How to Tell What Kind of Fireplace You Have

If you’re new to your home, whether you inherited it, if it’s a new purchase, or you are a REALTOR with a new investment, it’s important to understand what type of fireplace you have. The type of fireplace you have will determine how your home is heated, what safety precautions you should make while using your fireplace, and what you might change about your fireplace to get the most out of it. After you figure out what kind of fireplace you have and what type of fuel it burns, you may decide to convert to something else. You may decide it’s best to take it out altogether or you may determine that it’s just perfect for your home and your family. The most important thing about owning a home with a fireplace is that safety is the top priority—not beauty, not comfort, not style. Safety first.

The Differences in Fuel Type

How to tell what kind of fireplace you have - Burlington VT - BricklinersThe three common fuel types for home fire systems are gas, wood, and pellets. Each has its benefits and drawbacks, but all work well as long as the appliance is designed for their use. For instance, if you have a gas fire, you cannot and should not burn other things in the fireplace. Likewise, if your fireplace burns wood, it would not burn pellets efficiently, nor would wood in a pellet stove. Each appliance is designed specifically to burn a specific fuel type efficiently and safely. Determining what fuel your fireplace needs in order to burn is the first step in figuring out the kind of fireplace you have.

Wood Fires

Wood fireplaces, inserts, and stoves are some of the most basic even today. This is because they don’t need a whole lot of tech to work. If your fireplace has an empty firebox, it is a wood-burning system. Your wood-burning stove will have a door and a space to build your fire, but no ignitors or feeding devices like a pellet stove might have. Wood fires burn wood and vent directly up the flue. They will have a damper, but may not have many extras like doors. Wood fireplaces and chimneys may have soot and creosote buildup in the interior portions of the system, especially if the house hasn’t been lived in for a while. The entire system should be cleaned by a professional before use.

Gas Fires

If your fireplace has ceramic logs in the firebox, it burns gas! There should be valves, a gas connection, an ignitor, a control knob, and maybe even a remote control. It’s important to figure out quickly whether your gas fireplace is vented or vent-free. A vented gas log set will need a working chimney flue and damper. A vent-free gas log set is safe to burn indoors without a vent. Burning a vented log set without proper ventilation is unsafe and may lead to injury or worse. If you’re new to the house and suspect a gas fireplace, you should have the local gas company check out the gas connection and turn it on. Then have the system checked out by a chimney professional.

Pro tip: Burning Wood Logs in a Gas Fireplace

We get a lot of people wondering if it’s ok to burn wood in your gas fireplace. Answer? Definitely not. Wood-burning units are meant to hold wood, while gas-fueled units are meant to host gas. Mixing fuel types could lead to fire hazards, smoke back-up, and a lot of damage to your home/unit.

Pellet Fires

An open, masonry fireplace is not a pellet fireplace. Pellets are only burned in inserts and stoves, are closed systems that vent through a flue, and usually have extras like an ignitor that might be a button and a hopper that continuously feeds the fire once it’s lit. If you have a pellet stove, it’s important to have it cleaned and checked out before use even if it’s new. The pellet insert or stove might be new, but if the flue wasn’t resized with the new appliance, it will not work safely and efficiently. Call a professional to have it checked out.

Types of Appliances

  • Open fireplaces are the most commonly recognized fireplace. Depending on the age and style of the home, your fireplace opening may be large enough to walk into or maybe only big enough for a small fire. If you seem to have a normal fireplace, but it has doors that fit snuggly against the wall, you may have an insert—not an open hearth.
  • Inserts are closed units that are retrofitted into an existing firebox. They draw air from the room for the fire and vent it out the masonry chimney flue. If your fireplace is a closed unit but it is on a wall without a chimney, it is likely a direct insert. This is a closed, gas-burning unit that both draws air through and vents out one outlet that goes through a wall or ceiling.
  • Stoves are freestanding units but may sometimes be installed inside a large hearth opening. Stoves might burn gas, wood, or pellets, though pellets and wood stoves always require a flue for proper ventilation. If you have a stove with ceramic logs your stove burns gas. Check out the logs. They may be rearrange-able for realistic effect.

When it’s time to light your fire for the fall, it’s imperative that you find out which kind of fire appliance you have. Do not assume you know about your fireplace. If you have a newly purchased home, have the chimney inspected! A certified technician can help identify your fireplace right down to the manufacturer if necessary.

Give Brickliners a call at 802-872-0123 today or schedule an appointment online

Related Articles

The Value of a Chimney Cap

Of all of the parts, pieces, and functions of your chimney system, the chimney cap may be the most valuable. It’s one of the most

What Is Chimney Waterproofing?

Many are told that waterproofing is a necessary step in keeping their chimney better protected, but what exactly does this mean and what does the