Advice on fireplace issues

olivia001September 1, 2008

Hello, folks. Longtime reader, second time poster.

I need some advice. I'm considering buying a home, and I'm stuck between two.

One has a woodburning fireplace but apparently the inspector (a fireplace inspector, not general) recommended a fan to draw smoke out. I'm wondering how necessary this is. The realtor said something about how small fires would be ok, big fires might make the room smokey. Any thoughts?

The other has an old shallow fireplace with a disconnected gas line. If I were to get the gas line reconnected, what else would I have to do? The realtor seemed to think the chimney would be too narrow to have a real gas fire, and that I'd have to get a "direct vent" installed, but I don't really get what that would mean. I mean, people once had fires in there if there was a gas line, right?

Any advice you could give me on the amount of work that might be required (and believe me, I understand that it would all be speculation with so little facts) would be helpful.

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About your first house: I have never heard of a fireplace that needs an exhaust fan to help get the smoke up the chimney. It suggests to me that there is a design fault that can only be circumvented by using a fan. Not very encouraging news. Nearly all traditional wood burning fireplaces are highly inefficient because they send most of the heat up the chimney and out the house. There are some wood burners that are specifically designed to produce a higher efficiency of heat. It's quite possible that this fireplace is of that design, and your consultant is not so familiar with that design. Maybe you should get a second opinion.

About the second house: This fireplace has a gas line installed into it. You do not say whether it has gas logs in place -- I assume not. I would want to know why the consultant said that you need direct vent to deal with what he saw as a too small chimney. Maybe he wants to encourage you to do an expensive upgrade. To find out more about his recommendation, do a search for direct vent on this forum. I and several other people have written posts on the subject. Briefly, they are the most efficient, pollution-free system available these days, but they are expensive.

You might also want to try the website They have a chat room frequented by fireplace aficionados who love to share their knowledge.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2008 at 9:22PM
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Thanks, haus_proud.

As far as the first house, it's been suggested to me that the fireplace guy was trying to sell an expensive fan (I guess they run a few thousand dollars.) I'm not sure though - I think the homeowners were the ones who hired him,and I assume they did it because they were having problems. The situation is a little confusing to me.

The second house doesn't have gas logs, and it was the realtor who referred to direct vent. She was just speculating, but I didn't get why it wouldn't work just the way it appeared to have been designed to work.

Thanks for your help. Perhaps when I get more information I'll swing by again for more advice. And thanks for the referral.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2008 at 10:22PM
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