Asked on Oct 07, 2013

Replacing a gas fireplace with a real (wood-buringing) one.

Todd P. Last
by Todd P. Last
Our home built in 2007 has a typical gas burning fireplace. We would like to replace it with a woodburning fireplace or pellet burning fireplace. However the gas fireplace does not have a chimneny and exhaust exits out the side wall of the home. Does anyone know if it is possible to do this swap? I've emailed a few local fireplace shops and have not really gotten a response. (Portland Or)
  21 answers
  • Chris P Chris P on Oct 07, 2013
    I have the same set up and wondered the same thing when I first moved in my house. I was told you can't just switch it to a wood fire place with out doing some MAJOR work, like adding a chimney and other things. But I was told, you can take the glass off for a more natural look. Only problem then your family room is not insulated from the cold.
  • Z Z on Oct 07, 2013
    Chris is right turning a gas fireplace into a wood burning fireplace would involve some construction changes as you'd have to have a full chimney that exhausts, I think, 3 feet above the peak. I just Googled and found the clearance is at least two feet. There's allot more to it than just replacing your existing gas box. This article is very informative.
  • Hamtil Construction LLC Hamtil Construction LLC on Oct 07, 2013
    What Chris and Becky said is accurate. You can certainly switch a wood burning to gas, but not the other way around with the setup you are describing. It would require venting up vertically through the roof to above the peak so that you get proper draft. Wood burning stoves can vent in this manner using double wall pipe, but to use the firebox you have and achieve it, it's going to take major work I suspect.
  • Carole Carole on Oct 07, 2013
    I am not sure why you would want to do that really apart from a more natural look and perhaps if you have an abundance of readily available timber to burn. The problem with real wood fires is that they take a while to get going and produce heat - it is not instantaneous and you freeze your butt off waiting for it to get going. Once going, yes it would be toasty and warm but then you have the consideration of where to store your timber - not too close to the house due to added fire risk and added risk of borer or termites being attracted to the wood, but close enough to be handy for use. Emptying the ash and disposing of it and so on. Also the laws can change regarding what you are allowed to burn due to clean air act and so on. All a lot of bother if you ask me when you can at present just flip a switch and get heat! Just my humble opinion. Wood burners do look good, but there is more work involved with them. I live in an area where many people have these wood burning heaters and there is currently talk of banning them due to air pollution would you believe!
  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Oct 08, 2013
    I have installed a number of wood stoves, the clearances to "combustables" are bigger. You can vent out the back but would still need to run the chimney pipe up above the roof line. Code requires 2 feet above anything within a 10 foot radius. The pipe will need to be class A...which is $$$ compared to gas vent pipe. The hearth will also need to be extended as min clearances are 16" ...personally I like 18 to 24. I have 2 wood stoves in my home a go through 5 -6 cord a year. A free standing stove provides tons more heat than an insert, and can be used in power outages. Most insert need a blower to be efficient. You could easily drop $3000 into a project like this. A Grand for a decent "stove" and a grand for pipe...the third grand is all the labor of install reworking clearances etc.
  • Connie Mar Connie Mar on Oct 08, 2013
    I wouldn't take the glass off, except for cleaning when the pilot light is off. What you have is a closed combustion, direct vent system. No exchange of air inside the house, which is great - less chance of carbon monoxide. Removing the glass compormises the closed system, and would not be safe to run that way. Not sure why you would want wood instead of gas, unless you have a great supply of good firewood and are ok with hauling the wood, removing the ashes, having the chimney cleaned regularly to remove the soot to avoid fires. Like others have said, it would be a lot of work to set up for a wood burning stove. If you don't like the look of this gas fireplace, you might consider replacing with one you like better. A lot of gas fireplaces will burn without electricity and can be a great heat source in your home, not to mention the beauty without all the work.
    • See 6 previous
    • Z Z on Oct 10, 2013
      How do you roast them in your home @Kevin? My hubby buys the freshest beans he can get as we, or at least I, didn't realize you could roast them at home. That sure would make the house smell great too. Something I've always wondered. How something can smell so good when I don't like the taste at all?
  • H.O. Electric H.O. Electric on Oct 09, 2013
    We have done a lot of them. Just put a hole through the back wall and go up vertically above the roof. The rest is just carpentry finish work.
  • Cindy tustin Cindy tustin on Oct 09, 2013
    I would first check with my insurance company might be a little premium sticker shock.
  • Jeanine Jeanine on Oct 09, 2013
    i cant remember where i read it but you need to check with the EPA.. they are banning wood burning fireplaces because of the polution and yes, i know it is some peoples only means of heat so im just suggesting to check first..
    • Kevin F. Casey Kevin F. Casey on Jan 10, 2015
      @Jeanine NO Th EPA is NOT banning wood burning fireplaces or any other wood buring device. What they are doing is requiring you to UPGRADE from your old inefficient fire place to a new More efficiant fireplace. Lets say it takes 50 logs to heat your house. The New EPA regs want you to have a fireplace that burns 10 logs for the SAME amount of heat. I'm sure you would rather have to burn less wood & pay less to replace it per year?
  • Brenda Stephens Brenda Stephens on Oct 09, 2013
    Where I live, in Sacramento, we have burn and non-burn days for fire places. We went from wood burning to having a gas fire place for this reason. The fine for burning was not worth it, and helping to keep the valley's air clean is a small piece of what we could do for our invironment. It was not cheap to convert our fireplace, and I do not regret doing so. I do know that we can not go back to the old fire place once we converted. So, I would really think about conversion if it is really worth the money in the long run. Our bill is much smaller with the gas insert than it was for us to burn the wood, and I do not miss the smell.
  • Cyndi Daves Cyndi Daves on Oct 09, 2013
    Todd - One of the things missed in the responses is the fact that you need to determine if your firebox is UL rated for gas and/or wood. Some are only rated for gas while others are rated for both. During the market boom, my husband and I owned a very successful general contracting company in Western NC. When building, our GC company installed a box that is rated for either. We also followed all other codes (piping, clearances, etc) for wood which are stricter than gas so that the homeowner could choose either. Start by determining if your box is rated for wood and if you have the appropriate piping. It will be more costly if not but it is still doable. I for one would never have anything other than a wood fireplace!! Enjoy!!!
  • Cathy W Cathy W on Oct 09, 2013
    Todd, I too live in Portland. While it's a delightful place, it does have it's own set rules: Permits for ALL changes (not cheap) and Codes to meet to make it possible to convert a fireplace. Even though we have an abundance of wood, we do have the responsibility of smoke downdrafts, air inversion into house and surrounding homes, danger of rolling logs out to carpet (thus setting carpet etc on fire), cleaning the fire box quite often (not pleasant, especailly when someone has thrown in lots of wrapping paper), putting it into recycle??? need I go on? With the cost of natural gas minimal, and clean (no soot floating around the house or out into the air) I'd sit down with your calculator and weigh out the apples and oranges's. Do this first, then go forth. EVERYONE here has valid advice! We are living in a 1920s house that had a wood burning fireplace and it didn't take much to convert it over to natural gas. We have a separate turn off switch so there's no chance of leaks from the main line. If you are preparing for a world without electricity etc., kudos. That would be a battle because everything would be inaccessible.. ..
  • Robert F Ferris Jr. Robert F Ferris Jr. on Oct 11, 2013
    MAKE SURE YOUR CHIMNEY HAS NO INTERNAL CRACKS, HAS A METAL INSERT..AGAIN NO CRACKS. We did this 8 yrs ago and lost the NE corner of our 2 story..our insurance agent told us we were good to go if we wanted to we did the fire was in the walls for 2 days..smoke alarms and fire put it outter (extinguisher) hot pads
  • Melodie Fortin-Fox Melodie Fortin-Fox on Oct 11, 2013
    Keep in mind pellet stoves burn cooler than regular wood. There might not be as many changes required for that. I myself have a similar situation. My gas insert vents through the roof though. I would do this switch to a pellet in a heartbeat because the cost of natural gas has increased dramatically. (WA) It is still very cost prohibitive though. :(
    • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Oct 14, 2013
      @Melodie Fortin-Fox Actually pellet stoves burn very hot where the fire is just that the fire is much smaller and far removed from the chimney pipe...the exhaust gases are much cooler and can be vented with more basic pipe.
  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Oct 12, 2013
    One great thing about wood stoves and pellet stove is they are "green". Gas stoves while cleaner burning in terms of soot... they still burn fossil fuels which contributes to greenhouse gases, climate change and all of those woes. High quality wood stoves can have particle emissions that surpass EPA guidlines, This is done via "re-burn" technology.
  • Anna Anna on Mar 18, 2014
    If you have a 'zero-clearance' type of fireplace I would not suggest having it burn wood. Zero clearance means that there is ZERO distance from the back of the fireplace to the wood framing of your house. We have had a lot of house fires in my area due to this.
    • George somoza George somoza on Jun 14, 2017

      Hi Anna , I have sold, installed and serviced wood burning zero clearance fireplaces for 47 yrs. If the fireplace is installed correctly by a trained technician according to manufacturers spec and county codes the chances of damage to the home by fire is minimal. The Zero clearance is referring to the clearance around the box. Although the word zero is used it doesn't mean the box can be pushed up against anything combustible . Any and all prefabricated zero clerance fireplace must have certain clearance according to manufacturers specs. hope this helps. feel free to ask questions im here to help

  • Swinnen Lisette Swinnen Lisette on Jan 16, 2017

    I would say : use your common sense while installing your woodburner. Start from scratch (demolish everything and start anew with all the safety rules in mind). Don't assume but check and redo if necessary. Better safe than sorry.

    Keep in mind that pellets burners need electricity to move the pellets to the burner (not very handy if you have cuts in the electricity in winter). Keep also in mind that a woodburner is a lot heavier than a gas one : check your floor...

    I prefer a wood stove because it heats all around, that means you don't have to have a system to blow the heat from inside you fireplace to your room.

    I have a smoke alarm installed, and also, more important, an alarm for monoxide gas!

    I wish you good luck with the realisation of your dream.

  • Janice Furtado Janice Furtado on Jan 18, 2017

    NO! The gas fireplace Flues are built for the exhaust of " fumes" only! Cannot be used for embers, smoke and handle the build-up of creosote!

  • Jerry Murawski Jerry Murawski on Mar 09, 2017

    Check out They have zero clearance fireplaces. I will suggest the 44 elite. It will heat your whole house.

  • Danielle Odin Danielle Odin on Mar 12, 2017

    The very first thing to do is get the permits and the low-down on the conversion from a reliable professional.

  • Anna Anna on Jun 14, 2017

    I am sure that you are correct in what you say, but in my general location there are a couple of fires every year from studs smoldering.