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Can You Burn Real Wood in a Gas Fireplace?

We have two gas fireplaces, but only one of them can burn firewood. We weren’t sure why we could only use firewood in our outdoor gas fireplace and not our indoor one, but after a bit of research, we found some answers.

Some gas fireplaces can also burn firewood, but they have to be designed this way. Using firewood on a gas-only fireplace can cause safety issues and damage your fireplace. While there are ways to convert it yourself, it’s best left to a professional due to safety and avoiding costly repairs.

In this article, we’ll go over in more detail why some gas fireplaces can use wood and why some can’t, as well as how to convert your gas fireplace (if possible). Let’s take a closer look.

Reasons Why You Can’t Use Firewood in a Gas Fireplace

Burning firewood in a gas fireplace can lead to safety issues such as ash blocking and damaging the gas pipes. Gas fireplaces can handle burning wood if they’re explicitly designed for that purpose. Otherwise, it’s best to avoid burning firewood in a gas fireplace until you check with the manufacturer of the fireplace.

Some other reasons why burning wood in gas fireplaces isn’t suggested:

  • The venting system is inadequate. This means the vents likely cannot deal with the smoke and creosote that the wood will produce.
  • Many gas fireplaces are actually unvented. Some gas fireplaces don’t have vents and any smoke or vapors will build up inside the home. 
  • Smaller clearances. When gas fireplaces are inserted into the home, they can be placed closer to furniture or walls due to their lesser heat output. This makes them risky when trying to convert to using a wood fire.

Of course, the exception here is if you have a gas starter fireplace. But for now, let’s assume we’re working with a standard gas fireplace.

Dangers of Burning Wood in a Gas Fireplace

Before moving forward with information on how to convert your fireplace from gas to wood, let’s break down the common dangers of using a gas fireplace incorrectly.

  • Excess smoke and gas – If your gas fireplace is not ventilated properly to burn wood, there will likely be excess smoke. This cannot only lead to a mess, but it can also cause carbon dioxide and monoxide to build up.
  • It can damage the fireplace – Wood burning inside a fireplace can actually lead to much higher temperatures than gas. Burning propane or natural gas functions at lower temperatures, which is how gas fireplaces are designed. When you start burning wood, it can destroy the internal components as well as the lining of the fireplace.
  • It could start a house fire – This is perhaps the biggest risk. With the lower heat output that comes with gas fireplaces, the unit might have less clearance to furniture and the walls than needed. By burning firewood, you run the chance of the nearby surroundings getting too hot.
  • Risk of igniting the gas line – There’s a reason why gas fireplaces come with a pilot light. It’s best not to introduce another flame source if you can help it.

So, as you can see, there are plenty of safety issues that come with using wood in a gas fireplace. However, there might be some ways around it.

Can You Burn a Duraflame Log in a Gas Fireplace? 

A Duraflame log is similar to a log set or other artificial logs. These are placed inside of an existing fireplace and will ignite quickly, which is why they’re often used as a firestarter. Duraflame logs can be long-lasting and usually have more chemicals than wood or firewood will be. So, can you burn them in a gas fireplace?

Duraflame logs can be used in some gas fireplaces, especially if you have an adequate flue, but they aren’t ideal given their low heat output. Before using a Duraflame log in your gas fireplace, consider their overall compatibility and effectiveness.

While using a Duraflame log isn’t the best way to generate heat, there are other ways you can convert your gas fireplace into a wood-burning one.

How to Tell if Your Gas Fireplace Can Burn Wood

When you move into a new home, it can be challenging to know which style of gas fireplace you have and if it can burn wood. However, there are a few ways that can give you a better idea of what your fireplace can handle and if wood burning is an option.

1. Inspect Your Fireplace Fully

Often, you can tell whether your fireplace is gas or wood-burning based on the gas supply. If your fireplace is truly gas-only, there will be some clear signs. These do not support wood-burning and you should not risk adding wood to this style of fireplace. 

  • There will be a fitted gas supply. 
  • The fireplace will have smaller vents, a smaller chimney, and dampers
  • A gas-only fireplace usually has fake logs instead of a metal grate that allows for ash to fall through.

Overall, if you see any form of gas pipes, this is most likely a gas fireplace. If you aren’t sure, then there is some paperwork you can check.

2. Check Your Fireplace Manual 

If you have access to your fireplace’s manual, this is a great way to see what’s recommended. Most new homeowners are given a manual on how to use their fireplace, which can give you an idea of what type of fireplace you have. This should also say if wood burning should be avoided and the risks of burning wood inside the fireplace. 

If you are still unsure, contact the manufacturer or a fireplace professional before burning any firewood.

Can You Convert a Gas Fireplace to a Wood-Burning Fireplace?

Converting a fireplace is usually only possible if your fireplace was originally wood-burning. However, there are ways you can convert some original gas fireplaces into wood-burning but comes down to the placement, installation, and model of the fireplace.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when converting your fireplace:

  • Work with an expert to examine the safety. They’ll help check the ventilation, clearance, and more.
  • Make some adjustments to ensure safety. For example, if you don’t need a gas starter for your wood-burning fireplace, consider capping off the gas line. 
  • Fireplace inspection and cleaning will be more important. Compared to gas-only fireplaces, the added soot, creosote, and heat from wood-burning fireplaces will lead to more wear-and-tear and will require more maintenance.

Let’s get into more of the details that you might run into when trying to convert your gas fireplace.

How To Convert a Gas Fireplace to a Wood-Burning Fireplace

1. Gas Inserts Need To Be Removed 

If you plan to do this conversion on your own, the first main step is to remove the gas insert. This process can be risky, so it’s highly recommended to be left to a professional.

Most gas inserts can be removed with a crescent wrench. You can then do any changes to the appearance of the fireplace. Do a full fireplace cleaning and then get it ready for reassembly. 

2. Gas Lines Will Need To Be Converted

A major part of converting your gas fireplace to wood burning is to stop the input of gas into the fireplace. This is done by capping off the gas line completely, which will stop the flow of the gas.

Only those who have experience working with natural gas should take on this work, as it can be dangerous if not done correctly. If your gas line is not capped properly, it can lead to leaks or even a fire.

3. Check the Ventilation

A major part of converting your fireplace is to check that your ventilation can handle the heat and smoke of burning wood, which is much higher than gas-burning fireplaces. If your ventilation is not adequate, you risk filling your home with smoke. You can contact a chimney professional to check your fireplace setup and ventilation to check that it’s safe to burn wood.

While you can do this conversion on your own, it’s usually best to consult a professional. This is because conversions have many safety issues, including the fact that natural gas (or propane) is involved.

Gas vs Wood-Burning Fireplaces: Pros and Cons

Before you make any major decisions on whether to convert your gas-burning stove to wood-burning, it can be helpful to weigh the pros and cons of each fireplace.

Gas Fireplace ProsGas Fireplace Cons
Less costly to installLess heat output
Less costly to runSmaller flames
Fuel burns more cleanlyVentless fireplaces can be a safety concern
Easier to light and extinguish
Home insurance can be less costly
Gas fireplace inserts can be installed almost anywhere in the home
Wood-Burning Fireplace ProsWood-Burning Fireplace Cons
More heat outputMore costly to install
Off-grid heating sourceMore costly to run
Some prefer the aesthetic of a wood-fireFuel burns less cleanly, have to wait for it to dry or season (usually 12 months)
Harder to light and extinguish
90% of heat from wood is lost through the chimney
Home insurance costs can be higher
Fewer locations in the home for installation
  • Costs – This is one of the most important things to keep in mind when it comes to converting your fireplace and choosing a fireplace for your home. Gas fireplaces can often be less expensive to install and have fewer maintenance costs. However, wood-burning fireplaces can be less costly to burn over time and easier to find fuel for. 
  • Cleanliness – When it comes to clean-burning fuel, gas fireplaces come in first. Overall, gas will emit less soot, smoke, and vapors than wood-burning stoves. With wood-burning fireplaces, debris will often be left behind and piles of ash will remain until you clean out the fireplace. 
  • Easy to Use – A gas fireplace is often more convenient and simpler to operate as you simply push a button to ignite the flame. However, a wood-burning fireplace can often be lit easily with the right tools and as long as you keep seasoned firewood readily available. The main downside to wood-burning fireplaces is that it can take a long time for the fire to reach its maximum heat output, as well as the time it takes to extinguish. On the other hand, gas fireplaces are pretty instantaneous.
  • Heat Efficiency – Of course, the main reason that most add a fireplace to their home is to have extra heat and to warm their home. Both styles of fireplaces can be effective, but gas fireplaces can often warm a home more quickly. Since wood-burning stoves have a larger chimney, warm air can often be lost out of the chimney. Keep in mind that gas fireplaces often still need to be used in combination with a central heating unit to properly warm a living space.
  • Insurance Costs – One thing to keep in mind is having a fireplace can change the costs of your home insurance. Often a gas fireplace is less costly on your homeowner insurance than a wood-burning fireplace. The reasons for this are that wood-burning fireplaces have rogue embers and more wear-and-tear, which can cause damage to your home.
  • Overall Aesthetic – Gas fireplaces can come in a variety of finishes that you can choose from, as well as the ability to be placed in almost any area in your home. This is especially true of direct vent fireplaces, which can be installed through a wall, instead of the roof. Although, some wood-burning stoves have the option for direct venting too. Compared to gas fireplaces, there is just something primal and satisfying about wood-fireplaces.

Overall, weigh the pros and cons of both fireplaces to see which will work best for your needs. If you’d like something simpler and easier to use, gas is often the best choice. However, if you’d like to get that classic fireplace feeling, converting to wood burning is a great option.

Final Thoughts

So, while our outdoor fireplace has a gas starter, it’s a different build to the indoor fireplace that has a full-featured gas fireplace. Even though we might be able to get away with burning firewood in it, it can pose safety issues and possibly damage the fireplace or gas line. And that can mean expensive and lengthy repairs. For converting things like this, it’s best left to professionals so you can continue to enjoy your fireplace worry-free.