Picture this: you just purchased your dream home practically at a steal of a price. It’s the perfect size for you and your spouse, your kids, your dog, your cat, your in-laws (only joking about that last one!) The house is completed with a pool, a finished basement, and a storage area in the attic for those extra Christmas ornaments grandma gave you when you were 6. It passed inspection with flying colors and there is literally nothing you need to renovate.
Unfortunately every rose has its thorn, no matter how flawless and landscaped and stainless those state-of-the-art appliances are…And your seemingly perfect home is no exception. Right in the middle of your living room is a wood burning fireplace, and not at all like the ones you’ve seen on Pinterest. The chipped and faded bricks are dirty with soot, you know that it’ll be a pain in the you-know-what to use (think of chopping wood, waiting days for it to dry, and the cleanup involved after burning a fire – nobody in this day and age has time for that!), not to mention it doesn’t go with you or your family’s style. So you start looking around for something – anything – you can put there instead of this monstrosity. The thorn to your rose of a home, as it were.
Photo: Prefabricated woodburning fireplace
A lot of people are like you. They have an old wood burning fireplace that they don’t want to use, haven’t used, or simply don’t like the look of. They want to upgrade it to something stylish without giving up the functionality of putting out heat and the appeal of a real flame. A great solution to this is a gas fireplace, right?
So you and your family start looking at gas fireplaces, figuring out what you want to upgrade your little eyesore to. You go back and forth about styles, size, heat output, whether or not you want a see-through fireplace into your backyard, the whole nine yards. After months of deliberation you finally make a decision and have an idea of what you want in mind, so you give your local hearth shop a call to talk about gas fireplaces. Little do you know that you have been looking at the incorrect product the entire time.
What you should’ve been looking at are gas inserts, not gas fireplaces. I know what you’re thinking – “Becca, what’s the difference? A fireplace is a fireplace, a place where the fire is! What does it matter if I put a fireplace in a masonry chimney?” Well, it actually matters a lot and there’s a huge difference.
A gas insert goes inside a pre-existing masonry chimney or prefabricated wood burner; hence being called an “insert”. That being said, the size of the pre-existing space needs to be determined prior to shopping around for inserts. This way you know you’re looking at a product that’s more likely to fit rather than getting your heart set on an insert that’s too big or too small, only to be disappointed when you find out it won’t fit. Most hearth shops need the following measurements of the pre-existing opening to narrow down your insert selection; the width of the front and the back, the height, and the depth.
A gas fireplace, however, goes inside framing. Typically they are installed into new construction, but they can also be installed in pre-existing homes that are undergoing a renovation or an addition. A contractor would take care of building the frame that the fireplace would fit into. Here at FireElement we provide our own company that does the framing for our fireplaces, but if you use your own we would send you the framing specifications to show your contractor. Every fireplace has different framing specifications, so even though Aunt Sharon had a similar fireplace installed in her home 2 years ago so she could display her creepy gnome figurines on the mantel, your fireplace may need different framing requirements than hers.
As you can see from the photos, the insert and the fireplace look fairly similar so this mistake is one of the most common ones that we come across when talking to customers.
Now that you’re equipped with the knowledge of the difference between a fireplace and an insert, you are ready to take the next step in figuring out which model & manufacturer best fits your needs. Lucky for you, we work with multiple manufacturers so we have plenty of options for both fireplaces and inserts.
Joke of the month:
Sitting near the fireplace is just like a bunch of bees…s’warm.
Stay Warm, Friends!