Love Your Fireplace

Exciting new home construction.
Photograph by homeowner Amy Reiter

You have a fireplace in your home, but do you know how to use it? Or does it simply exist? Do you like it or do you wish it was a different design? Many homeowners don’t even know what kind of fireplace they have, never mind that they can change the way it works and the design. There are many options that can make your fireplace more energy efficient and appealing.

Let’s start with the kind of fireplace you have. In Wisconsin, there are two types: wood or gas burning. If it’s woodburning, you need to decide if you want to burn wood or change it to gas burning. If you decide to change to gas, there are two options: gas logs and a gas insert. Gas logs are similar to burning wood—they give a wonderful flame and look realistic, but they’re not very energy efficient.

A gas insert is placed into the opening of a woodburning fireplace. It has two flex liners that feed through your chimney—one brings in oxygen, the other takes exhaust out. It has a piece of sealed glass that makes the unit self-contained. You’re not feeding the flame with the oxygen from the room, but you’re actually adding heat to the room as opposed to taking heat away from the room.

Most people think that when they decide to put gas-burning products into their home, they now have a gas fireplace. That’s not completely true. It’s still a woodburning fireplace, except now it operates with gas logs or a gas insert.

There are two different types of woodburning fireplaces. To know for sure which one you have, there’s a quick check—it’s based on your chimney. If your fireplace has a brick chimney, chances are you have a masonry fireplace. If there’s siding going up the chimney chase, chances are you have a prefabricated firebox.

A masonry chimney is common in older homes. The chimney can go either on the outside or interior of the home. Usually, but not always, these fireplaces are part of the home structure and your options to change them are limited.

Prefabricated fireplaces have been around over 35 years. There are more options to change these fireplaces. As stated earlier, a gas insert can be placed inside or the entire unit could be removed and replaced with a gas fireplace.

Back to gas fireplaces. The difference between a gas fireplace and a gas insert is a gas fireplace is an independent unit with its own vent pipe. A gas insert is, as stated earlier, placed inside a woodburning fireplace. A gas fireplace can have a minimum vent run or the venting can go up the chase of the home. These fireplaces are very energy efficient and are very easy to operate with the flip of a switch or push of a button.

If you just don’t like the way your fireplace looks, you must first determine what kind of fireplace it is to know what direction you can go. A homeowner can change or replace the stone with tile or marble. Any noncombustible material will look fantastic. You can change the mantel, add a hearth, or take the hearth away. Go from a traditional fireplace with logs to a contemporary linear look with ribbon flame and glass stones. Your options are endless.

With the many available options, don’t settle and certainly don’t let your fireplace go unused. Make it a part of your home to create even more memories.

Angie Connors is an interior designer in Retail Sales and is a Hearth Expert at Fireside Hearth & Home.

Fireside Hearth & Home
6709 Watts Road
Madison, WI 53719