General Question

occ's avatar

can I burn wood in my gas fireplace?

Asked by occ (4007 points ) February 23rd, 2008

I have a fireplace in my apartment that I“ve only used a few times since moving in over 4 years ago. It is a gas fireplace—you flip a switch, light it with a match, and voila! When I moved in, there were also some logs over the gas line (which I assumed were fake) and they’ve been sitting there ever since (they haven’t caught on fire the few times I“ve lit the gas fireplace. I rarely use the fireplace because the gas is expensive and it doesn’t produce enough heat to really warm the house. However, I have a new roommate who moved in and says that he thinks you can actually light a real fire in the stove… he says that at his parents’ house there is a gas fireplace that is used to get the fire going, and you can then put real wood in to have a nice fire. To me, this seems like potential for a crazy gas explosion, but I“m from Manhattan where no one ever has fireplaces, so what do I know? I thought of asking our landlord but I didn’t want to sound like an idiot in case adding wood is a potential fire hazard—don’t want him to think I“ll burn down the house. Thoughts?

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14 Answers

srmorgan's avatar

My intuitive answer is no., But then like you I grew up in an apartment (in the Bronx) so what do I know.

Conceivably you could cut the gas line i.e. turn it off, and burn logs, but I would question whether this a good idea or not. A wood-burning fireplace is going to have a chimney and a flue where the smoke and fumes are directed. A gas fireplace may or may not have been constructed with a REAL WORKING CHIMNEY and if your fireplace is not constructed that way, then starting a fire is going to at the very least stink up the house and at worst be dangerous.

On the other hand if this was originally a working fireplace that was retrofitted to run gas, you might not have a problem.

However, I would think a blazing wood fire is going to damage the gas-burning equipment that is installed in your house.
I don’t even know who you can call about this. An electrician?

Good Luck and don’t light anything until you know what you are doing..

scubydoo's avatar

I would ask the landlord. also if the fireplace hasn’t been used in years it (in my opinion) would be best to start with the landlord first.. He/she may need to get someone to come out to inspect it before lighting in case of some unforeseen build-up inside the chimney and make sure there are no leaks (if its gas). asking questions won’t make you an idiot, it only makes you smarter. no-one knows everything about everything , lol :-) Better safe than sorry. esp if you could potentially light the fire and fall asleep , possibly catching the apt on fire. having a roof over your head is better than not having one. good luck whatever you decide. and be safe

jrpowell's avatar

My BIL is an electrician and overall handyman. I called him and he seconded what scubydoo said.

skfinkel's avatar

Even if making a real fire is a possibility, which I suspect it is not in that kind of a fireplace—I would certainly contact the landlord. Don’t worry about sounding silly—he/she will appreciate it and then if it is possible, you have his/her blessing. Otherwise, it sounds like serious trouble to me.

pattyb's avatar

most likely no. A gas fp vents different from a wood one. Unless you want to fill your apt. building with thick heavy smoke. By the way, a fp will not heat your house but suck the warm air out. Unless it is a stove type or has an electric blower.

gooch's avatar

if it is vented (has a chimney) yes if not no

susanc's avatar

If you can avoid throwing clouds of woodsmoke into the air we breathe, thank you, that will be wonderful.

Disclosure: I heated with wood for 22 years. I didn’t know.

artemisdivine's avatar

omg no. no no no. again no. but it would be cool to see you try and light it, have the gas catch on fire and your entire residence blown to bits.

mac316's avatar

Scoobydoo’s answer is on target. True fireplaces are vented in a way which is different from gas burning log sets. By all means, consult the owner before burning wood. If nothing else, you may open a question of liability which no one wants to face.
It is not uncommon to have a gas ignitor in a wood burning fireplace as the actual gas valve is remote from the area of the flame, usually off to the side in the mantle facing.

sndfreQ's avatar

another unknown may be that if there are valves and other channeling systems in the fireplace the increased heat output from the wood burning could damage that plumbing and the safe operation/maintenance of the gas line. Whenever my family took skiing trips and rented a condo with gas fireplaces, there was always a note affixed to the fireplace that said do not burn wood in this fireplace…I would suspect it would be exactly about the reasons stated above. Not to mention the cleaning fee if soot got into the attic!

suzannegrgry's avatar

I don’t know who told anyone that they can’t burn wood if there is gas in the fireplace. How do you think they get the wood started burning? my father built custom fireplaces for a living and there was gas to everyone of them. Nothing is going to blow up. You throw the match into the gas to start the fire. Otherwise what do you think you would do crumple up 1000 pieces of paper? After you log has caught fire enough then you can either turn the gas off or turn it down to keep the fire burning either high or low.

savanitapajara's avatar

I have a gas fireplace and I always light a real fire in it.
All you do is put good wood in it, turn the gas on, light the fire, wait for the wood to catch on, and turn the gas off.
I never leave the gas running. It’s always a real fire.
My boyfriend’s family has used this gas fireplace for 13 years and have always done it like that.

slazar's avatar

I guess the main question (for the people who are burning wood in a fireplace that also has a gas line) is if the wood is actually touching the gas line. I have the same concern right now. Some friends tell me that the gas line (which mine is from copper), will burn right through the line, the valve, etc., and i’ll have a big explosion if I burn wood in there.
Some other friends tell me that as long as the wood is on a rack, with at least 2 or 3 inches between the wood and the gas line, I will definitely be okay.
So for the wood burning people:
1. What material is your gas line made of?
2. How much clearance in inches do you have between the log rack and the gas pipe?

The problem is that all my friends are not professionals, but they all think they know what they’re talking about. Obviously there is a right answer.
Thanks for any advice.

arnakotak's avatar

Try it as savanitapajara said…

“All you do is put good wood in it, turn the gas on, light the fire, wait for the wood to catch on, and turn the gas off.”

:)

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