What to Expect: Finding Your Perfect Gas Fireplace

So you’re interested in a gas fireplace! First off, let’s make sure we’re on the same page by defining just what a fireplace is. This post deals with gas fireplaces, which can be installed on combustible surfaces and framed with wood studs and drywall for ease of construction. Finishing options are unlimited, and can be as simple as painting the enclosure or cladding it in stone or metal panels

A Direct Vent fireplace burns propane or natural gas with models intended primarily for ambiance or ones that serve as efficient, thermostatically-controlled heaters. The burner is completely sealed in a metal case with a removable glass front and customized with interior and exterior options according to your tastes. Metal venting draws combustion air from outside your house, and sends exhaust gases outside so you’ll only get the warmth without soot or smells.

If you have an existing masonry or factory-built fireplace, consider a fireplace insert, which uses your existing fireplace and chimney in place of wood framing. An insert may look and behave much like a fireplace but has a different set of installation requirements. Inserts are not included in this post.

Wooden Sun carries gas fireplaces in a range of sizes, styles, and heating capacities. Our sales associates and skilled installers are happy to answer all your questions – and to ask questions that hadn’t necessarily occurred to you – so that we can recommend the product that will work best in your home. Our self-assessment form goes over many of these questions, and here are a few other things to keep in mind during the planning stages of your hearth project.

First: what are your goals for this project? Are you looking for primary heat, backup or secondary heat, or just a source of cozy ambiance? If you want to simply cozy up a small room, a large fireplace like the Valor H6 may put out considerably more heat than you want or need. On the other hand, if you want to heat a large, open-plan house with vaulted ceilings, a Valor Portrait won’t have the heating capacity you need. If you know what you want your fireplace to do, it is easier for us to show you the most suitable products.

Next is location, location, location. Whether you’re planning a new building/addition, or looking for a fireplace for an existing space, it’s important to keep in mind how much space you have available, not just for the fireplace front, but for framing and venting. Each appliance has its own set of framing requirements, and some require more “surgery” than others to work them into your existing home or new design. If your preferred location is on an exterior wall, we can either build the fireplace framing into the room (a cabinet mantel is a popular choice for an enclosure like this) or out from the side of the house, in what’s usually referred to as a bumpout or doghouse.

The second part of location planning deals with venting requirements. One advantage gas appliances have over wood-burning appliances is the flexibility of their venting requirements. Venting for wood fireplaces must follow the 3-2-10 rule (which states that a chimney must rise at least 3 feet above the point of roof penetration, and at least 2 feet higher than any point on the roof or building structure within 10 feet). However, a direct-vent gas appliance can be vented straight back through an exterior wall with a wall cap (see the “what to bring with you” link from the first paragraph). This saves material and labor costs, making exterior walls an excellent install locations. If the install location is on an interior wall, or you’re faced with zoning or HOA restrictions, vent pipe can be run vertically to exit through the roof of your house (Wooden Sun has run into some challenging installs, but we are able to navigate unusual wiring or other home design setups – an advantage to having highly-trained sales and installation staff!).

The final question for today’s post is the scope of the project. Are you interested in having a stone veneer or a set of steel wall panels installed around your fireplace? Would you like a shelf or cabinet mantel, or perhaps some built-in bookshelves? There are some types of finishing work that can be done in stages once the fireplace is installed, and some that are best put in place at the same time as the rest of the project. Let us know what your design plans are, and we can advise you on the best way to achieve them, and what order makes the most sense.

This blog entry is meant as a starting point for that conversation, and help you narrow down some of your project ideas. Each hearth project is unique, of course, and there’s no way for one post to cover every detail or take the place of a one-on-one conversation with a dedicated sales associate.