Choosing Fireplace Tools

Nothing makes a home feel more warm and cozy than a beautiful fireplace. In the past fireplaces were more of a necessity than an added form of comfort. Most homes relied upon the fireplace as their main source of heat. Although our needs have greatly changed since then, many people enjoy the beauty and warmth that a fireplace can add to their home. Whether you live in a warm or cold climate, a properly decorated fireplace can add to your home’s value. Choosing the right fireplace accessories to decorate with are almost as important as deciding upon the right size fireplace for your home.

Today there are many different types and styles of fireplace accessories on the market to choose from. Two main factors to consider before making a purchase are style and convenience. You will want to buy products that both compliment the design and look of you fireplace but that are also not too difficult to use. It makes little sense to spend hundreds of dollars on items that are for decorative purposes only. To get the most value for your money you will want to only purchase items that both compliment your decor and that are easy to use.

The following list contains a description of some commonly used fireplace tools:

1) Fireplace match holders can be made from a variety of materials including wrought iron, brass, oak, and copper. They come in a wide range of styles and prices. Whether you desire a very simple look or something more ornamental, there are many different types of match holders to choose from. No matter what style you prefer, match holders are both practical and convenient. It can be very frustrating to have to search for your starter matches every time you wish to build a fire. With a match holder, everything you need is ready at hand.

2) Damper pulls are one of the oldest and most commonly used of all fireplace tools. Most often compsed of brass, damper pulls are used to open and close a fireplace damper. A damper pull is usually about a foot in length and contains a hook on the end. The hook is what is used to easily open and close the damper. When your fireplace is not in use, the damper pull can be hung from the wall, mantle, or a fireplace stand.

3) Fireplace grates are probably the most important of all fireplace tools. A properly installed grate offers many advantages such as better protection for the floor of your fireplace. Often times without a grate the floor can become very hot and eventually become damaged. A grate helps to lessen the amount of heat that actually reaches the floor. A fireplace grate also permits the wood to burn better. Since the wood is not touching the floor, the air beneath the burning wood will be a higher temperature allowing the wood to burn more effectively. They can make clean up easier since the grate holds the wood in place and cuts down on the amount of embers that are scattered about the fireplace floor.

4) Fireplace screens add a great deal of charm and beauty to your fireplace. Available in brass, pewter, copper, glass, iron, and chrome, fireplace screens offer both style and added security to your fireplace. A fireplace screen can help to prevent pets from becoming injured and keep hot sparks from damaging the floor area outside of your fireplace.

The right fireplace accessories can make your fireplace look more appealing and make building a fire a more pleasant experience. Good fireplace tools make starting a fire simple and require very little effort. The easier it is to start a fire and maintain your fireplace, the more likely you are to enjoy the warmth and beauty a fireplace has to offer your home.

Fireplace FAQs – 4 Key Areas

Venting

What is the difference between direct vent, b vent, totally vented and ventless?

A wood-burning fireplace is totally vented. For a complete explanation of these terms see next.

Can I put a cabinet around direct vent, ventless or b-vent?

Cabinets are boxes that extend about 18″ from the wall. Mantels are wood frames that only extend about 4″ – 6″ from the wall.

* B-vent cannot have a cabinet. A b-vent fireplaces must be installed in the wall, allowing all the piping to be hidden. You may then use a mantel.

* Direct vents can have a cabinet if you vent piping out the back.

* Vent-free can have a cabinet.

Can I use vented gas logs in a stove? …In a fireplace? …In a coal burning fireplace?

Vented gas logs can only be used in a wood-burning fireplace. A coal-burning fireplace is too shallow. Vented gas logs are not recommended for a stove due to safety concerns.

I am remodeling my basement. Should I go with direct vent or vent-free?

Direct vent will give you great looks and a good amount of heat with little moisture. Vent-free will give you lots of heat and good looks but the number one complaint about vent-free is it works too well, or puts off too much heat. If the vent-free is sized correctly to the room, you will not have a problem with heat or moisture.

What is a chase?

A wooden structure built around the vent pipe to protect it from the weather and to keep the flue gases venting properly.

How energy efficient is direct vent compared to b-vent?

A b-vent fireplace is the least efficient venting option and can be vented horizontally or vertically. Direct venting is the most efficient; some are even “heater rated” and can be vented horizontally, vertically or both.

Remote Controls

What does remote ready mean? Does it come with a remote?

Remote ready means that via the remote (wired or wireless) you can turn the unit on and off which requires a millivolt valve that creates millionths of volts of electricity to control the valve. Remote ready units do not come with a remote because there are up to 20 different kinds of remotes.

Can I use my wired wall switch or thermostat with variable high-lo logs or fireplace?

No. You have to use the remote that is designed for the high-lo variable logs or fireplaces.

What is a high-lo valve?

Via the remote, you will be able to raise and lower the height of the flame. The remotes are adjustable as either on off or thermostatically controlled.

Should I buy a remote ready vented logs set?

No. Because you would have to always leave the damper completely open which means you’d lose $.60 of every heating dollar you put into the house. Therefore, when you want to turn it on, you have to open the damper. So most people just turn it on when they are opening the damper and find the remote unnecessary.

Should I buy a remote ready with vent-free gas logs?

Yes. We suggest that you get a thermostatically controlled remote so that you can keep the room at a comfortable temperature and so you can turn the unit on and off. The longest lasting valve and remote are the units that vary the height of the flame.

Conversion Questions

Can I convert my vent-free natural gas product to another fuel?

No. By national code, you cannot convert any vent-free product.

Can I convert my vented propane gas logs to natural, or vice versa?

Yes. You can convert natural to propane and propane to natural, but in most cases, you need to buy a new valve. Your manufacturer can provide conversion instructions.

Piping, Dampers & Flue Questions piping

How much can I close my damper with vented gas logs when in use?

You cannot close your damper at all with vented gas logs while they are burning.

How can I seal my damper with vent-free gas logs?

We would recommend that you close the damper as tight as you can and get a Lock-Top damper that seals at the top of the chimney

With a direct vent insert, do I need to reline the chimney?

No, you do not have to reline to wood burning specifications, but you must use the piping that is recommended by the manufacturer, which fits into the existing chimney.

What are the different kinds of burner pans for vent-free gas logs?

There is sheet metal, black pipe and stainless steel. The advantage of the sheet metal is that it is less expensive. Black pipe is heavier than sheet metal and costs a little more. The disadvantage of both is that they can rust through because they have very little rust protection. Stainless steel costs more, but will not corrode or burn through and it will last a lifetime.

How high above the roof should a chimney extend?

The minimum clearance for wood or b-vent is 3 feet above anything within 10 feet. For direct vent it is 18 inches above anything within 10 feet.

With direct vent or wood burning, what kind of piping do I use?

You must use manufacturer-approved piping.

Can different piping be used if I can’t find the original manufacturer’s?

No. If you use some else’s piping and it creates a problem in your house; i.e., a fire or smoke damage, no insurance company will cover you. You will also void the warranty and inspectors will not approve it.

If brick is cracked can I burn wood?

If the crack is bigger than the tip of a graphite pencil, we do not recommend that you burn wood.

Terms

What is the difference between an insert and gas logs?

An insert is usually a large metal box that fits into the opening of a wood-burning fireplace to increase its efficiency and enhance its look. Gas log sets are made to be hooked up to a gas line to simulate the look of wood logs.

What is an insert?

Inserts are designed to enhance the operation and appearance of an existing wood burning fireplace, whether masonry or factory-built. Categorized primarily by the fuel burned for operation (natural gas, propane, EPA certified wood, pellet and coal), a fireplace insert is installed into an existing wood burning fireplace. Fireplace inserts are made from cast iron or steel and have self-cleaning glass doors that allow the dancing flames of the fire to be viewed while the insulated doors remain closed, making the fire more efficient. Many manufacturers also augment the operation of fireplace inserts by offering state-of-the-art features such as fans and thermostatic controls (depending on the fuel).

What is the difference between an insert and a fireplace?

An insert is designed to be placed into an existing masonry or factory built fireplace.

A fireplace is either masonry (not zero clearance) or factory built (zero clearance) unit built for burning wood or gas.

What is zero clearance?

A zero clearance fireplace is a factory-built fireplace that is constructed so that it can be placed, safely, close to combustible material.

What is the difference between natural and propane gas?

Natural gas is a lighter gas and it takes twice as much of it to get the same BTU rating as propane gas. Liquid propane gas contains 2,500 BTU’s per cubic foot, natural gas contains 1000 BTU’s per cubic foot. In addition, natural gas comes into your home through a pipeline from a local supplier. Propane is stored in a tank.

What are the two kinds of gas logs?

The two kinds of logs are vented and vent-free. Within these two types, there are three kinds of materials used to create the logs: molded refractory cement, extruded ceramic clay and molded ceramic fibers. In addition to the logs, each log set generally includes a grate and a burner system.

Cement logs are best on vented units. Extruded logs are cheaper but look like spaghetti. Molded ceramic are more realistic and are best for vent-free.

Tips for Designing with Hardwood Floors

Hardwood floor styles come in strips, planks and parquet, and are available with numerous edge treatments such as square, micro, and beveled edges. The state-of-the-art technology and almost limitless choices of today’s stains, finishes, styles and designs makes hardwood flooring one of the most practical and versatile floor coverings available.

The shade of hardwood flooring you choose can dramatically change the look of your room. You can compliment the other design aspects in the room, bringing continuity and balance to the overall design. Lighter colors of hardwood help small rooms appear larger, while rich, dark tones add drama to larger rooms to create a warmer, more intimate feel.

One of the most popular attributes of hardwood flooring, is its’ natural coloration. Natural flooring adapts to any style, now or in the future. For rooms with plenty of natural light, you may want to consider some of the darker tones available. If the room doesn’t have natural light, you can lighten it up considerably by choosing a floor with a lighter color. Just remember, you can avoid being tiedto a particular scheme by choosing natural colors.

Hardwood comes in a variety of strip and plank options. Strip flooring is 21/4 wide and plank comes in varying widths starting at 3″. You can visually expand the size of your room by selecting a strip floor, while a plank floor enhances a larger room. Choose a width that corresponds to the overall scale of the room. A popular option is to use different width planks ranging between 3-5-7″. This can create a more traditional and less formal look.

Beveled edge planks can help delineate detail in the natural wood and adds a more casual feel while square edge planks fit flush against each other creating a smooth, traditional look. An eased or micro-beveled edge creates an angled effect where boards meet to create more depth and dimension while creating a more casual, relaxed look. These profiles can give the overall floor pattern distinctively different looks.

The Benefits Of Wooden Flooring

They’re affordable and come in a wide variety of styles and colors. They’re easy to install and maintain. They add value to your home, and maintain their value over time. They’re versatile enough to be the perfect backdrop to any decor. And to top it off, they help keep your home allergen and dust free. A natural wood floor is easily the best investment you can make in your home. Take a look at the benefits of natural wood flooring in your home!

Whether your personal style leans toward a clean, contemporary design or the hominess of a traditional Colonial style, wood floors fit right into the decor, and everything in between. Depending on the wood you choose, they can add to the open, airy feeling of a living room, warm a design based on steel and leather, or be the perfect background for a prized Oriental carpet. Dramatic and simple at the same time, wood floors can accent and complete the decor in any room in your home.

A new wood floor will add more value to your home than any other flooring option, including tile or wall-to-wall carpeting. And unlike other options, wood floors maintain their value over the years. When tile, vinyl flooring and carpets are looking worn, wood floors still retain their beauty. When they do begin to show wear, they don’t need to be replaced. Wood flooring can be refinished for a fraction of the cost of a new tile floor.

Wood floors are a healthy choice. Many doctors recommend hardwood floors such as oak floors as a way to help control animal and dust allergies. Carpets can trap dust, animal dander and mold spores, and serve as a breeding ground for dust mites and other common household allergens. Natural wood floors are easy to clean – sweeping and occasional vacuuming are all that it takes.

Wood floors are a natural choice, made from a renewable resource. In many cases, wood flooring is made from ‘recovered’ wood, recycled from old ships, barns and other old wooden structures.

There’s a common misconception that wood floors must be treated with kid gloves. In fact, wood floors are among the most durable of flooring options. That’s the simple reason that most gymnasium and auditorium floors are made with natural wood. It’s durable enough to stand up to heavy traffic with minimal care. Today’s polyurethane finishes and sealants make wood floors a good choice even in areas like bathrooms and kitchens

Wood floors are easy to care for. Daily dust-mopping or vacuuming is all that most floors need to stay beautiful and shiny. Polyurethane sealant will maintain a high gloss or soft sheen, while protecting the floor from moisture and spills.

With all that going for them, why would you choose anything but a natural wood floor, such as a new birch flooring for your new home or remodeling project? As you can see, wood is a natural choice for beauty, value and durability!

Remove Carpet Stains – The How To

Your short lesson on how to remove carpet stains: act fast. Carpets today (most) come with stain-resistant treatments, so spills can be removed if you get to them quickly. The longer you wait, the more difficult removing carpet stains becomes. And no, there are no stain-proof carpets – yet.

Spot Cleaning Carpets

Professional carpet cleaners will tell you that “spots” are removable, and stains are permanent. In any case, the appearance of carpet stains can be improved even when the stain cannot be fully removed. Follow these guidelines :

Blot up liquids, don’t rub them in! Just use a clean white cotton cloth or plain white paper towels. When you have removed the liquid, rinse the spot with water and blot again until dry. Repeat this if necessary to remove more of the stain, but don’t scrub, or you might damage the carpet and set the stain in more permanently.

With semi-solids, such as peanut butter, pudding and such, scrape and lift gently with a spoon. Rinse out the remaining spill and blot dry.

Dried solids can be broken up and vacuumed. Repeat this until it’s all gone, then rine with water and blot dry.

Stain Removal Guidelines

When you’re not sure how to get out specific carpet stains, try water first, before you try carpet stain removers.

When you use a cleaning solvent, apply it to a cloth, then work it in from the outside of the stain to the center, so you don’t spread the spot. The procedure is this: apply the cleaner, extract (blot), rinse, extract, and repeat until you can’t get out more of the stain. Always extract solvents completely, then dry the carpet quickly when you are done. If any of the stain remains, deeper down in the carpet, quick drying prevents it from wicking up to the surface.

Carpet Stain Removal Secret

One of the best tools for removing carpet stains is a shop-vac. A wet/dry vacuum cleaner can quickly suck up spills, and more importantly, you can repeatedly flush the area with water and suck it out. This is more efficient than blotting with a cloth, and less likely to cause damage to the carpet.

Electric Radiant and Floor Coverings

If the decision of what type radiant heating system to use was left to the floor-coverings, it would choose electric radiant. Eliminating the risk of water/glycol leaks, standard floor-heights, simple retro-fits, almost unlimited choice of carpet padding, uniform heat flux, easier installations and superior floor or space temperature control are only a few of the advantages of electric radiant heat. This isn’t to say that there aren’t disadvantages of electric radiant, I’m here to espouse the benefits and desirable features of electric radiant heat and its loving relationship with any and all floor-coverings. Oh, wait a minute, how could I forget, electric systems cost a fraction what hot-water (hydronic) systems do.

From the simplest of painted concrete to floors that started with linoleum, added carpet, then converted to imported marble, electric radiant is truly and simply superior to hydronic radiant and here are the reasons why.

There is no water or glycol ‘ and spilled electrons don’t damage floor-coverings, in fact, there’s no need to even sweep them up. Seriously, the safety standards and National Electrical Code keep electrical systems safe. Yes, a cable, mesh or mat can be damaged by an errant nail or screw, but the worst case scenario is the system doesn’t work as compared to a penetrated tube of a hydronic system with 100 gallons of water and glycol pumped out on the top level floor of a three floor custom home.

Built-up floor height for most electric systems is less than ?” and some as little 1/ 16″ thick. Most hydronic systems pour 1 ?” of light-weight concrete over the tubes increasing construction costs and limiting the types of floor-coverings that can be installed. If you want traditional hard-wood floors, a complex system of sleepers must be installed to allow for nailing of the wood to the sub-floor.

Retro-fitting carpet over what used to be tile can’t be easily done with hot-water systems. Changing the R-value (insulating characteristic) of the floor-covering changes the amount of heat that makes it into the space in hydronic systems, since they are designed to transfer heat via a temperature difference between the water in the tube and the floor covering surface, whereas electric systems put out a constant wattage regardless of the floor-covering insulating characteristics. Floor covering types can be changed time after time with electric radiant without changing the heating system.

Hot and Cold Spots o what some-people call spot-heating can be easily accomplished by installing higher or lower heat-density and adding a simple floor- sensor to control the temperature. Have you ever noticed how dogs or cats search for the warmest piece of flooring in a home and sleep there? We added a special tile floor heated 10? warmer for our house pet that became new sleeping accommodations for Cairo.

Uniform Heat Flux ‘ The harder the floor covering the more noticeable warm or cold spots become and the layout of the hot-water tubing and the changing temperature of the water through the loop result in changing floor-temperatures. This doesn’t happen with electric heat, each foot of cable, or length of mesh or mat generate exactly the same amount of heat as the next foot making it very easy to maintain a constant temperature across the floor. If the floor-coverings are going to be different in one room or one zone, split it into two zones of electric so the desired temperature can be maintained on each surface. This is easier to do and less costly for electric than hydronic.

Installation of any product is a concern and any time the cross-trade issues of installation can be minimized everyone wins. Electric systems don’t require any mechanical room space so long as they are installed before the floor-covering is installed you don’t have to do a lot of coordination with the other trades. If you want to climatize some exotic hardwood flooring from Brazil within the space it’s unlikely that you’ll have gas to operate your boiler, but it’s very possible that you can run your electric radiant heat off of temporary power to assist in stabilizing your wood before installation.

Independent of HVAC ‘ Electric radiant can be the primary heating system, but can operate very efficiently if you want the bathroom floor 80? in June and your husband has the air-conditioner running throughout the rest of the house. Try doing this with your 1,000,000 Btu boiler and you’ll regret it when the time comes to pay your gas or oil bill.

Precise Temperature Control ‘ Adding multiple zones to an electric system costs only pennies per foot compared to dollars per foot for hot-water. Having as many zones as you ever anticipate different areas with different floor-coverings is possible and practical, with the other benefit of precise control of temperature of every space in the home.