Fireplace Inserts

What is a fireplace insert?

A fireplace insert is the most basic building block of a fireplace. Broadly speaking, an insert is the box that holds the components required to make the fire actually work, no matter what the fuel source. The insert represents the essential functional component of a fireplace, separate from the decorative and safety aspects of a fireplace, such as the hearth, surround, mantel, fireplace screen and other accessories, such as fireplace glass doors. Different inserts have different requirements, pros and cons. 

Electric fireplace in modern living room

Electric fireplace inserts are available in a wide array of design options. (Photo courtesy of Outdoor GreatRoom Company)

Electric fireplace inserts

An electric fireplace insert contains the electric igniter, decorative elements, and whatever mechanism the electric fireplace uses to create the illusion of flame. LED lights, mirrors and mylar are the most commonly used tricks to generate an electric flame. They can easily be sheathed in modern-looking boxes for a contemporary design, or installed in walls with traditional surrounds and hearths to mimic a gas or wood-burning fireplace from times gone by. 

Wood-burning fireplace, unlit

Wood-burning fireplaces are the most traditional form of insert. (Photo by Summer Galyan)

Wood-burning fireplace inserts

A wood-burning fireplace insert is essentially a fireproof metal box connected to a chimney flue. This type of fireplace insert needs to be very durable as it contains the burning logs and ashes, and is thus continually scraped and cleaned. This is the most common type of fireplace insert people think of when they hear the term, although it has come to refer to any kind of basic fireplace central component, no matter what the fuel source. 

Gas fireplace in living room

Gas fireplaces require more maintenance than electric models but less than wood-burning inserts. (Photo by Doug McSchooler)

Gas fireplace inserts

Gas fireplace inserts include the incoming gas line, igniter system and whatever decorative elements are used along with the flame, such as an imitation log for a traditional look or rocks for a more contemporary feel. Depending on whether it's a direct-vent or ventless (also known as vent free) fireplace, it may also connect to a chimney. 

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