What Type of Fireplace Do I Have and How to Tell
When purchasing items such as gas logs, fireplace doors, screens, or inserts this is a question you should be asked by the person selling them to you. It is an important question because not all accessories or appliances can be used on every fireplace. In fact, most of the above listed items are specifically built for each type of fireplace.
What types of fireplaces are there?
Here are the most common types of fireplaces found in homes today, and how to tell which one you have.
Wood Burning Fireplaces
Prefab / Zero Clearance / Air Cooled Fireplaces (All the same thing)
This is the most common type of fireplace currently found in most homes. These are factory-built fireplaces which use a double or triple wall chimney system. These fireplaces can be used with gas to help start wood fires or be converted to gas only by installing a gas log set, fire glass, or gas insert.
You can generally identify these units by simply looking inside the fireplace itself. They will be constructed of sheet metal, and usually 1-3 walls made of a ceramic material with a brick or stone pattern. Some units will have louvred faces for a blower to be used, but most do not. These fireplaces are usually covered over the front with brick, tile, or stone for aesthetics. If you are still not sure the easiest way is to look up the flue and see if it is a round metal pipe going up. These will always have a damper to be opened or closed.
Masonry fireplaces are constructed of brick, stone, or modular masonry units. These fireplaces are easy to identify because there is usually a brick or stone chimney in the attic area extending through the roof. You can also tell by looking up the chimney and seeing either clay flue tiles (terracotta) or bricks. These fireplaces are the most adaptable to any appliance or accessory as they have few restrictions for what can be used in them.
Gas Burning Fireplaces
Gas appliances or gas fireplaces can be a little trickier to identify. These fireplaces are for use only with gas, never for solid fuels like wood. If you look carefully there are a few dead giveaways that will help you identify which type it is. What is most important to note is that these fireplaces are more closely related to your kitchen range or you clothes dryer. They are factory engineered for use with exact fitting parts that cannot be changed or substituted. YOU CANNOT CHANGE THE LOGS OR BURNERS IN THESE UNITS!
B-vent or Natural Vent Fireplaces
These are currently the most common gas appliance fireplaces found in homes today. They are decorative in nature and are NOT for heat. They are most frequently used by operating a wall switch or remote. Most times they will have an operable glass door that can be opened and closed, or a solid glass panel with air gaps at the top and bottom. These generally have a medium to low flame and always have a pilot light. The chimney always goes up through the roof and can be seen in the attic as a 4-8” diameter vent, and usually does not have a damper that needs to be opened and closed by the user. Their most notable feature is their typically less than desirable log set and burner setup.
Direct Vent Gas Fireplaces
This is the newest and fastest growing segment in the fireplace industry. These fireplaces are generally capable of heating a small to large area, and will ALWAYS have a sealed glass panel or face on the front. These fireplaces are usually operated by a wall switch or remote. They always have a pilot light. These fireplaces NEVER have a damper to be opened or closed by the user. Direct vent fireplaces are most commonly found in homes built after 1995. These are the most desirable fireplaces for gas only use. The direct vent style fireplace is also a unit that you cannot alter or change the log or burner setup. These units can vent horizontally through the wall OR up through the roof. The easiest way to identify these units is by their sealed glass front, or if you have a wall termination outside of the house behind the fireplace that looks similar to the one below.
Vent Free Fireplaces
These are pretty easy to identify as they are for high heat output applications. Most homeowners will know without having to look too hard, because there is no chimney or vent pipe anywhere to be found. These fireplaces are ONLY for use with vent free appliances, and the cannot be altered in anyway.
Wrapping it up…
Prior to ordering parts or scheduling service, it is important to know which type of fireplace you have. It will enable our staff to speak more intelligently to you about what to expect, and it will help us narrow down pricing. While the above guide will help you figure most fireplaces out, it is not always so simple. Please feel free to contact us here at Elegant Fireside and Chimney King for help determining your fireplace needs. You can call us at 972-846-4878, email us a picture of your fireplace, or take a pic at home and bring it into our friendly staff in our showroom Mon-Sat 10-6.