Fireplace help needed

Sorry, this posting is a little off topic but folks here are the most knowledgeable regarding home improvements.
I have a fully functional brick faced and lined, wood burning fireplace. It and my house were built in 1960 and I am going to convert it to a gas-fired log setup. Natural gas is in place. The existing fireplace is in excellent condition; brick hearth and stone floor adjoins it.
I don't particularly like the looks of the setups found in the home stores. I am looking for a system that will present the most realistic look while still functioning to provide heat. If there is a tradeoff, look wins out, as this is a secondary heat source.
Who makes the best on the market? Should it be vented or not? What considerations should I be making? I see remote controls, thermostatically controlled units and other bells and whistles, are there any I should avoid? Any installation tricks to make it look better? I noticed a few places speak of layering materials to make an appearance of ashes, some even glowing with traces of fire, any comments as to what works best for that?
As you can see I am just cracking the shell on this one and really need some help from someone who has been there and done that.
Thanks,
Roger in Abilene.
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For a secondary heat source I would suggest an insert and stay away from the logs. To much heat (90%+) goes up the flue. See http://tinyurl.com/r36q as a source for additional information.
We have two fireplaces, one in the living room and one in the family room. The living room fp was a build on site brick with red clay flue. The guy that built it didn't know crap about draft and flue design. We had to stuff paper up the chimney and light it with the front door open just to get it to draw! PITA!! We had a gas insert installed a few years ago and what a difference - It actually throws heat into the room instead of 95% up the flue like a wood fire. And it works during power outages (sp).
Good luck,
Erik Ahrens Apprentice Termite

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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ | THAT is the problem ------------+
A -good- wood-burning fireplace is an entirely different story.
My folks rebuilt the family house, when i was about 10, and added a fireplace. Utilizing the skills of a _good_ architect. Even so, the brick mason *refused* to build it, till the architect came out and 'reasoned' with him. The mason had "good reason" for his reservations. There are a number of 'rules of thumb' for chimney design, and the plans for this one looked like a winner in the "how many of the rules can you violate" contest. :) The top of it was around 5' _below_ the roof-line of our house on two sides, *and* a good 8' below the neighbor's roof-line -- only about 15' away, on a third side. *PLUS* it rose right into a big Locust tree.
The architect knew all about the 'rules', and *also* knew when he could 'violate them with impunity'. And had spec'd a 'draft inducer' (big, patented, no-moving-parts thingie, made by a firm in Texas) to be installed on the chimney.
We had to have the mason out, after everything was done, to _show_ him that "it really *did* work". <grin>

Proper design makes _all_ the difference.
We _never_ had a problem with it smoke. and a roaring fire was fully capable of making things almost 'uncomfortably warm' at the _far_end_ of the 'great room' (living-room/dining room combo), about 24' away. We learned fairly quickly to make "little" fires, if we wanted to enjoy the living room area. :)

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