Is It Difficult to Convert a Wood Burning Fireplace to a Gas fireplace?

There is nothing like the feel of a warm fire to warm you up on a cold day.  Hearing the pops that logs make and seeing them burn is a relaxing and enjoyable feeling, but actually getting the logs into your home and setting up the fire can be a daunting task.

If setting up a wood burning fire stresses you out because of all the chimney prep work, cleaning up ashes, properly setting up the logs, and watching the fire for hours on end to make sure it doesn’t cause a fire then maybe converting your wood burning fireplace to a gas fireplace is the right solution for you.

Having the benefits of real wood burning in your home does come with its drawbacks, just like anything in life, there are pros and cons to converting your fireplace.  it’s a tough decision you’ll have to make, but in the end, the right decision is one that works well for you and your family. Though we are a masonry and chimney sweep company, we want you to be happy with the style of fireplace in your home!

Which is better? Wood burning or gas fireplace?

This is a tough question to answer because it ultimately comes down to which style serves you better.  There are pros and cons to each, and although it may seem that, on paper, there are many more pros to gas, the feeling is just much different.  

So why would you consider gas vs wood?  Here are a few points to think about:

  • Gas is easier to maintain - with gas you don’t have ash, soot or creosote to worry about as you do with wood.  Creosote is a dangerous byproduct that is left behind from burning wood. It easily adheres to the sides of your chimney walls and can somewhat easily catch on fire.
  • Natural gas fireplaces are cheaper to run - on average gas fireplaces cost about $60 annually to operate vs a wood fireplace which costs more than triple ($190) to produce the same amount of BTUs.
  • Heat loss - both styles of fireplaces loss heat through the chimney and straight to the outdoors, but wood burning fireplaces tend to lose more heat than gas fireplaces do.  Wood fireplaces also draw in heat from other rooms and encourage the hot air to escape through the chimney.
  • Gas burns more cleanly and produces fewer polluting emissions than wood does.  Carbon monoxide can be a hazard, especially if the circulation of air in your chimney is not working properly.  A properly working carbon monoxide detector should always be installed on every floor of your home.

Are gas fireplaces safer than wood?

As much as we are advocates for natural wood burning fireplaces, we do agree that gas fireplaces are generally safer to operate and are less hazardous to your health and home.  Gas fireplaces are extremely convenient and are turned on and off by the flick of a switch, it truly is that easy to enjoy a live fire at home.

Wood burning fireplaces are more involved because every part of the process requires your attention.  Even picking firewood needs to be done with caution, firewood needs to be aged, which means letting the wood dry out until it has no more than 20% moisture content.  Fireplaces that burn wood as a source of fuel also naturally release dangerous build up into the air, this greasy residue builds up along the walls of your chimney and is famous for causing damaging house fires every year.  In fact, the National Fire Protection Association says: “leading factor for home heating fires (30%) was failure to clean, principally from solid-fueled heating equipment, primarily chimneys”. The word of caution is that you should have your chimney inspected and swept annually to prevent tragic and deadly house fires.

In addition, wood smoke contains several harmful pollutants such as benzene, formaldehyde, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and breathing in these pollutants can lead to health issues such as asthma attacks, lung and heart disease, whereas Propane which is clean burning natural gas greatly reduces the exposure to these contaminants.  Should you have any type of a gas leak in your home, simply turning off the gas with a key and opening your windows is all it takes to eliminate it from your home.

All in all, gas fireplaces are generally safer to operate and maintain than wood fireplaces are, and for many homeowners this is all they care to know to move forward with a gas fireplace.

Can you put a gas insert in a wood burning fireplace?

Yes, you certainly can put a gas insert in a wood burning fireplace.  In fact, the insert can burn wood, gas or even pellets as long as it is properly installed into a masonry fireplace and connected to the chimney and flue.  Though it doesn’t have the same effect and feel as a wood burning fireplace, an insert can provide a really nice facelift to an already existing masonry fireplace, they come in different styles and designs and they come out just as easily as they were put in.  It is a very fashionable choice, and inserts can change the ambience of a room from rustic to modern and contemporary.

How much do gas fireplace inserts cost?

This is probably one of the most common questions we get and yet the most difficult to answer because there are so many variables that come into play.  The quick, down and dirty answer is somewhere between $500 and $5000 and although you didn’t want to hear such a large range (and you probably had an idea it was going to be that wide) here are a few things for you to consider:

  1. Is running a gas line needed?  If so, how long?
  2. What kind of gas insert?  Vented? Vented gas log? Ventless gas log?

Vent-free gas burning fireplace

A ventless gas-burning fireplace comes with a lower price tag because there is no vent pipe involved, so for a vent-free box, logs, cabinet and installation is typically around the $2k - $4k range.  The reason for the large variance in price is due to the amount of gas line that would need to be installed as well as your choice of finishes.

Direct vent gas burning fireplace

Vented gas fireplaces come as a more customizable version and therefore have more options for you to choose from, for this reason they are generally more expensive than the ventless fireplace.  Not only due they require more material but they are far more involved than the ventless fireplace and require more labor as well. For this reason they are usually $4500+ in terms of pricing.