When I purchased my house I loved the original details – and since the house was built in 1844 there were some beautiful, old, unique features. I especially liked the fireplace in the living room and even though I was starting a renovation, I wanted to keep the fireplace intact as much as I could. Here's how it looked before:
Like any renovation, the list of things to figure out and research was extensive. I felt like I got a fireplace PhD pretty quickly! I had a few obstacles to figure out – and I really wanted to keep a wood burning fireplace. I thought about just leave the whole thing alone. But on the flip side of that, the old chimney had no liner or flue, and the firebox opening on this fireplace was huge. So basically I had a giant opening in the living room and in the winter all of the heat would go up the chimney. But the first summer and fall after the renovation I kept the original fireplace (just painted it) to make my final decision. Here is how it looked then.
By the fall when the weather was getting cold, the lack of efficiency didn't make any sense, so I started looking at wood burning inserts for the fireplace. There were a few I liked, but of course I wanted something flush that didn't look like wood stove stuck in the fireplace. This also would still mean buying wood, chopping, starting fires every day, etc.
In the end I went to a propane (or gas) insert, the biggest reason was the ease of having it. I realized I would likely have the fireplace on in the morning before work and again for a couple of hours in the evening, it didn't make sense to start up a wood fire only to have to put it out again. The convenience of propane made sense for me – although I miss the smell of a wood burning fire.
The propane insert hunt took some time, I wanted something that looked authentic and I went with one that had double doors on it which I think suited the house. I had to rebuild the hearth and surround to make the insert fit in the wide opening of the firebox and the mantel. It all took some time to figure out and calculate the right proportions (how high to raise the hearth, etc.). In the end I'm happy with the decision and with the look!