How to Convert a Gas Fireplace to a Wood Burning Unit
Are you one of those people who are running a gas fireplace in your home but would really prefer a fireplace that’s fueled by wood? If so, you’re not alone. While there are advantages to gas fireplaces – low maintenance, easy starting, etc. – even the best of them can’t perfectly “re-create” the look and ambience of flames dancing and leaping atop a stack of wood logs.
But before you race out and buy a gas log set, there are a few things you need to consider.
Is a conversion from gas to wood possible?
At the top of the list is making the determination if a conversion of your gas fireplace to one that burns wood is even possible. Gas fireplaces that were built new during the construction of your home often can’t be converted. Talk with a contractor who specializes in fireplaces or someone at your local hearth store. In some cases, you’ll need to have a literal fireplace replacement rather than a conversion.
Some people are under the mistaken impression that “a fireplace is a fireplace,” and so they shut off the gas supply, throw in some wood logs and start a fire. Then they spend time coughing and choking as they go around opening windows and doors as fast as they can to release the built-up smoke.
Different vent systems
The reason for this is because of the different vent systems that apply to the two different types of fireplaces. Venting a gas fireplace is essentially a more simple proposition than venting a wood-burning fireplace. When a gas fireplace with its venting system is built as part of the construction of the home, the builder made everything to operate safely only with gas.
It’s easy to picture. When ceramic logs burn in a gas fireplace, there are some flame byproducts that must be channeled out of the firebox. But when you have a firebox burning wood, actual smoke is created that must be vented with a system intended for the smoke and creosote that develops during the burn process.
Inspection as part of conversion
Once you’ve confirmed that your gas fireplace can be converted to wood, you’ll need to have the chimney thoroughly inspected. Professional chimney technicians will look for any damage that might be going on such as cracked bricks or broken clay tiles. This kind of deterioration can cause big problems when venting a wood-burning fireplace. A good chimney services company can make any necessary repairs.
Often the recommendation is to replace a clay chimney liner with a durable stainless steel liner. This material is far less prone to corrosion and will provide many years of safety and enjoyment.
Another consideration is ensuring that the damper opens and closes as it should in order to properly control the venting. These and other inspections usually can be done by a chimney sweep.
The bottom line in a conversion from gas to wood is making sure you have a vent system that can handle the smoke from a wood fireplace. If the current system won’t work, you’ll have to have a new one built.
Other elements of conversion such as removing/replacing an insert, capping off gas lines, putting in a gas log lighter and the like are fairly straightforward, once the critical elements are taken care of.
If you’re thinking of making this conversion, the absolute first step is to talk with an experienced professional who can give you the guidance and recommendations you’ll need.
Marsh’s Stoves & Fireplaces of Toronto sells a wide range of beautiful gas and wood fireplaces, fireplace inserts and many important fireplace accessories. Stop in and see our selection at 3322 Dundas Street West, or speak to a hearth expert at (416) 762-4582.