Wood-burning fireplace, make-up air, renovation question

  • Active since 1995, Hearth.com is THE place on the internet for free information and advice about wood stoves, pellet stoves and other energy saving equipment.

    We strive to provide opinions, articles, discussions and history related to Hearth Products and in a more general sense, energy issues.

    We promote the EFFICIENT, RESPONSIBLE, CLEAN and SAFE use of all fuels, whether renewable or fossil.

malt

New Member
Apr 2, 2022
1
VA
Hello,

We are in the midst of a major home renovation. As part of the reno, we are turning an open-plan living room/dining room/kitchen area into a master suite. There is a wood-burning fireplace in what will now become the master bedroom. At a walkthrough with the HVAC trades, one said there would be a make-up air issue with the new plan. He said we couldn't keep it as a wood-burning fireplace without adding a vent/opening to the rest of the house through a wall in the bedroom. Otherwise it won't pass inspection (we are in Virginia).

The bedroom is essentially 17' X 15', directly connecting to a 6' X 9' hallway (ie no door between). The hallway connects (through doors) to an office that is 10' X 10' and a bathroom that is 6' X 17'. The hallway connects (via door) to the rest of the house.

The designer put me in touch with a local fireplace store to discuss options. They said that anything would be fine, and don't feel there is a make-up air issue. The HVAC people are equally sure that we have to do something to pass inspection. Their recommendation was to turn it to gas or add an opening to the rest of the house.

I can't get a straight answer as to what I have to do. I have a meeting set up with a chimney firm to see if they think we could just install an outside air kit into the fireplace. If we turn it to gas, a gas log set won't work, right? There would still be the make-up air issue with that? So I would have to do a vented gas insert? The fireplace store brought up a wood-burning insert. If we install that, will that fix any potential make-up air issue since those are more efficient, or does that not matter? Are there wood-burning inserts that have their own air intakes, like a vented gas insert?

I like wood-burning, and prefer to keep costs down, but am not opposed to a gas setup. My wife is concerned with wood smoke odors in the bedroom, so I would think a wood-burning insert or gas setup would greatly diminish any odor in the bedroom. The house has two stacked fireplaces, that use one chimney but two separate flue systems, with caps. Prior to the reno, I did notice that there would be a soot smell in the basement if we used the upper fireplace. Not the other way around, though. They have been inspected and cleaned and nothing unusual was noted.

Thank you for any input, and for reading through all of this.
Michael
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
29,238
central pa
Hello,

We are in the midst of a major home renovation. As part of the reno, we are turning an open-plan living room/dining room/kitchen area into a master suite. There is a wood-burning fireplace in what will now become the master bedroom. At a walkthrough with the HVAC trades, one said there would be a make-up air issue with the new plan. He said we couldn't keep it as a wood-burning fireplace without adding a vent/opening to the rest of the house through a wall in the bedroom. Otherwise it won't pass inspection (we are in Virginia).

The bedroom is essentially 17' X 15', directly connecting to a 6' X 9' hallway (ie no door between). The hallway connects (through doors) to an office that is 10' X 10' and a bathroom that is 6' X 17'. The hallway connects (via door) to the rest of the house.

The designer put me in touch with a local fireplace store to discuss options. They said that anything would be fine, and don't feel there is a make-up air issue. The HVAC people are equally sure that we have to do something to pass inspection. Their recommendation was to turn it to gas or add an opening to the rest of the house.

I can't get a straight answer as to what I have to do. I have a meeting set up with a chimney firm to see if they think we could just install an outside air kit into the fireplace. If we turn it to gas, a gas log set won't work, right? There would still be the make-up air issue with that? So I would have to do a vented gas insert? The fireplace store brought up a wood-burning insert. If we install that, will that fix any potential make-up air issue since those are more efficient, or does that not matter? Are there wood-burning inserts that have their own air intakes, like a vented gas insert?

I like wood-burning, and prefer to keep costs down, but am not opposed to a gas setup. My wife is concerned with wood smoke odors in the bedroom, so I would think a wood-burning insert or gas setup would greatly diminish any odor in the bedroom. The house has two stacked fireplaces, that use one chimney but two separate flue systems, with caps. Prior to the reno, I did notice that there would be a soot smell in the basement if we used the upper fireplace. Not the other way around, though. They have been inspected and cleaned and nothing unusual was noted.

Thank you for any input, and for reading through all of this.
Michael
Talk to the code office. In most areas any wood burning appliance in a bedroom will fail inspection. If it were me I would be going with a gas insert
 
  • Like
Reactions: jalmondale

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
94,669
South Puget Sound, WA
The building dept. inspector will have the final say. Set up a meeting with them and bring in plans showing the fireplace location, and detailed information on the air volume that the insert into the insert will require, total room volume, etc.

That said, your wife has a point. The fireplace in the bedroom probably is going to be more for the show, than heating. Wood heating does make some mess. And some insert designs tend to spill ash right into the blower intake area which can spread dust quickly.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: jalmondale