Want to Sit by the Fire? Consider Gas by Mike Tagliavia

No longer eschewed, gas fireplaces are showing up in East End houses
Gas fireplaces fit diverse architectural styles and can be large or small. The room above is in the East Hampton Kapp residence.

   It’s a wonderful time of year on the East End. A quintessential day can include a winter beach walk and an afternoon before a blazing fire.            For the most part, the love of nature and a real crackling fire has trumped local interest in gas fireplaces. But, slowly, house by house, a conversion is happening. Unlike Colorado, we do not have a code banning wood-burning fireplaces. Yet.
    Over time, a wood-burning fireplace, once a hierarchical architectural element in a house, essential for survival and primary for cooking and heat, was surpassed by central heating and 60-inch, flat-screen televisions. Building a fire involved physical work and preparation. Today, gas fireplaces offer efficient alternatives. They have become design elements for any style of architecture.
    Here are a few different ways gas fires have been implemented.
    If you have a wood-burning fireplace and a masonry chimney, you can install a gas line and gas logs without a problem. This allows you to have an authentic or historical mantel and fireplace with an on-and-off switch for the fire. Sounds easy, right?
    If you are building a new fireplace, you can choose to build such a chimney and firebox even though you intend to use gas. This would allow you to retrofit the fireplace for wood-burning at a later date.
If cost is an issue, you can build a wood-framed box (no concrete or masonry) into which a metal fireplace housing fits. These units come with or without a chimney, or duct. Such units are typically vented through the roof in a 6 or 8-inch cylindrical duct, but there are non-venting units, which tend to be more modern in style and many are rated for New York City apartments as well.
If you are buying a firebox gas unit you can add various elements. If you want the gas logs to have a traditional wood aesthetic, there are several ceramic or concrete molds that create the appearance of high definition bark. For a more contemporary look there is the option of using fire beads or glass or stones. They come in a variety of colors and styles and give off a reflective glow.
    Many of these units actually give off significant heat. This can be direct heating within the room or a supplemental heating source for the entire house. Transferring the heat generated around the firebox requires a fan system, which pushes the air to the desired rooms through ducts. Today, technology makes it possible to have a fireplace in any room in any house.
    The best part of a gas fireplace? One answer may be a lower carbon footprint. The other answer? No more ash cleanup or risk of fire from burning embers!

    Mike Tagliavia is an apprentice architect in East Hampton, working 60 hours a week when he can and loving every minute of it.