Choosing an Indoor Fireplace: The 4 Different Types of Fireplaces

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If you have a fireplace or are looking to install one, here is your guide to the 4 main types of fireplaces so you can make the best choice for your family and home

DESIGN + DECOR

4 Different Types of Fireplaces

As we are planning for the complete gut job of our kitchen, we are trying to figure out how to change up our fireplace.

We will be adding a gas line for our new stove, which got me thinking about how much easier a gas fireplace can be in a house, especially with little kids.

What are the different types of indoor fireplaces?

There are nuances to every type of fireplace, but there are 4 main types that you could have in your home.

Wood Burning Fireplace

A wood-burning fireplace is typically located against an outside wall of your house. Ours sits on the far left side of our home, where our main living areas are – including our kitchen and living room.

closeup of whitewash brick fireplace in a post about types of fireplaces and wood on the side

The wood-burning fireplace is the most common type of fireplace. It’s challenging to replicate the lovely atmosphere that a wood fire creates.

Wood fireplaces are great because they provide heat and light without using electricity. They’re easy to maintain and clean up. These types of fireplaces are also an affordable choice for heating your home.

Wood burning fireplaces require more work than other types of fireplaces because you will need to bring in wood, which means that you must be near the source of the wood and have easy access to it. Plus, you want to ensure that your home is adequately ventilated so that the fumes don’t make their way inside your home.

Benefits & Potential Drawbacks to a Wood Burning Fireplace

Cost-effective
Easy to clean
Don’t use electricity or gas lines
Great source of heat
Creates a beautiful, natural ambiance
Must have access to wood/logs
Need to know how to start a fire and keep one going
Not easy to “turn off”
Requires extra tools like a fire poker, shovel for ashes and a place to keep extra wood
Produces a lot of smoke
May be dangerous with little kids or in less ventilated areas
Adding a wood-burning fireplace to your home if it doesn’t have one requires construction since you’d have to add a chimney and may need to alter a floor plan around it

Natural Gas Fireplace

large white fireplace in white living room with gas fireplace insert
Natural gas fireplace via This Old House

A natural gas fireplace can be a very accessible option for most people. It uses natural gas and works with your existing natural gas lines in your house, which is great because it doesn’t need to be hard-wired into your home’s electrical system.

A gas fireplace functions (and sometimes looks) much like a wood-burning fireplace. They are offered in both a vented and ventless option.

“A traditional vented gas fireplace … can be fueled by either natural gas or propane and has two vents that run to the exterior of the house”

BobVila.com

“A ventless fireplace … contains a regulator that produces a fine mixture of gas and air in a way that allows the gas to burn cleanly”

BobVila.com

Ventless gas fireplaces produce more heat and retain it inside the room, avoiding heat loss and making it simpler to warm only specific rooms as needed.

Gas-burning fireplaces are more cost-effective than those that use electricity.

Benefits and Potential Drawbacks of a Natural Gas Fireplace

Little to no smoke
Can provide heat (although less than a wood-burning)
Easy to turn on and off
You control the amount of gas released to create the flame
Adding one doesn’t require heavy construction
More cost-effective than alternative solutions
Can more easily heat one specific room vs. an entire home
Must have gas lines installed if you don’t have existing ones

Electric Fireplace

An electric fireplace is simply an electric heater that burns wood or coal like a real fire. Yet, it runs on electricity instead of gas.

You can have an electric fireplace that plugs into an outlet, but they are usually hard-wired into the home’s electrical system. Most fireplaces will need an upgrade to convert it over to electric.

Because a wall outlet powers electric fireplaces, no fumes are released into your house, making them completely safe.

white electric fireplace in bedroom from Two Twenty One
Electric fireplace in a bedroom via Two Twenty One

These types of fireplaces are the safest and are extremely low maintenance. The electric fireplaces are an excellent cost-effective, and modern option for your home.

They can even be installed in a mantle or a large piece of furniture like an entertainment center, so they blend into your decor.

Benefits and Potential Drawbacks of an Electric Fireplace

Budget friendly
Very low maintenance
Easy to clean
May cause an uptick in electricity bill if used a lot
Doesn’t give off a ton of heat

Ethanol

While a gas fireplace comes in a vented or ventless option, an ethanol fireplace is ventless. These fireplaces are super easy to install and a convenient alternative to add to your home.

They’re often smaller too. While the ethanol fireplace may not put off enough heat to warm an entire house, the smaller size allows you to move them easily from room to room to heat the space.

ethanol fireplace in an entertainment center under TV
Ethanol fireplace entertainment center via Modern Blaze

The ethanol fireplace uses an actual flame but doesn’t come with any smoke or smell like a gas fireplace can sometimes give off.

Ethanol fireplaces typically have the most modern design, so these are great for building new construction or bringing the latest trends into your home.

Benefits and Potential Drawbacks of an Ethanol Fireplace

No fumes = environmentally friendly
Budget friendly
Easily portable
Clean and modern designs available
Easy to install
Low maintenance
Doesn’t give off a ton of heat

Which type of fireplace is best?

There isn’t a proper “best” option because of all of these benefits and drawbacks. The best option is what will work well in your climate, for your budget, and your family.

For example, maybe you don’t need a fireplace because it’s not a cold climate, but you like the ambiance of a fire. A simple electric fireplace may be perfect and all you need!

It all depends on what works for you and your family. Ensure that whatever type of fireplace you choose has safety features like glass doors or a fire screen, approved vents, and is firmly constructed.

What is the most common type of fireplace?

While electric and ethanol fireplaces are gaining popularity, the most common fireplace in most homes is either wood burning or a gas fireplace.

What type of fireplace gives the most heat?

closeup of black fireplace screen on whitewash brick wood burning fireplace

Without a doubt, a wood-burning fireplace with a real fire is going to provide the most heat.

What kind of wood can I use for a gas fireplace?

Gas fireplaces have specific logs that you can use in them. This post about gas fireplace logs goes in-depth and has very helpful infographics about the types of logs you can use in your gas fireplace.

Can you use regular logs in a gas fireplace?

NO! This is super important. Not only could this be damaging to your home, but the toxic fumes can be deadly. A gas fireplace is only made to handle the fumes and smoke of a gas fire, and a wood-burning fire would be too much on its structure.

Can you use Duraflame logs in a gas fireplace?

Again, no!¬†The Duraflame website¬†specifically says their logs are to be used in “traditional open-hearth wood-burning fireplaces” and “should not be burned in wood stoves or fireplace inserts that have doors that will affect airflow.” Most gas and electric fireplaces will have glass doors to cover them, which would affect that airflow.

There are many types of fireplaces to choose from, and each has its own benefits and drawbacks. 

whitewash brick wood burning fireplace with large mantle and blessed sign over it

Make sure to consider safety features when choosing a fireplace (if your home doesn’t already have its own), and be sure to follow directions and safety tips for installation and maintenance to have your fireplace up and running smoothly.

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