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Wood or Gas? Which Type of Fireplace is Best for You?

It’s hard to beat the cozy feeling of snuggling near a fireplace on a cold winter night. But, if you’re clamoring to add a fireplace to your home, you’ll quickly discover that it’s easy to be overwhelmed with the myriad of options.

One of your first decisions is the type of fuel you’ll want to use—wood or gas. Here are five of the most significant factors to consider when deciding what’s best for you and your home.

1. Convenience

Igniting a gas fireplace is as simple as flipping a switch. Many newer models can be operated via a smart home app. It’s easy to control the size of the flame, and a gas fireplace won’t produce smoke or ash, so they're easy to keep clean.

In contrast, operating a wood fireplace involves sourcing your wood, splitting it, and curing it for an optimal, clean burn. Once a fire burns hotly, a wood fireplace with good ventilation shouldn’t produce smoke. But every wood fire will produce ash, which needs to be removed periodically.

2. Ambiance

Gas fireplaces are warm and inviting, but for some homeowners, the only reason to have a fireplace is to enjoy the sights of real flames and glowing embers, the sounds of crackling wood, and the distinct odor of burning wood.

3. Maintenance

Gas fireplaces are typically easier to maintain. However, owners will need to clean the glass periodically, and the unit may need to be recalibrated occasionally.  

On the other hand, wood fireplaces need to be cleaned and inspected more frequently. In addition to removing ashes, it’s essential to hire a chimney inspector annually to ensure soot and creosote haven’t accumulated to the point of potentially triggering a chimney fire. Again, burning clean wood can reduce this risk.

4. Cost

Initial installation costs vary widely for gas and wood fireplaces. According to HomeGuide, installing a wood-burning fireplace ranges from $1,900 to $3,300, whereas gas fireplaces cost $2,300 to $4,000. Masonry fireplaces are substantially more expensive.

The cost to operate each type of unit also fluctuates. Homeowners who can source their own wood will enjoy the lowest annual operating costs.

For gas fireplace owners, operating costs will depend on the current price of natural gas (or propane), as well as how much fuel is consumed, which is a function of how quickly fuel is used (the unit’s hourly BTU rate) and how often the unit is used.

5. Environmental Impact

Gas fireplaces emit fewer pollutants than wood fireplaces, but gas is not a renewable resource.

Even though burning wood releases more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, wood is a renewable resource. Also, newer, greener units significantly improve the environmental impact of wood stoves and fireplaces.

A fireplace is a complicated purchase decision. After choosing wood or gas as your fuel source, you’ll also want to consider how to vent the fireplace and what features to include. Fortunately, manufacturers offer a wide range of options for every style and preference!