Everything You Need to Know About Wood Fireplaces

There’s nothing like the crackle and pop of a nice warm fire on a cold evening. If you’re lucky enough to have a fireplace in your home, you know how wonderful they can be. You also know how much maintenance they can take to operate properly and stay clean. Most people feel the benefits outweigh the disadvantages. If you don’t already have a wood burning fireplace, you may be interested in learning where you can find fireplaces for sale or how to go about installing wood fireplace inserts.

Either way, we’re here to talk about everything related to wood fireplaces so you can make the best decision possible.

First, what it is? Essentially, a standard, wood-burning fireplace comprises a hearth (which is basically the floor in front of the fireplace), the firebox (where the wood burns), the damper (the lever that opens and closes the flue) and the smoke chamber and flue (where the smoke is drawn up and out). It’s important to only use seasoned wood in your fireplace, as it gives the most effective fire with the least amount of smoke and creosote buildup.

Pros of Wood Fireplaces

From operation costs to ambiance, there are several advantages to using a wood burning fireplace. Let’s take a look at a few of them:

  • The net fuel cost is cheaper than heating oil, natural gas or coal.
  • You can purchase wood locally and support community business.
  • Wood is widely available.
  • Wood is renewable and sustainable.
  • The price of wood is relatively stable.
  • Wood emits fewer pollutants into the air.
  • It provides a natural ambiance reminiscent of the outdoors.

Cons of Wood Fireplaces

Fireplaces have their negative sides, too:

  • Wood burning fireplaces and stoves emit smoke and soot. Without annual cleaning of your chimney, that buildup can pose a danger.
  • You have to buy or chop your own wood and store it in a dry place.
  • You can’t leave a fire unattended. Even warm ash can re-ignite.
  • Traditional wood burning fireplaces aren’t very efficient. If you add an insert, you can improve that efficiency somewhat.
  • Fires take some time to build and must be constantly stoked before they die out.

Take a look at our selection of wood burning fireplaces!

Types of Wood Fireplaces

There are many types of wood burning fireplaces you may already have in your home or that you choose to install. The one you settle on will depend on your home, style, budget and intended usage. Keep in mind that sometimes wood fireplaces are called wood burning stoves or inserts. You can use your wood stove as a primary source of heat, as supplemental heat in addition to electric or oil heat for example, or even just for ambiance.

  • Wood stoves: This is a type of wood heater made of cast iron or steel.
  • Fireplace Inserts: Similar in function to free-standing wood stoves, these are installed within the firebox of your existing fireplace.
  • Fireplaces: There are two major types: traditional masonry fireplaces and pre-fabricated “low mass” fireplaces. Most times, you don’t use the fireplace as the primary source of heat; rather, they’re used for secondary heating and ambiance.
  • Fireplace Retrofits: These are devices installed into an existing wood-burning fireplace, designed to reduce wood smoke pollution by about 70% – if installed correctly.
  • Masonry Stoves: Rather than capture heat from long, smoldering fires, masonry stoves produce fast, hot fires that burn cleaner with fewer emissions.
  • Wood Burning Fireplace Kits: These are complete kits that allow you to install a fireplace in your home if you don’t already have one. Thanks to new technological advances, they have become more efficient, simpler to maintain, and easier to use. You aren’t restricted to one type of traditional style; rather, modern wood burning stoves can resemble old-fashioned fireplaces yet with contemporary accessories and aesthetics.
Wood Fireplace
Wood Stove
Wood Insert

Maintenance Tips

The most important thing you can do to maintain your fireplace is to have your chimney inspected and cleaned every year by a qualified professional. This will reduce the risk of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning due to buildup of creosote or obstructions within the chimney, advises The Chimney Safety Institute of America. Aside from an annual wood burning fireplace inspection, here are some more things you can do in the interest of safety:

  • Install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and make sure they work. Replace batteries twice a year.
  • Place a guard in front of the fireplace to keep kids and pets away, and keep combustible materials like carpets, drapes and furniture away when the fireplace is in use.
  • Clean ash from the fireplace at the bottom of the grate, as it can restrict airflow.
  • Test the function of your fireplace regularly. Light some small pieces of seasoned wood from the top down. Does the smoke exit vertically up the chimney? That’s good. Does it come back into the room? This can be bad. It can indicate a buildup of creosote and soot, or other debris like birds’ nests. Also, your damper could be completely or partially closed, or perhaps the wood you’re using is wet.
  • Burn hardwoods rather than softwoods. That’s because hardwoods like oak, ash and maple are denser and heavier, providing more heat than lighter softwoods such as pine, poplar and cedar.

Contact Chimney Pro

If you would like to find out more about wood burning fireplaces, stove inserts, annual inspections or cleaning services, contact us at 256-845-9814 or email us at info@mychimpro.com. Chimney Pro, based in Fort Payne, AL can install your new fireplace, stove or insert, plus we offer annual inspections to keep your wood burning stove and chimney clean and safe.

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