Screen, Glass, or Custom Doors

TomMinVA

New Member
Jun 8, 2019
2
Virginia
Hello,
Wife and I just moved into small 1927 home in NOVA. It has a small masonry fireplace that I'd like to get up and running. I don't want gas. I'm weighing pros and cons of a freestanding screen vs glass vs custom built doors.

Freestanding screen
Pros: simple, effective, affordable, good ones can look very nice
Cons: Can't "shut down" the fireplace - can I trust it from a safety standpoint? Also, we'll lose heat up the chimney at night.

Freestanding Glass Screen
Pros: same as wire screen, still affordable, greater safety (nothing is getting past the glass). Probably a little less heat goes up the chimney if I move it close to the brick. Can more or less shut down the fire for the night.
Cons: Fragile as I lean it out or move to poke the fire and add wood?

Custom Doors
Pros: Can definitely shut down for the night - big safety advantage. Much less heat goes up the chimney.
Cons: Ours is a small fireplace and I don't think I'd like the looks of it but. Expensive. Fireplace has an arched header so measurements might be tricky and must be spot on.

What would you do and why?

Ah, first world problems. Thoughts much appreciated.
Thanks!
Tom

Specs: 29" deep x 29" wide x 33" high
 

Attachments

edyit

Minister of Fire
Nov 30, 2014
817
Wilmington NY
What would you do and why?
Before you do anything get it inspected by a professional and make sure it is in usable condition. If you're looking to use this for any kind of heat and not just ambiance then I would get an insulated liner and an insert. The glass doors you mentioned I'm pretty sure can't be used to close the fire down, they get closed after the fire is completely out, or they break.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
78,585
South Puget Sound, WA
If the primary goal is usable heat, would a freestanding stove on the hearth be an option? If so, how high is the top of the arch?
 

Ludlow

Minister of Fire
Jun 4, 2018
1,082
PA
When we had glass doors when I was a kid, the fire would burn faster when we shut them. We burned with them closed sometimes and they never broke, but the wood consumption went up. There is no way you can shut the fire down with glass doors unless they are perfectly sealed to the brick and between each panel, which they are not.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
18,644
central pa
Hello,
Wife and I just moved into small 1927 home in NOVA. It has a small masonry fireplace that I'd like to get up and running. I don't want gas. I'm weighing pros and cons of a freestanding screen vs glass vs custom built doors.

Freestanding screen
Pros: simple, effective, affordable, good ones can look very nice
Cons: Can't "shut down" the fireplace - can I trust it from a safety standpoint? Also, we'll lose heat up the chimney at night.

Freestanding Glass Screen
Pros: same as wire screen, still affordable, greater safety (nothing is getting past the glass). Probably a little less heat goes up the chimney if I move it close to the brick. Can more or less shut down the fire for the night.
Cons: Fragile as I lean it out or move to poke the fire and add wood?

Custom Doors
Pros: Can definitely shut down for the night - big safety advantage. Much less heat goes up the chimney.
Cons: Ours is a small fireplace and I don't think I'd like the looks of it but. Expensive. Fireplace has an arched header so measurements might be tricky and must be spot on.

What would you do and why?

Ah, first world problems. Thoughts much appreciated.
Thanks!
Tom

Specs: 29" deep x 29" wide x 33" high
It really doesn't matter. There really is no safety or performance advantage with custom doors. They just look better. You will still loose massive amounts of heat.
 

edyit

Minister of Fire
Nov 30, 2014
817
Wilmington NY
When I was around 5-6 my grandparents had a house that had a fireplace in it with glass doors. I remember them burning in it and the tempered glass cracking from being closed while the fire was burning. Maybe the newer glass doors are made from pyroceramic like stove doors are.
 

Kevin Weis

Minister of Fire
Mar 3, 2018
783
Union Bridge, Md
If your in a city setting and this is not planning to be main source of heat and natural gas is available would go with the gas. Will put out heat and look good and your not buying firewood and having to have a place to store it. Again if your in a city setting with NG available.
 

jetsam

Minister of Fire
Dec 12, 2015
4,225
Long Island, NY
youtu.be
I'd put a stove in front of it. We started ditching open fireplaces in the 1700s for very good reasons, and stoves have come a long way in the intervening 300 years.
 

Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
14,908
Philadelphia
I'd put a stove in front of it. We started ditching open fireplaces in the 1700s for very good reasons, and stoves have come a long way in the intervening 300 years.
In every way, except ambience. You will never beat an 18th century fireplace, for that.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
18,644
central pa
In every way, except ambience. You will never beat an 18th century fireplace, for that.
Yeah the ambiance of an open fireplace is great. Then it gets cold out and it's not so great any more.
 

jetsam

Minister of Fire
Dec 12, 2015
4,225
Long Island, NY
youtu.be
In every way, except ambience. You will never beat an 18th century fireplace, for that.
I grew up in front of fireplaces that were actully used for heat, and there is nowhere I'd rather sit to this day. I have an unshakeable fondness for open fireplaces.

I also am in charge of paying the bills and getting the wood and splitting the wood and so forth... so you'll never see an open fireplace in my house. But it doesn't mean I won't come sit in front of yours. :)
 
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Sawset

Minister of Fire
Feb 14, 2015
508
Palmyra, WI
Grew up with a fireplace and an old farm house. The livingroom would be warm, every other room cold, very cold. Hasn't been used since the 70s. If I have any say, it won't be used again. Scares me now thinking about it. Walls to hot to touch. Constructed by a local mason in the 60s, good reputation, new his stuff, doesn't matter - maybe took 40 yrs experience to develope bad habits, maybe not. I worked with a group of guys once, most were EMT's on the local fire department. Every week, so what were the calls lately, oh two chimney fires and a car crash, chimneys were masonry, breached a joint, entered the attic. Get the chimney checked out at the very least. Be hyper sensitive to anything abnormal. On second thought - just don't. Like mentioned, put in a liner, maybe a free standing stove if your really serious. I think it was firefighter Jake here that mentioned quite a while ago, just about all the burn your house down fires he was involved with had been from masonry, couldn't think of one from UL listed class A stainless. Maybe he's listenening and will correct me.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
18,644
central pa
Grew up with a fireplace and an old farm house. The livingroom would be warm, every other room cold, very cold. Hasn't been used since the 70s. If I have any say, it won't be used again. Scares me now thinking about it. Walls to hot to touch. Constructed by a local mason in the 60s, good reputation, new his stuff, doesn't matter - maybe took 40 yrs experience to develope bad habits, maybe not. I worked with a group of guys once, most were EMT's on the local fire department. Every week, so what were the calls lately, oh two chimney fires and a car crash, chimneys were masonry, breached a joint, entered the attic. Get the chimney checked out at the very least. Be hyper sensitive to anything abnormal. On second thought - just don't. Like mentioned, put in a liner, maybe a free standing stove if your really serious. I think it was firefighter Jake here that mentioned quite a while ago, just about all the burn your house down fires he was involved with had been from masonry, couldn't think of one from UL listed class A stainless. Maybe he's listenening and will correct me.
I have been to investigate a few fires caused be improperly installed or failed prefab chimneys. Structure fires caused by code compliant masonry chimneys are every bit as rare.
 

Ludlow

Minister of Fire
Jun 4, 2018
1,082
PA
Stagecoaches were pretty awesome in their day too. Until trains, then cars and airplanes. If I were building a house and had bookoo bucks though, I might build a room that was sealed from the house and have a big open masonry fireplace in it for special occasions. But you can bet there would also be a nice spot for a woodstove in there as well for all the other times I wanted efficient heat.
 

Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
14,908
Philadelphia
Structure fires caused by code compliant masonry chimneys are every bit as rare.
Yeah, but you have also spent the last eight years convincing me that code compliant masonry chimneys are as rare as unicorn farts. So, no wonder fires due to them are rare.
 
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bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
18,644
central pa
Yeah, but you have also spent the last eight years convincing me that code compliant masonry chimneys are as rare as unicorn farts. So, no wonder fires due to them are rare.
Yes that is a very good point lol.
 
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SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
2,791
Downeast Maine
Code compliant masonry chimneys are rare because most masonry chimneys are also old and predate current code, if any code existed at the time.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
18,644
central pa
Code compliant masonry chimneys are rare because most masonry chimneys are also old and predate current code, if any code existed at the time.
No even most new masonry chimneys are nowhere near meeting code. This is a problem with uneducated masons and code inspectors. Also in many areas of the country more new masonry chimneys are built than prefabs they are still very common.
 
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TomMinVA

New Member
Jun 8, 2019
2
Virginia
Great comments all.
The house has been renovated, insulated, new furnace. It's small and tight, so the fireplace is just for ambiance.

I will absolutely get the chimney checked out by a pro. Not sure what it would take to get a liner put in, but that's not a bad idea. Thanks all!