Although every type of fireplace burns fuel and provides a degree of warmth, not every fireplace is the same. Depending on the type you have, certain maintenance tasks will be necessary to keep it safe and operating at peak levels. Let’s look at the most popular fireplace styles.
Open masonry fireplace
These are the traditional fireplaces, built into a wall by a mason and often surrounded by brick, stone or other materials. Unless the fireplace has been retrofitted, it burns wood logs.
Masonry fireplaces look fabulous and add a rustic touch of charm to a home, but they’re not particularly good heat producers. The open design of these fireplaces allows about 80% or more of the heat they create to be lost up the chimney.
Maintaining a masonry fireplace centers around cleaning and inspection. Wood fires produce creosote, which builds up in your flue and can ignite and start a chimney fire. Certified chimney sweeps use specialized tools to remove creosote and other obstructions from your chimney to keep it safe for use.
Gas & wood Inserts
Inserts are built in factories and are sized to fit directly into the fireboxes of masonry fireplaces. Fireplace inserts are powerful heat producers and add a stunning decorative accent to your home.
Gas inserts should be inspected annually to ensure that the components and gas line connections are in good shape.
Wood inserts, like any wood-burning appliance, need yearly service from a chimney sweep to remove creosote and soot from the vent pipe. Fireplace inserts require venting, but not with the existing chimney. Custom vent pipes are included with both styles of inserts.
Zero-clearance gas and wood fireplaces
These appliances get their name from their heavy-duty insulation properties that make them safe to install within virtually any wall in the home with no clearance required between the unit and adjacent wall materials and flooring. Similar in performance to fireplace inserts, ZC fireplaces are self-contained units that are installed in places other than the firebox of an existing fireplace.
Zero-clearance fireplaces retain the heat they produce – as much as 80% to 90% of it – and send the heat into the room rather than up the vent pipe. A gas model needs annual safety inspections; a wood-burning model needs inspection along with professional cleaning of the vent system that comes with the unit.
Gas log sets
Gas logs are used in an existing wood-burning fireplace. When professionally installed, these devices create safe warmth and a lot of beauty, with logs that look remarkably similar to real wood.
A gas log set gives you lovely fires but none of the mess and professional cleaning requirements of a wood fireplace.
No matter what type of fireplace you have, it can bring you many years of pleasure and enjoyment. The key to getting the most out of your fireplace is to stay on top of maintenance, which means regular inspection and necessary repairs. For wood-burning units, proper maintenance includes chimney/vent pipe cleaning once a year.
High’s Chimney Service of Gaithersburg, MD, is ready to help keep your fireplace safe and running at peak efficiency. We offer CSIA-certified chimney sweep services, fireplace and chimney inspection and repairs on all types of fireplaces and heating stoves. Call us today at (301) 519-3500.
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