What to Know About Converting Your Fireplace to Gas Logs
We love a wood-burning fireplace, but sometimes these traditional living room fixtures can be more hassle than they’re worth. Between stocking logs, sweeping the hearth and waiting endlessly for a fire to burn out before you can hit the hay, wood-burning fireplaces mean work!
With a set of gas logs in your hearth, though, the roaring fire you crave come winter is just a button click away. Pretty appealing, eh?
If you’re considering converting your wood-burning fireplace to gas logs, read on to find out exactly what you need to know before you make the switch.
Gas logs go into wood-burning fireplaces
It’s true that there are some exceptions to this rule, but it’s a rule for a reason: Almost every pre-existing gas fireplace is not equipped to handle aftermarket gas logs. The converse is true, too: Gas logs are not designed for fireplaces that already burn gas.
If you’re unhappy with the look or feel of your existing gas fireplace, check with your manufacturer to see if you have any options for swapping out the gas logs or improving your model. Otherwise, you might have to replace it.
You need to leave space around the gas logs
While it’s tempting to install the largest gas logs that will fit inside your fireplace, you need to size down. Why? Because gas logs require air circulation in order to vent safely. Each gas log system requires a different amount of clearance on the sides of the logs, so be sure to measure before you purchase.
Different types of systems may require more clearance than others. For example, a system requiring a safety pilot will need more room around them than a match-light system without a safety pilot. Plan for the entire system, not just the width of the logs themselves.
A masonry fireplace gives you the most options
There are two types of gas logs: vented and ventless. The type of wood-burning fireplace you have will dictate the kind of gas log you can install.
Vented gas logs must be used in a wood-burning fireplace that has a masonry chimney or metal chimney pipe. You’ll need to open the damper fully when you light them so that they can vent outside and the damper must be cracked open permanently with a damper clamp as long as the logs remain installed in your fireplace.
Ventless gas logs can only be used in a masonry, wood-burning fireplace or a metal firebox that has been engineered to work with ventless gas logs. Before you convert a metal firebox, you need to check your installation manual or consult the manufacturer. Ventless gas logs may not be approved for your fireplace and if they are, there are likely limitations to the size and BTU of gas logs that are compatible with your model.
Your log lighter needs an upgrade
If you already have a gas line run to your fireplace with a log lighter attached to it, that’ll make installation easy since you won’t have to run a new gas line. However, you won’t be able to use the existing log lighter to light your gas logs. Instead, you’ll need to replace it with a gas log burner system. It’s a simple swap, but one you must make to use your converted fireplace safely.
Converting your fireplace to gas logs might require a permit
Because gas lines are involved, converting fireplaces to gas isn’t always a simple DIY. Many municipalities will require you to take out a permit before you convert your wood-burning fireplace to gas logs.
You’ll also want to check your local building codes to see if there are any restrictions about the type of gas logs you can install. Ventless gas logs, for example, are not permitted in California and some other states and Massachusetts has special requirements for all gas logs.
You will still need to have your chimney inspected
Vented gas logs burn very much like real wood producing smoke and soot, so you cannot ignore the health of your chimney. Animals can still get in there to nest, and you’ll want to routinely make sure that there are no cracks or leaks, which could allow gas or heat to seep out into your home and cause other problems. Aim for an annual just-in-case chimney inspection.
You can install gas logs outside
If you have an outdoor fireplace or a fire pit, you can make the switch to gas logs there as well. Years ago, you could use the same logs outside as you would use inside, but they would degrade more quickly because of exposure to the elements. Today, though, there are gas logs systems designed specifically for outdoor use.
Over the last decade or two, fireplace conversions have come a long way. Thanks to top quality materials and artistry, gas logs give the look and feel of a wood-burning fireplace for less money and produce less pollution (and mess inside your home!). Gas logs are a safe, energy-efficient choice that add value to your home and improve your life, winter after winter.
Questions? Talk to our gas log experts about converting your fireplace today.