For the first many months of planning, we had determined that our new, custom home would have a real, wood-burning fireplace in the family room. We'd still use a gas fireplace for our master bedroom, but not in the main living area. Neither of us is terribly enamored with gas fireplaces. We have found four serious drawbacks to them:
- Fun element of having a fire is severely reduced
- Cost of gas makes us hesitant to use them
- Fireboxes almost always have an odd, distorted shape
- Fake logs look, well, fake
As the design process dragged on and on, our desire to incorporate a wood-burning fireplace into the family room waned. The chimney was encroaching on the window placement for the upstairs bedrooms, we had to deal with the mess created by burning wood, storage of wood was an issue.
Finally we decided to ditch the real wood fireplace. In lieu of that, we'd build a fire pit in the back yard to allow the “fire fun” element—gathering and lighting the wood, roasting hot dogs and marshmallows, etc.—while keeping the mess contained to the outdoors.
With that change in plans (no pun intended), an indoor/outdoor fireplace seemed the ideal choice for the family room. The inside would be the focal point for the family room, while the outside would face onto an unused space on the balcony, near the outdoor dining table and grill.
Our last requirement is that we be able to use a unit without the nasty, fake logs. We want to use fire glass or some similar, non-log product. Nobody's fooled into thinking the logs are real anyway. Why try?
After a visit to a local fireplace store, Hearth & Home, we were told there was only one see-through fireplace rated for indoor/outdoor use. It is the Twilight II indoor/outdoor fireplace by Heat & Glo. The unit is large enough to meet our needs, but has one glaring problem: it cannot be used with anything but the specified log sets. The sales representative told us that there were no other indoor/outdoor gas fireplaces on the market.
It may seem futile, but now I'm on the look for a solution so that we can have what we really want in a fireplace:
- Large size
- Fire glass or other cool log replacement material
Custom homes are all about getting it just right.