You’ve decided to get a gas log fireplace this fall and winter season. That’s great news! Gas log fireplaces carry tons of benefits over traditional wood-burning fireplaces, and they can provide outstanding, safe and economical heat for you and your family all season long. Of course, a getting started with a good gas log set is not as simple as grabbing a space heater from the local hardware store. It needs to be properly installed.
Installing one of these fireboxes or inserts requires precision and care to make sure that everything works properly and that it’s safe to use. Check out these step-by-step instructions for installing gas logs to be sure you get the most out of your new fireplace.
Gas logs are extremely popular because they offer outstanding convenience and a clean burn. They’re much less hazardous to the environment than wood-burning fireplaces, and they don’t carry the dangers and contaminants of wood-burning fireplaces. Some even come with remote controls, so you can adjust the heat of your flame as needed.
The two general types of gas logs on the market are yellow flame or vented; and blue flame or vent-free. The advantage of yellow flame logs is that they look very realistic, so much so that they can even be mistaken for real wood. They also put out a comparable level of heat. They also, however, generate carbon and soot, which can create chimney deposits. This means that you need a chimney, and you’ll need to have the chimney cleaned just like a real wood fireplace.
Vent-free logs, on the other hand, throw a great deal more heat than vented sets. While their flame may not look as “real” as a yellow flame log, it’s more controllable and cleaner, as well as hotter. They don’t generate carbon deposits or soot, and they don’t create as much pollution. They can also be installed either in your existing fireplace or in a separate location, without the need for a chimney.
Before beginning your installation, it’s important to understand the potential dangers of an improperly installed gas fireplace. If not done correctly, you can expose yourself, your family and your home to a range of dangers, including health risks from gas leaks and carbon monoxide poisoning. Fires and explosions can also result.
Pre-planning is a very detail-oriented task that requires close and precise attention. Before you do anything else, sit down and read the instructions for your new set several times over. Make notes about anything you don’t understand and see if you can find the answers. If you have any questions at all, contact a professional.
While each firebox is different, most have common design elements that you’ll want to take into consideration. Many have a modular design which allow you to install them just about anywhere that can hold the heat. They require a firebox chamber and an outer jacket, with space between the two to help dissipate heat.
The exact tools you will need to install your fireplace will vary widely depending on the project you undertake. At the very least, you will need a pair of channel locks, appropriately-sized wrenches to match your fittings, a drill with the proper bits (usually sheet metal or masonry) and a screwdriver. You may also need appropriate screws (masonry or sheet metal), though these will often come with your firebox kit.
Building and framing a fireplace from scratch isn’t something that just anyone should do. It involves detailed knowledge of masonry and the right kind of lumber and carpentry skills. You’ll need to know and understand how to vent to the outside and how to perform drywalling, tiling and a range of other trade-oriented skills.
In addition, any major construction project that involves modifying your home, particularly outdoors (as installing a vent might require), may mean you have to get the proper permits from your local municipality. Check your building codes to be sure that you can obtain these permits before you begin work.
Not having the necessary skills to build your fireplace from scratch means far more than living with an ugly finished product. It means putting your entire home, the lives of you and your family and possibly even your neighbors’ lives in danger. For this reason, if you don’t have a place designated for your new fireplace already, it’s recommended you work with a professional contractor.
Because of the dangers of gas leaks, it’s absolutely essential to follow the procedures below to check for leaks once the installation is complete. If you don’t have a gas line already run to the area where your firebox will be installed, you should have this done by a certified, licensed professional. Gas lines aren’t something to take lightly or mess around with.
The gravest danger of a gas fireplace is similar to a major danger from wood-burning fireplaces. Any time you burn fuel of any kind, it can generate carbon monoxide in your home. Carbon monoxide has no smell and no color. It’s impossible to detect, but it is highly toxic and can be deadly in high concentrations.
Because of this, any time you add a fireplace to your home, you should install carbon monoxide detectors both in the room where your fireplace is located and in each of your bedrooms. A detector will provide an important warning if you have unsafe levels of the gas in your home, and it will allow you to take steps to mitigate the issue before it becomes a true danger.
The first step is to shut off the gas to the gas line. In most modern systems, there will be a simple gate valve to accomplish this. When the valve is parallel to the gas line, the line is open and gas can flow. When the valve is perpendicular to the line, it’s closed and gas will not run through.
It’s absolutely vital that you close the line. Keeping it open can result in an explosion or fire which could damage your home, or even worse, result in serious injury or even death.
If you are installing your gas logs in a location where a prior fireplace was — either gas or wood — you’ll need to clean the area thoroughly before installing the new set. If you’re installing the system in a brand new location, you can skip the next few steps.
Remove the old logs (if any), and get rid of any old lava rocks, embers or the like. It’s likely that there will be a grate in the old location as well. Remove any masonry screws that secure it and remove it for disposal.
Thoroughly vacuum and clean the entire area to get it as spotless as possible. If you are installing your new set in an old wood-burning area with a chimney, call a chimney sweep to come in and professionally clean the chimney. You’ll want to get rid of creosote, soot and other contaminants that can catch fire in the chimney later. This will help to prevent potential problems and hazards with operation and installation of the new system.
After double- and triple-checking that the gas line is closed, disconnect the gas line from the burner, remove it and set it aside to be disposed of. This usually can be done with channel locks or a properly-sized wrench to unscrew the line from the existing fittings. Be careful, however, not to strip the fittings, or you could end up with additional complications later.
Once the firebox has been thoroughly cleaned and all of the old components removed, it’s time to install your gas log fireplace. Step one is quite simply to connect your new burner. This is the core, the heart and soul of your new gas fireplace.
First, apply pipe thread sealer around the connections on the burner itself. Next, screw the gas supply line onto the threaded connection on your burner and fasten it tightly using a wrench or channel locks. Be sure that the connection is very secure, but don’t over-tighten, or you could strip the threads, creating dangerous leaks.
After the burner is connected to the gas line, it’s time to secure it inside the firebox. Place it in a central, desired location and mark where you’ll want the brackets to go. Then remove it and use the proper bit to drill holes for the screws.
If, for example, you’re installing the logs into an old fireplace, you’ll likely need to use a masonry bit and masonry screws. If the firebox is an external cabinet for a ventless system, it may already have pre-drilled holes. If not, you’ll need the appropriate bit and screws — sheet metal screws, for example, if it’s a metallic-bottom burner.
Once the holes are drilled, reset the burner and screw it down with the appropriate brackets. Again, be sure that the connections are tight, but don’t over-tighten.
If your new gas log fireplace came with a grate, you’ll need to install and secure the grate over the burners. Some fireplaces come with artificial logs that need to be assembled. We’ll handle that in a bit. First we need to check the mechanics of the operation.
Now it’s time to check for leaks. Prepare a mixture of soapy water in a spray bottle. Spray it along the gas line and especially at the connection points. Then, turn on the gas line and look for bubbles forming anywhere along the line. If you see bubbles, this means you have a gas leak. Gas leaks can be very dangerous, so if you detect any, take the proper steps to correct them.
This means either tightening connections where they might be less than secure, or it can mean actually changing the gas hoses or lines. If you have any questions about how this should be handled, contact a professional. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!
After everything is properly installed, and you’re sure there are no gas leaks, it’s time to place the gas logs. Reference your instruction manual again to be sure you have the right arrangement for them. Generally speaking, your logs will only fit together one way, and they rest on pins. Get them arranged so that they are stable and secure, and they should look very natural. Likely they will sit on the grate above the vent, though some are designed to arrange around the vent itself instead of sitting on a grate.
It’s important to know which variety of logs you have. If your kit didn’t come with a grate, don’t reuse your old grate. In addition, don’t reuse your old grate instead of the one that came with your new kit, even if you like it better. Your installation kit has been designed to work as a unit.
At this point, your fireplace should be ready to use. If it came with any accessories, now is the time to install them to add an extra-realistic touch. These can include touches like lava rocks, simulated embers, covered coals, rock wool and others. There may also be additions to create a realistic crackle or even the scent of burning wood, though these could be specific to individual firebox brands. Do some research to see the ways you can customize your new set!
Now your gas log fireplace is up and running, it should last you for years of enjoyment. It will, however, require regular routine maintenance, and eventually you will need to replace it. How long a lifespan they have depends largely on what they’re made of and what kind of log set you have.
Most gas logs are made of ceramic and are capable of holding up against very hot temperatures, though they will, over time, start to lose their appearance. Within two to three, years they may not look quite as realistic as they once did. They may still function fine, however, if you don’t mind the cosmetic loss.
Vented gas log sets can last up to ten years or even more if you clean and maintain them well and regularly. Ventless sets, on the other hand, may begin to wear down in around 5 years if you use them very heavily. As with anything, the more you use it, the faster it will wear. In addition, the higher quality the materials, the longer they’ll last.
When you notice that your logs don’t look as realistic as they once did, if they seem to be breaking down or if the fireplace doesn’t seem as efficient as it once did, it may be time to change your logs.
Maintaining your gas log fireplace is often as simple as keeping it clean. At least once a month break down the logs and give it a thorough cleaning and inspection. When you do so, obviously, be sure that everything is cool so you don’t burn yourself! Clean off your logs with a duster or soft brush to get rid of dirt, contaminants, dust and other things that could catch fire or that just look bad.
Wipe out the inside of the fireplace for similar buildup that needs to be disposed of. Vacuum it out with your handheld or shop vac. Wipe down the inside with the appropriate green cleaner to keep it looking beautiful. If your fireplace is vented, don’t forget to have a chimney sweep clean the chimney, too. Check the entire box for leaks and cracks. Spray the fittings again with soapy water and repair or replace as necessary.
Finally, you should always have your fireplace inspected every year by a professional. Certified professional inspectors can check your gas lines, valves, connections, pilot and other elements to be sure everything is not only as efficient as it should be, but that it’s still safe to use. They’ll recommend the necessary repairs and make sure that your fireplace is always in great shape.
If you’re not quite sure you are ready to undertake the task of installing a gas log fireplace, you’re not alone. It can be an intimidating job, and it does require careful precision and assurance that your gas line is properly installed and connected. If that’s intimidating to you, your best bet is likely to work with a professional gas log fireplace installer like Emberside.
Emberside offers the highest quality fireboxes and gas log inserts, hand-crafted and designed to look like real wood. Our burners are the most efficient on the market today. We are a family-owned and operated company that’s been in business for over four decades, and our products are custom designed for easy installation. If you would like more information, or you need any help, we’re here. Give us a call to get started today.