a large stone masonry fireplace, fireplace mantel, and chimney surrounded by windows inside a cottage

Wood Burning Fireplace

Originally contributed by Jeff Butler • last updated 1/22/2021

Wood burning fireplaces (sometimes referred to as hearths) are less common than they once were as a result of safety concerns, problems with efficiency, and lack of access to fuel. But they can still be popular in areas where wood fuel supplies are abundant and for enthusiasts who love their warm and inviting ambience.


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. Wood burning fireplaces 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 façade and are topped with a decorative mantle. Wood burning fireplaces (sometimes referred to as hearths) once held prominent positions in homes as places where families and friends would gather for conversations, entertainment, and warmth.

Concerns About The Safety And Efficiency Of Wood Burning Fireplaces

Despite having a time-honored place in our homes, wood burning fireplaces have declined in popularity due to concerns over safety, efficiency, and costs. 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.
  • 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.