out the original fireplace box.  This will add to the cost of installation but will be worth it for a couple of reasons. First, the new fireplace will have a larger viewing area because you will not be limited by the size of the old zero clearance fireplace. Another added benefit to removing your zero clearance fireplace is that you will be able to add insulation around the new firebox which will eliminate drafts that occur with these old installations.

Some people choose to alter the facing to provide a new, more modern linear shape.

In the example below, the masonry opening was cut to allow for the linear design and the the surround around the face of the fireplace was updated with new finish materials. 

Modern Linear Shape Fireplace

2. Is the size of the viewing area important to me?

An alternative solution to pulling out your zero clearance firebox is to add a gas fireplace insert into an existing zero clearance wood burning fireplace.  We think this is less than ideal because your viewing area becomes smaller but the process is faster because you just insert a new firebox into the opening and attach the closed combustion system.

The image below is an example of a gas insert.  This new gas insert will be more convenient and will operate more efficiently than your old wood burning zero clearance fireplace.

If you are converting a masonry wood burning fireplace to gas, the process is the same as mentioned above except your installation will include a metal vent lining the inside of your chimney. Your viewing area will become smaller is some cases but if your masonry opening is large enough, a gas fireplace can be used instead of an insert which will give you the same size viewing area as your masonry fireplace. Of course, each situation is unique and that is why working with experienced professionals will ensure the best solution.  

Gas Fireplace Insert

So, before you tear down that chimney, consider all your options.

Converting your wood burning fireplace to gas will add years of enjoyment to your life.  You will be able to experience the radiant heat of your fireplace any time of day and for any length of time. Read more about how to choose a good gas fireplace here.

If you'd like to speak with a fireplace expert to determine if converting your wood burning fireplace to gas, schedule a call here!

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