Tag Archives: gas logs

Gas logs on fire in fireplace

16 Tips To Know About Artificial Gas Logs

Gas logs on fire in fireplaceGas logs are so very convenient–no fuss, no mess; instant on-instant off; clean burning to the environment as well as very little creosote build-up in the chimney.

Before making that decision, there are several things to take into consideration first. To help you, here are 16 tips you need to know when deciding on artificial gas logs.

1) First things first, analyze the pros and cons of gas logs to make sure that you know all the facts to make an informed decision.

2) If your fireplace isn’t plumbed for gas, consult with a licensed plumber who specializes in gas. Depending on where the gas is located, the cost for routing the gas to the fireplace may be cost-prohibitive which may be a deciding factor in the decision to install gas logs.

3) Choose which type of gas you will be using–Natural Gas or LP (propane).

4) Determine if you want vented or unvented (vent-free) gas logs. Keep in mind that unvented gas logs are illegal in many states, including California.

5) Decide on how you want to start and control your gas log set: Match Light; Manual Safety Pilot or Remote Control.

6) Have the chimney inspected and swept if needed by a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep. Make any necessary repairs to the system so you can start with a clean slate.

7)  Purchasing a gas log set with a lifetime warranty on the logs is a good investment.  These better quality logs have the added benefit of looking more realistic.

8)  Gas log sets that have white-color logs (such as Birch or Beech woods) will darken up from flame impingement (sooting) and after a while, may not look so nice.  A certain amount of flame impingement is natural.  Artificial gas logs that are darker in color (such as oak) will still have flame impingement but it won’t be so obvious.

9) Measuring the firebox to determine the proper size of gas logs is absolutely critical. If a gas log set is too large, the log set will sit too far forward and you may have gas spillage into the room. Here is how you can measure your firebox:

Measuring for gas logs

A) Measure the front width of the firebox
B) Measure the width of the backwall of the firebox
C) Measure the depth of the firebox from front to back
D) Measure the height of the firebox opening
E-1) Which side is the gas stub location: Left? Right? Rear? Floor?
E-2) How far does the gas stub extend into the firebox:
E-3) What is the distance from the gas stub to the firebox floor:

10) There should be a minimum of 3″ on each side, from the gas logs to each side wall. (For Manual Safety Pilot systems and Remote Control Gas log systems, the clearances are more. See manufacturer’s instructions for sizing.)

11) When installing gas logs, the manufacturer’s instructions will show how the logs are to be positioned on the grate. This is critical. If the logs are not positioned correctly, you can have gas spillage into the room. A professional installer will use a special gas-detecting tool to detect gas spillage. After the installer has tested the placement of the logs, don’t ever move the logs. They are supposed to be positioned in a very specific way. Note: Simply using a “soap bubble test” will not detect gas spillage into the room.

12) Adding small black lava rocks, realistic glowing embers, black glass, pine cones, acorns and wood chunks will enhance the beauty and the realism of the artificial gas logs. Some gas log manufacturers have also created “cracklers,” which are devices that replicate the sound of a wood burning fire.

13) Completely covering the gas burner tray with sand, silica or vermiculite  is important. Otherwise, flame impingement (sooting) on the gas logs can occur. Also, sand in the burner pan can prevent overheating.

14) Install a damper clamp to lock the damper in a FULLY OPEN position. A damper that is partially or completely closed will allow for more heat from your fireplace but will also allow gases to enter into the home which is extremely dangerous.

15) Always make sure that your gas logs are not on at the same time as your furnace or central heater. If you do, you can lose the draw from the fireplace so instead of the gases going up the flue, they can enter the room instead. Remember: One on at a time, never on at the same time.


Bonus Tip to Enhance the look of Gas Logs:

16) Before installing artificial gas logs, paint the firebox black, using a high temperature paint. This brings all the focus on the beautiful gas logs instead of the smoke-stained walls from previous wood-burning usage.


Artificial gas logs provide convenience, an attractive and realistic display of a wood fire while clean burning to the environment and to your chimney.

Chimney Caps and Termite Tents

Chimney cap askew on top of a chimney
Photo credit: Rick Pocock

What do chimney caps and termite tents have in common? More than you think!

Several times a year, the strong Santa Ana winds hit Southern California. These winds are something we San Diegans dread because it usually brings with it the threat of wildfires. But there’s something else that occurs due to these forceful winds.

After the winds subside, I get numerous phone calls from customers who notice that their chimney caps have flown off and landed in their back yard. The first question I now ask: “Have you recently had your house tented for termites?” In every single case, the answer is always “Yes.”

What happens to Chimney Caps when your house is tented?

In our experience as chimney sweeps, we have experienced two scenarios:

Scenario #1) The pest control company leaves the chimney cap on the chimney during the termite tenting. In this case, the full weight of the heavy tent is on the highest point of the house which, in many cases, is the chimney cap. The full weight of the termite tent will crush the cap. With a crushed cap, this creates a dangerous situation for the homeowner. Using your

A termite tent will crush chimney caps
Photo credit: Adobe Photos

fireplace with a crushed chimney cap will mean that the smoke, gases and carbon monoxide cannot vent. The hazard is especially dangerous when the homeowner has artificial gas logs where the gases are colorless and odorless. This is a potentially DEADLY situation.

Scenario #2) The pest control company removes the chimney cap and re-installs it after the termite tenting has been completed. There have even been cases where we’ve seen the cap was simply sitting on top of the chimney without even being attached in any way to the chimney. Unfortunately, many pest control companies do not know how to re-install the chimney cap properly and the first wind that comes up, the cap goes flying. Hopefully, the cap doesn’t land on your tile roof, solar panels, through your neighbor’s window, on a car, or even worse, on a person.

How to prevent problems with Chimney Caps

After your home is tented for termites, always have the chimney inspected by a chimney sweep certified through the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA). A CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep will not only be able to ensure that the chimney hasn’t been damaged by the heavy termite tent but will also be able to verify that the chimney cap is installed properly.

Make sure a termite doesn’t affect the safety of your fireplace!

Fireplace Damper Clamps

Damper ClampThe issue of damper clamps can be confusing, not just to homeowners but to home inspectors, utility companies, government building departments and even amongst chimney professionals. In many cases, this issue rears its ugly head during the stressful time of purchasing or selling a home.

What is a damper clamp?

Damper clamps are also referred to as damper stops, damper locks or damper flue clamps, but the terms are all synonymous. They are typically a small C-clamp or steel beam clamp. The damper clamp is designed to lock the damper in a fully-open position. The damper is the metal plate that closes off the flue pipe. The purpose of the damper is to prevent heat loss from the home.

When is a damper clamp required?

damperwithclamp300x200
Damper clamp in position on a prefab fireplace to prevent closing the damper

A damper clamp is required by code when artificial gas logs  or a log lighter are present in an open fireplace. When gas logs are in use, the fuel (whether natural gas or propane) is going through the combustion process. The by-product from combustion is carbon monoxide, which is a colorless and odorless gas. If the damper is not open, the carbon monoxide cannot be exhausted up and out like it should, but instead will be drawn into the living area in which case the homeowners can get very sick and, in extreme cases, may die.

According to page 234 of the 2016 California Building Energy Efficiency Code for Residential and Non-Residential Building, Sub-Chapter 7/Section 150.0, 1C” When a gas log, log lighter, or decorative gas appliance is installed in a fireplace, the flue damper shall be blocked open …”

Why is a damper clamp required with gas logs?

If you’re burning wood in your fireplace and you forget to open the damper, you’re going to know it right away because the room will fill with smoke. If you’re burning gas logs and you forget to open the damper, you could become very sick or, in extreme cases, you can die because the gas loses its odor and is colorless, odorless and toxic and now spilling into the living area. For that reason, code requires the damper is locked in a FULLY-OPEN position so you can’t make that mistake.

Damper clamps are especially critical in the case of rental properties where the fireplace has artificial gas logs or a log lighter. If a tenant forgets to open up the damper and death results, besides the horrific loss of life, the heirs of the tenant will sue the homeowner and/or property management company due to the negligence of not having a damper clamp to lock the damper open.

Can the damper be locked partially open?

Manufacturers’ installation instructions for artificial gas log sets specifically say that dampers must be locked in a “FULLY-OPEN POSITION.” Some professional installers will lock the damper partially closed to reduce the heat loss from the home when the gas logs are not in use as well as to bring more heat into the room when the gas logs are in use. However, a partially-closed damper may restrict the draft enough to cause gas spillage into the living area when the gas logs are on. For that reason, gas log manufacturers specifically state that the dampers be locked fully open. Professional gas log installers may open themselves up to liability if they lock the damper partially closed.

With the damper locked open, how can I prevent heat loss from my home?

When not in use, a fully-open damper is like having an open window all the time and you will lose a great deal of heat from your home. This is a major disadvantage to gas logs or a log lighter. Even if you’re not using the gas logs and you turn on your central heater or furnace, it may actually draw the cold air down the flue and into the room, bringing the cold air in. To prevent heat loss, install glass doors in front of the fireplace. Keep in mind, in the case of prefab fireplaces, glass doors are not always available or listed with the system so glass doors may not always be a viable option for prefab systems.

Be very careful about putting glass doors on prefab fireplaces.  You can only put the EXACT glass doors that are SPECIFICALLY designed for that exact manufacturer and exact model of the system.  If you put on the wrong glass doors on a prefab fireplace, you will void out the listing on the system and can cause a potentially dangerous situation because the prefab system can overheat during a fire.

Is a damper clamp required with a log lighter used with wood burning?

There is a wide range of opinions on this question and the answer is that a damper clamp is still required with a log lighter. A log lighter is a round pipe under the grate, used to easily start a wood fire. You place the wood on the grate, turn on the gas and after about 10 minutes, turn the gas off. There’s no need for newspaper or kindling and it makes it very easy to start a wood fire.  According to the above-stated code, if there is a log lighter present inside the firebox, the damper must be locked fully open.  However, if the firebox is plumbed for gas but the gas is capped off, no damper clamp is required.


Having a damper clamp in place with gas logs or a log lighter is frankly a no-brainer, not only for the safety for you, your family members and/or tenants but for your liability as well. The lack of a damper clamp with gas logs or a log lighter WILL also be noted by a home inspector during a home sale.  Some local utility companies will “red tag” your system if a damper clamp is not installed.  A damper clamp is a critical safety issue when you have artificial gas logs or a log lighter!

One last caveat: Check your local jurisdiction to see what your local codes are for your area.  This above-mentioned code is a California Code.

[This blog was updated as of 3/27/18.]

Gas logs on fire in fireplace

The Pros and Cons of Gas Logs

Gas logs on fire in fireplaceImagine coming home after a hard day of work and sitting down next to a cozy fire in your fireplace, and relaxing with a cup of soothing tea or a glass of Merlot, all in just a matter of minutes, with minimal effort. Think this is impossible? With gas logs in your fireplace, this is totally possible. But you need to know all the facts about gas logs in order to make an informed decision.

Advantages of Gas Logs

Time Savings and Ease of Use

Gas logs are instant on/instant off. You can light a fire within seconds. Even better, at the end of the evening, there’s no waiting for the wood embers to finish burning out before going to bed like you need to do when burning wood.

Clean Burning to the Environment

Gas logs don’t produce many particulates and therefore are very clean burning to the environment.

Beautiful Display

Gas logs are very realistic looking and make a cozy display even when the gas logs aren’t on.

Less Work

No more lugging in the firewood from outside and no more cleaning out the debris from the firebox after a wood-burning fire. This makes it ideal for older people who may find it difficult to carry in the heavy wood or bend down to clean out the fireplace.

Less Maintenance

Gas logs produce minimal creosote build-up in the flue, which means that a chimney sweeping is not required as often as wood-burning fireplaces. However, according to the National Fire Protection Guideline 13:2, this code requires that “Chimneys, fireplaces and vents shall be inspected at least once a year…cleaning maintenance and repairs shall be done if necessary.”

Termite- and Rodent-Free

Woodpiles can attract termites and rodents which isn’t a problem with gas logs. On a similar note, woodpiles should never be located up against a house.

Absolutely No Hassle

You never have to clean out the ashes and debris from the fireplace. In fact, we highly recommend that you never even touch the gas logs after they’ve been installed. The logs have to be positioned in a very specific way on the grate and then tested with a special combustible gas detector to ensure the gas logs are positioned correctly.

Available Space

Not everybody has a backyard with space for a cord of wood. In addition, not all homeowner associations permit woodpiles. This is especially true for people who live in condominiums or urban areas.

Disadvantages of Gas Logs

Heat Loss from the Home

Uniform Mechanical Code and the gas log manufacturers’ instructions require that the fireplace’s damper be locked permanently in a FULLY open position. If you don’t have glass doors on the front of your fireplace, an open damper is equivalent to an open window and you will lose heat from your home during the winter. In fact, every time your central heater or furnace kicks on, all you’re doing is sucking cold air down your chimney and into the room which totally defeats the whole purpose of having your furnace on.  This also holds true in the summertime.  With an open damper and no glass doors, every time your air conditioner kicks on, all you’re doing is sucking hot air down your chimney and into the room.

The solution to an open damper is glass doors in front of the fireplace, but not all fireplaces can have glass doors, especially prefab fireplaces where the manufacturer may not have listed glass doors available for that system. Therefore the glass door solution won’t always work for all fireplaces.

In some states and regions in the United States, ventless gas logs are allowed which doesn’t have the requirement of the locked-open damper.

Less Heat Generated

In most cases, gas logs don’t produce the heat that burning wood does, although some manufacturers’ logs may produce more heat than others. Gas logs are not designed so much for heat as for appearance, ambiance and romance.

To compensate for the lack of heat from gas logs, many people will turn on the furnace to get the heat that they’re not getting from the fireplace.  Having both the gas logs and the furnace on at the same time is not a good idea.  You may lose the draw on the fireplace which means that instead of the gases going up the flue, the gases can be drawn into the room.  (To what extent this can happen depends on how tight the house is and where the air intake is for the furnace.)  The rule of thumb for fireplaces and furnaces: One on at a time; never on at the same time.

Dependency on Utility Company

Gas logs mean that you’re dependent on the utility company for natural gas or the propane company for propane.

No crackling Sound

Although many gas log sets have a very realistic look, there are no gas log sets on the market that produce a wood crackling sound.

In Summary…

Making the decision for gas logs doesn’t have to be difficult once you know all the facts. There are many factors to take into consideration but information is power in deciding between burning wood or gas logs.