What’s best … a fireplace, stove or insert?

If you are contemplating adding a new hearth appliance to your home, you have lots of options. Should it be a fireplace, stove or insert? You should also decide whether it’s going to be a wood, gas, electric or pellet model. Let’s talk about the applications of these three types of products, some of their differences and some of the advantages and disadvantages of each.


Let’s start by offering a definition of a fireplace, stove and insert. A zero-clearance (ZC) fireplace, whether it’s wood or gas, is a self-contained, manufactured appliance that is designed to be built into a framed wall. The fire is located in a firebox that could be described as the “inner shell” of the unit. An “outer shell” provides space to safely build the fireplace into a combustible, framed wall. Think of a small box inside a larger one. The fire is located in the smaller box and an insulated space between the inner and outer boxes allows for installation into a framed wall. The firebox on a ZC fireplace is normally made of steel and/or cast iron.

What's Best Stove, Fireplace or Insert_ - Wood Stove Ambiance

Wood Stove Ambiance

Meanwhile, a stove is a free-standing appliance that is designed to radiate heat from all sides. Stoves are not built into walls. They can be made of steel, cast iron or soapstone. They are large and heavy and when the steel, cast iron or soapstone gets hot, they provide wonderful, radiate heat. Many stoves will have optional fans to move air through specially designed air chambers in order to utilize convective heat as well as radiate heat. To better understand the three types of heat transfer, see our article: Do I Need A Fan On My Fireplace or Stove?.

What's Best Stove, Fireplace or Insert_ - Wood Stove Supreme

Wood Stove Supreme

The third product we’ve mentioned is an insert. Many people use the term “insert” synonymously with “fireplace”. More correctly, the terms should be “fireplace insert” and “zero clearance fireplace”. A fireplace insert is what the name implies. Use your imagination again. Picture a free-standing stove, without legs, slid into an existing fireplace. This could be a wood, gas or pellet model.  By definition, an insert is a hearth appliance designed to upgrade an older, outdated or inefficient ZC or masonry wood burning fireplace. An insert relies on the integrity of the existing wood burning fireplace, so it does not have an insulated “outer shell” that was described above. You can usually tell an insert from the decorative surround panels that are installed around the insert to cover up the rest of the fireplace opening.

What's Best Stove, Fireplace or Insert_ - Insert Wood Fireplace Ambiance Flair

Wood Insert Ambiance Flair


If you are building new, remodeling or putting an addition on your home, your options will be a fireplace or stove. Remember, other than electric, a wood, gas or pellet fireplace or stove will need a pipe to dispel the by-products of combustion. Gas or pellet equipment will require a vent pipe installed out a sidewall or up through the roof. In the case of a wood fireplace or stove, a chimney pipe must be installed vertically through the roof.


A BTU is a BTU. It doesn’t matter if it’s generated from wood, gas, pellets, electricity, coal or kerosene. Your home requires a certain number of BTU’s/hour to keep you comfortable. This number changes frequently of course, as weather conditions fluctuate. But fireplaces and stoves are both capable of cranking some serious BTU’s! So, the questions to ask yourself should include the following:

  • Do I want to try to heat the house or just some supplemental heat?
  • Do I have many options where the fireplace or stove will be located in the house?
  • If I want to burn wood, do I have quick and easy access to a wood supply?
  • Do I have the equipment to cut and haul wood?
  • More importantly, do I have the time to cut, split, haul and stack my own wood?
  • If I have to buy wood, would I be better off purchasing a fuel that is more convenient such as pellets or gas?
  • Do I want to install a big screen TV above the fireplace?
  • Once installed will the fireplace or stove be conducive to, and reflect my lifestyle?


There’s not a right and wrong when it comes to deciding on a hearth product for your home. Odds are high that either a fireplace or a stove will provide that ambiance and heat you’re looking for. And, if you have an existing wood burning fireplace to update, an insert is your logical choice.

So how do you go about finding the appliance that’s just right for your situation. Your WE LOVE FIRE expert is part of a professional, independent group of retailers that negotiate with the most reputable manufacturers in the fireplace industry. Because of these relationships with our suppliers, we are in a unique position to pass tremendous values to you on the best-performing equipment available. We have dozens of options to show you in our beautiful showrooms. We install and service what we sell. We take pride in our professionalism. We work hard to earn your trust and confidence. And, we look forward to seeing you soon and helping you decide the right brand for your project.

Below is a list of fireplace and grill stores that service Virginia (VA)

Manassas, VA

Winston's Chimney Service
11301 Industrial Road
Manassas, VA 20109

Winston's Chimney Service LogoVisit Store Page

Mechanicsville, VA

Hearth & Home Shoppe
8151 Mechanicsville Tpk
Mechanicsville, VA 23111

Hearth & Home Shoppe LogoVisit Store Page

Roanoke, VA

Dixie Building Products Inc.
3342 Melrose Ave NW
Roanoke, VA 24017

Warrenton, VA

Costello's Warrenton Fireplace & Hot Tub
251 West Lee Hwy
Warrenton, VA 20186

For more information, contact your local fireplace and grill store..

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