'Should You Convert to a Gas Fireplace?
 
Snowy days are the perfect time to enjoy a cozy fire. But who wants to go outside and fetch firewood and kindling?  I certainly don't want to do that after a long day. 
 
Having a working wood-burning fireplace in your home adds approximately $11,000 in value, according to the Otteau Valuation Group. Fireplaces are a feature that buyers want. Homes with a gas-burning fireplace appeal to buyers who appreciate convenience, as well.
 
If you have a home that uses gas for cooking and heat, converting the fireplace is feasible.The cost to install one can range from $2,000 to $5,000. If your home does not currently have gas, then installing a gas-fireplace becomes a much larger expense. An alternative to gas is a fireplace that runs on propane. To install a gas fireplace, a licensed plumber must run the gas line from the furnace to the fireplace. This may involve boring holes through the brick chimney.
 
 
The pros to a gas a fireplace is that a fire starts and stops at the turn of a dial. The most you may have to do is light the pilot light if it's out and open the damper. Otherwise there's a serious risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Once the fire is started, it gives off heat and displays similarly looking flames to a wood-burning fireplace, although more controlled. You don't usually need to worry about flying sparks as you do with a "normal" fire.  Fireplace companies sell realistic looking ceramic logs that do not burn. They can be arranged in the hearth and left there year-round. You can quickly add ambiance and warmth to a room when guests arrive.
 
When the fire is turned off, the flames die down immediately. The damper needs to be left open slightly. However, there is no need to clean up or remove the ashes. There are no ashes! Therefore, your chimney stays cleaner longer.
 
The down side to a gas fireplace is that it doesn't give off the same level of heat as a wood-burning fireplace. One trick to boost the amount of heat is to add an iron fireback that reflects the heat into the room. Not only is a fireback practical, but it also serves as a decorative accent. Since a gas-burning fire is cleaner, it also lacks some of the soothing crackling and popping sounds from real wood and the smoky scent.
 
If you are one of those buyers who wanted a fireplace, bought a home with one, but never actually use it because it's too much work; then consider converting to a gas one. Nothing makes a home more inviting that walking into a room with a roaring fire on a snowy night.
 
Shannon Severin is a Realtor with Keller Williams Mid-town Direct at 181 Maplewood Ave., Maplewood, NJ. If you have any real estate questions, she can be reached at shannon.severin@kw.com or www.homesnearnyc.com.