A fireplace is a great addition to any house and living space. It yields a number of functional and aesthetic benefits. But the choice to install a fireplace is just one of many decisions you’ll make. The next important one has to do with the type of fireplace you want.
In the world of fireplaces, you have options. And while there a variety styles, most people end up choosing between a gas fireplace and a wood fireplace. If you find yourself facing this dilemma, it’s helpful to familiarize yourself with each option. In this article, we’ll help you analyze the advantages and disadvantages of each so that you can make a more informed decision.
Pros and Cons of Gas Fireplace
A gas fireplace is a fireplace that uses a fuel source and automatic igniter to spark a flame and keep it lit. It’s a generic term with a variety of styles.
According to This Old House, “Gas fireplaces come in three types: inserts, for folks who want to retrofit a wood-burning firebox with something more convenient and efficient; built-ins, for those who want a fireplace where there isn’t one now; and log sets, basic burners that sit in existing, open fireplaces.”
Gas fireplaces are widely popular and yield numerous benefits like:
- Pro: Clean burning. A gas fireplace is extremely clean and efficient in the sense that it produces far fewer emissions and pollutants. Whereas wood burning fireplaces emit 28 pounds of particulate emissions per MMBtus of heat output (meaning soot and ash), natural gas fireplaces produce just .28 pounds/MMBtu – that’s 99 percent less!
- Pro: No chimney required. Because of the clean burn of gas fireplaces, there’s no need for a chimney. The exhaust can simply be vented to an external wall or roof vent.
- Pro: Simple to use. Finally, gas fireplaces are a breeze to use. Depending on the model you install, starting a fire is as simple as flipping a light switch or placing a lighter in the correct place. The ability to quickly start a fire means you’ll use it more frequently.
Gas fireplaces aren’t perfect, however. There are also some downsides, such as:
- Con: Limited ambience. You don’t get the same ambience that you do with a traditional wood burn. There’s no crackle and pop. You also don’t get any scent of burning wood (which could be seen as a pro or a con).
- Con: Gas line required. If you’re installing a new gas fireplace, you’ll probably have to run a new gas line to the location. This will require a professional contractor.
Pros and Cons of Wood Fireplace
Wood fireplaces are traditional fireplaces that consist of a brick and mortar style box that’s inset into the wall and connected to a chimney that allows the smoke and fumes to safely escape the home. These types of fireplaces have been around for centuries and provide benefits like:
- Pro: Ambience. There’s something regal, warm, and inviting about a real fire. The wood crackles and pops – producing an immense feeling of satisfaction. You can even burn different types of wood for different scents.
- Pro: Always works. You never have to worry about whether or not the fireplace works. No power outage, pilot light malfunctions, or low fuel sources will keep you from enjoying the warmth of a roaring fire.
There are, however, reasons that many homeowners shy away from traditional wood burning fireplaces. Some of the cons include:
- Con: Takes time and skill. You can’t start a wood fire in 10 seconds or less. It takes time to grab logs, light kindling, properly situate the wood, and tend to the flames. If you’ve never made a fire before, there’s a bit of a learning curve.
- Con: Can be messy. You have to do something with the ashes. And if your chimney isn’t properly vented, smoke could become a problem.
- Con: Requires chimney care. Chimneys have to be properly cared for and maintained. You need to have regular inspections and clean it before use at the beginning of each season. This can be costly.
Making the Right Decision
At the end of the day, it’s up to you to determine which type of fireplace is right for you and your home. If you’re looking for something that’s easy to use, a gas fireplace is a great option. If you’d prefer something that not only provides heat but also adds to your home’s design, perhaps a traditional wood burning fireplace is the way to go? Ultimately, it’s all about personal preference. Which one will you choose?