Man putting wood in fireplace at Christmas.

Wood Burning Fireplace

Originally contributed by Jeff Butler • last updated 3/3/2021

Not that long ago, people were much more likely to rely on firewood to heat their homes than any other fuel source. Wood burning fireplaces were fairly standard in most homes and often acted as gathering places for friends and family. Sometimes referred to as hearths, they are much less common today than they once were, most as a result of safety concerns, problems with efficiency, and a lack of access to inexpensive wood sources. But they can still be popular in areas where wood fuel supplies are abundant and for enthusiasts who love the warm and inviting ambience.

Definition

The term wood burning fireplace most commonly refers to a masonry structure that is often installed as part of the foundation of a house or building. These fiery heating units typically consist of a base that holds some form of firebox, which is vented outside by way of a chimney flue. They are designed to burn wood as a fuel source, with some versions capable of burning engineered wood fuel products, as well. In many cases, wood burning fireplaces are surrounded by a stone or brick facade and are topped with a decorative mantle. Wood burning fireplaces once held prominent positions in homes where people would gather for conversations, entertainment.

What Are The Main Concerns With A Wood Burning Fireplace?

Most modern homes are not built with wood burning fireplaces unless they are custom ordered. Despite having a time-honored place in our homes, wood burning fireplaces have declined in popularity due to concerns over safety, efficiency, and costs. Before you decide to use one or have one installed, here are some things to consider:

  • Improperly installed, operated, or maintained wood burning fireplaces not only pose a greater risk of fire, they can also produce dangerous smoke and gases. Fireplaces need to be inspected and maintained regularly to ensure safe operation.
  • Despite many design improvements, wood burning fireplaces are notoriously inefficient heating sources. Additionally, wood can be an expensive fuel source in many urban and suburban areas.
  • Storing large amounts of firewood, indoors or outdoors, can take up a fair amount of space, which is something to consider if you’re going to be using your fireplace for a primary heat source.
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