Fireplace 101

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New Member
Dec 12, 2005
I recently moved into a 1930's house with a masonry fireplace. the fireplace has no hardware or accessories, other than a grate. We would like to use the fireplace to heat our house this winter. In addition to having a chimney sweep come out and inspect and clean the chimney, I am trying to figure out what we need to buy. I have been looking on the web, but have become more confused about two items: a screen and glass doors.

Glass doors appear to be installed directly into the fireplace (flush with the opening). Often, inside the glass doors there is a sliding screen. But I have also seen screens that appear to sit just outside of the fireplace (although some are flush). But if you had flush glass doors, it appears to make no sense to have a screen outside of it. I assume I have three choices:

(1) screen only (flush or otherwise)
(2) glass door only
(3) glass door with screen inside

I assume glass + screen is the best? What are the downsides of only having a screen or only having a glass door?


New Member
Dec 12, 2005
We would like to use the fireplace to heat our house this winter ... I am trying to figure out what we need to buy...
In short: an insert.

With the older, traditional masonary fireplace, the combustion air is taken from the house and goes up the chimney. The house is under vacuum, pulling cold air from outside. Yes, if you get a good fire going, the near vicinity of the fireplace is heated, but the rest of the house is being cooled down. In short, heat-wise, the fireplace costs you heating money. If you get glass doors (that are not sealed), you reduce the outwards heat flow, but the heat near the fireplace is now also reduced to whatever the hot glass radiates.

Most sealed-doors inserts will pull combustion air from the outside, and circulate the house air around the fire chamber to heat it. Some will pull that combustion air from the inside, but they will then take outside air to be heated and push it into the house to pressurize it (e.g., Extraordinaire).

We had such fireplace, and we loved it. Nothing like the family getting together near the crackling fire for popcorn and a movie. But we never really counted it as a heat source for thge rest of the house.

Good luck,


New Member
Nov 25, 2005
Hello there msalaman,

Zevi is absolutely correct. Believe it or not. Your old fashioned fireplace will certainly feel warm while you are in front of it but in actuality it is sucking all of the warm air out of your house - this warm air is the air your furnace heated! Your fireplace is then actually making your house colder bucause the warm air that goes up the chimney is replaced by cold air drawn in through the cracks and gaps in your house.

Like Zevi said, if you want to burn wood to heat your house you will need to put a specially desgined wood burning stove into your masonary fireplace - such a stoved designed to be inserted into a masoary fireplace is called an "insert".

Your challange will be to find one that fits your fireplace. If you post the internal dimesions of your fireplace on this forum perhaps somebody can make a recommendation. Plan on spending some money. You will need to buy the insert and a special metal chimney system to go inside your existing chimney. Of course, you will also have to pay to have the insert and the metal chimney system installed.

For anybody thinking about heating their house with wood (occasionally or all of the time) or for those who simply have a ton of questions and don't know where to start, I highly recommend the following book: "The Woodburner's Companion" by Dirk Thomas. This book is available at The book is very easy to read and understand and the author goes over EVERYTHING. Buy and read this book BEFORE you go to the fireplace/stove/insert store !

No, I am not the author nor do I know the author!

Stay warm,

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