August 24, 2017

Gas vs Wood: Choosing The Right Fireplace

Custom gas fireplaces have greatly increased in popularity over the past 10 years, in both residential and commercial spaces. Innovations and improvements made to fireplaces in general over the past decade have made them safer and even more versatile. All these improvements may leave you wondering which one is best for your space: gas fireplace vs wood?

So how do you know if a gas fireplace or a wood burning fireplace is better suited for your needs? Let’s review some details that can help guide your decision.

The first decision you need to make when comparing gas and wood fireplaces is simply based on preference. Do you prefer your fire to turn on with the flick of a switch ––or do you prefer to put a little TLC into sparking it up yourself? Consider this and you should quickly be able to determine whether you’re better suited for a gas or wood fireplace.

Custom Gas Fireplaces

    • Ease of use (flip of a switch and you’re burning)
    • Cost of fuel
    • Less maintenance/cleaning required
    • More modern aesthetic
    • Standard models available in BLAZE and Signature Series

Wood Burning Fireplaces

  • Fire needs to be created and sustained
  • Nearly endless supply of fuel
  • More maintenance to the fireplace and flue system required
  • Traditional aesthetic including the snap and crackle of a wood fire

Wood Burning Fireplaces

If the rich smell of wood, dancing yellow flames, crackling sounds, and the cozy warmth are what appeals to you most, then a traditional wood-burning fire would be perfect for you.

However, there are a few key facts to keep in mind when burning wood. First and foremost, maintaining a clean chimney (flue system) is imperative for wood fireplaces.

There are four stages of fire:

  • Stage 1: The Start-up Stage. Unfortunately, you can’t just throw a pile of wood in your fireplace and toss in a match to create a roaring fire…that would be nice, wouldn’t it? After your fireplace installation, the start-up stage involves preparing and warming your fireplace and flue and creating a draw to start the combustion air pull. We recommend using dry kindling and a fire starter to warm up the fireplace and flue.

A common misconception is to use newspapers as kindling, this is a no-no! Burning newspapers can cause creosote to build up in your flue system, according to many chimney sweeps. Over time, this buildup could lead to a chimney fire.

  • Only use Dry, Seasoned Wood. The key to an optimal fire is using the right kind of wood; you should never use wet (green) wood when starting a fire. To burn with the most heat and produce the least amount of creosote, the wood should be allowed to season (dry out). Softer woods like fir or pine need to season for over a year whereas hardwoods like hickory and oak take much longer.

Seasoned softwoods will catch fire quickly and burn very hot and fast, producing minimal creosote; hardwoods are much heavier and dense which can be harder to get burning but will end up burning low and long once they catch.

  • Stage 2: Creosote Stage. Once you have warmed your fireplace and flue, add your dry wood on top of the burning kindling. You always want to ensure the smoke and heat are flowing up and out the flue. You’ll tend to notice a hissing sound coming from the burning wood and a slight bubbling along the ends; keep your damper and combustion controls open all the way during this stage until the wood is burning cleanly without gray smoke.
  • Stage 3: Heating Stage. Stage three begins once the moisture has been removed from your wood and your combustion controls are dialed in to create the perfect pull through your chimney system. At this point, the flames move slower and tend to be more orange in color. This stage delivers the maximum heat output with minimal creosote production and can be maintained for 6-10 hours between loads of wood.
  • Stage 4: Die Down Stage. Properly letting your fire die down is incredibly important. The best way to let your fire go out in your fireplace is to fully open your damper; your flue will begin cooling down as cold air is pulled through the top. Once the cold air meets the slow-moving smoke, creosote will occur, allowing your fire to properly put itself out.

Now that you’re an expert at wood burning, let’s talk about size. Bigger isn’t always better; finding the right unit for you is what our Fireplace Advisors do best.

Whether you’re looking for something similar to a traditional wood stove, like our rustic Hearthroom Series, or desire a modern feel with our Unity Series, we can help. Maybe you are more interested in having a fireplace for supplemental heat, like our Zmax. No matter the scope or purpose of your project, our Fireplace Advisors will help you find the right type of fireplace from our wide selection of options. Click here for more information.

Hearthroom Series

Our Hearthroom series of wood-burning fireplaces were designed with a large viewing area while still proving to be an excellent supplemental heat source. The Hearthroom fireplaces use outside air for combustion to provide an amazingly clean, efficient, and long-lasting burn.

Unity Series  

The Unity clean face wood burning fireplace series unifies the modern and rustic aesthetic with the benefits of a high-tech wood burning fireplace. The minimal design and clean face of the Unity series makes it the perfect fit for just about any space!

Gas Fireplaces

If you love the ease of flipping a switch or pushing a button and enjoying your fireplace without much work or maintenance, then the question of wood burning vs. gas fireplace has been answered: a custom gas fireplace is a perfect fit for you.

The design options are endless and our Fireplace Designers work one-on-one with you to create your dream fireplace. Here are the design phases and some of your design options to consider when choosing a gas fireplace:

  • Phase 1: Selecting Your Style. Choose from popular options like four-sided, linear with front right or left view, linear with front and side views, peninsula, see-through, circular, single-sided, indoor/outdoor, or custom design for a creation all your own.
  • Phase 2: Selecting Your Burner. From a linear line of fire, log sets, square, circular, step, or anything in between. We’ll custom design and manufacture the burner that is perfect for your style fireplace.
  • Phase 3: Selecting Your Frame. Most of our custom gas fireplaces are finished with a standard black matte finish, but we offer additional finishes such as patina, custom paint, hammered, stainless steel with a mirror finish, brushed stainless steel, or even a hidden frame.
  • Phase 4: Selecting Your Glass. For most commercial settings our Dual Pane Glass Cooling system is required for safety reasons; but if you aren’t worried about someone touching the fireplace you can choose open (no glass), partial glass, single-pane, custom firescreen or our Air Shield system.
  • Phase 5: Selecting Your Finishing Options. The options for customizing your gas fireplace are abundant; choose from an array of glass media options in various colors and sizes, river rock, lava rock, polished stones, or a combination of media. For the classic appeal of a traditional wood fireplace without the mess, choose an array of gas log sets.

Want to make the most of your fireplace flame? Our custom black reflective high-temperature porcelain panels reflect the flame perfectly – creating an even more impressive flame.

Or, maybe you want to finish the inside of your fireplace with tile. In that case, we can add a mesh backer to any custom gas fireplace. For extra control, your fireplace can be integrated with your home automation system to deliver the tallest, fullest flames on the market –8”-12”– on demand. We can even add LED lighting for an awe-inspiring finish.

Still deciding between gas or wood? Get more information. Ready to take the first step towards your dream fireplace? Talk with one of our Fireplace Advisors today about choosing a gas or wood fireplace for your space: (888)317-6499. 

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