Category: Fireplace Blog

When and Why to Hire a Chimney Sweep Service

Unlike the windows and doors we use every day, chimneys tend to be an overlooked and neglected part of our home’s structure. Indeed most of us give little thought to our chimney as we enjoy a fire in the wood stove or fireplace. But regular maintenance of a working chimney, aka chimney sweeping, is one of the most important safety precautions you can take as a homeowner. A working chimney expels the by-products of combustion that include smoke, water vapor, gasses, unburned wood particles, hydrocarbon, tar fog, and assorted minerals. If your chimney is damaged or flammable material has built up in the flue, smoke can enter your living space or worse, a chimney fire can result. 

The Risks of a Neglected Chimney

As smoke, wood particles, gasses, and minerals leave your fireplace or wood stove and flow up into the relatively cooler chimney, condensation occurs. As temperatures drop, this deposit becomes thick and sticky, like tar. The resulting residue that sticks to the inner walls of the chimney is called creosote and is very flammable. (While creosote is more of a problem with wood stoves than fireplaces—since the exhaust gasses from stoves are cooler than those from the fireplaces—it’s a concern for any home that burns wood indoors.)

If creosote is left to build up, the chimney and draft opening can be significantly reduced, constricting airflow—and the removal of toxins and smoke—from your home. When creosote builds up in sufficient quantities, and the internal flue temperature gets high enough, the conditions are perfect for a chimney fire. In fact, most chimney fires are caused by creosote buildup and could be prevented by regular cleaning, according to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA). 

The Importance of Chimney Inspection and Cleaning

The NFPA and the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommend that chimneys be cleaned at least once a year, as well as any time you observe excessive soot and creosote inside the chimney,  structural damage to the outside of the chimney, or smoke entering the house. 

The NFPA and CSIA both recommend an annual ‘Level 1’ inspection for chimneys that are used regularly, with no changes to the fireplace or stove and no known damage. Further, NFPA requirements (which are included in the Michigan Building Code) state this inspection be completed by a company that is ‘responsible for the connection, venting, installation, inspection, repair, or servicing of heat-producing appliances’ such as VanderWall (as opposed to a roofer, home inspector or general contractor, for example). 

In a Level 1 inspection, your chimney service technician will examine the readily accessible portions of the chimney exterior, interior and accessible portions of the appliance (fireplace or stove), and the chimney connection. He or she will confirm the basic soundness of the chimney structure and flue as well as the basic appliance installation and connections. The technician will also verify the chimney is free of obstruction and combustible deposits. During a thorough cleaning, a chimney sweep will remove debris, blockages, and creosote.

VanderWall Chimney Sweep Services

If you haven’t had your chimney inspected and cleaned in the past year or if you suspect any damage or obstructions, call VanderWall. Our certified chimney inspectors can confirm your chimney is working properly and free of obstructions or buildup, providing you with peace of mind every time you enjoy your wood stove or fireplace. Contact us today or stop in at our Spring Lake or Grand Rapids store for more information.

Homeowner Information |
Creosote Problem: Chimney Fires and Chimney Cleaning

Gather ‘Round the Fire to Experience Hygge

As winter sets in and the days get shorter, it’s time to embrace the Danish concept of hygge (pronounced hoo-gah). What is hygge, you ask? It’s a centuries-old lifestyle that celebrates coziness, contentment, and finding joy in life’s simple pleasures. 

Ready to give it a try? Grab a mug of hot cocoa and read on to learn more. 

A Cozy Fire is Key to Hygge

While folks in Denmark incorporate hygge into their lives all year long, it feels especially worth pursuing during the long nights and slower pace of winter. And there’s no quicker way to get in the hygge spirit than by pulling up a seat in front of a roaring fire. 

If your existing masonry fireplace is inefficient, you may want to install a fireplace insert into that space. Inserts contain and radiate heat back into the room more effectively than traditional fireplaces. If you don’t already have a fireplace, this might be the winter to add one to your home. Given that there are a number of options that can bring hygge to your home, Vanderwall can help you determine if gas, wood, or electric is best for you, or if you’d prefer a cozy wood stove

Other Ways to Practice Hygge

The art of hygge includes spending informal time with family or close friends and sharing a meal, wine or beer, or hot chocolate. Provide yourself and your guests with comfy chairs and blankets as you sit around the fire. Oh, and don’t forget the candles! (The Danish are Europe’s biggest consumers of candles, burning through around 13 lbs per person each year)!

You can increase your home’s hygge quotient using what you already have at hand:

  • A comfortable sofa
  • Comfy chairs
  • Some poufs or floor cushions
  • Fleece or knit blankets
  • Plenty of scented candles (think cozy scents like vanilla, winter aromas like pine, or mix and match)
  • A playlist of relaxing music
  • Comfort food (like soup, stew, curry, or chicken pot pie)
  • Warming drinks like hot chocolate, hot apple cider, warm sangria, or hot toddies

Keep in mind, you don’t need to limit yourself to your living room. You can keep that hygge feeling going outside with help from an outdoor fireplace to keep you and your guests warm and toasty.

Bring on the Hygge with Help from Vanderwall

However you decide to bring on the hygge this winter, be sure to practice fireplace safety, and know that you can count on the experts at Vanderwall for help with everything from installation to hearth supplies and tools. Visit our showrooms in Grand Rapids and Spring Lake for inspiration and assistance.

What is hygge | All you need to know about the small joys of life

Practice Fireplace Safety to Enjoy a Cozy Winter

Cozy season is officially here, and that means it’s time to make sure your fireplace is in safe operating condition. By taking a few steps now you’ll enjoy peace of mind every time you and your family use your fireplace.

First Things First

Regardless of whether you have a gas or wood-fire fireplace, have your chimney inspected and cleaned regularly. A certified chimney sweep will remove debris, blockages, and creosote, the chemical mass of carbon that can be formed by wood fires. Creosote can form a thick coating of debris in the flue (the chimney’s passageway for smoke) and cause a chimney fire.

At the very least, visually inspect your chimney flue to be sure there isn’t a nest or other blockage that could prevent smoke from moving up and out of the house. Be sure your damper can be easily opened and closed. Keep the area around your hearth free from home decor or any other combustible material. 

Make sure you clean all old ashes out of the fireplace before stacking wood for your first fire of the season. Sweep or vacuum the cold ashes and dispose of them outside. 

Practice Fireplace and Wood Stove Safety

Once you’ve prepared your fireplace for the season, make sure to follow the do’s and don’ts on this checklist every time you start a fire. (Note that some items only apply to wood-fired fireplaces). 

  • DO make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are in working order. Keep fire extinguishers charged and accessible.
  • DO be sure your grate or andiron—the metal structure(s) that hold wood inside your fireplace—are in good shape, to prevent wood or logs from rolling out of the fireplace.
  • DON’T allow anything that can burn to come closer than 3 feet from your fireplace or wood stove.
  • DON’T burn paper in your fireplace or wood stove.
  • DO keep a metal screen in front of your fireplace to prevent embers or sparks from jumping out. 
  • DO make sure fireplace “on” switches and remote controls are out of the reach of children.
  • DO keep the doors of your wood stove closed unless loading or stoking the live fire.
  • DON’T leave a fire unattended. Be sure the fire is fully extinguished before leaving or going to bed. 
  • DO put ashes in a metal container with a lid. Place the container outside at least 10 feet from your home.

Consider an Insert to Improve Efficiency

A fireplace insert is a great way to upgrade an old fireplace. Traditional fireplaces only radiate about 10 percent of the heat they produce into the room. Fireplace inserts contain and radiate heat back into the room, making them up to 80 percent more efficient while also reducing wood-burning emissions. 

Make Sure You Have the Right Tools and Expert Help

Fireplace doors help retain heat indoors when the fireplace is not being used. For wood-burning fireplaces, screens keep embers from escaping the fireplace. Grates and andirons prevent wood from rolling out of the fireplace. And you’ll want to be sure you’re prepared for the season with tongs, poker, shovel, broom, and fire-safe gloves.

You can count on the fireplace professionals at VanderWall to prepare you for a safe season of cozy evenings by the fire. We carry all the tools and supplies you need, from toolsets to chimney caps and flues. Interested in installing a fireplace insert or a brand-new hearth? From help designing your stone mantel and hearth to running the gas lines, our National Fireplace Institute-certified technicians and friendly staff are here to help. Visit our Grand Rapids or Spring Lake store for inspiration and assistance.

VanderWall Brothers
US Fire Administration

How to Create a Cozy Outdoor Space for Fall

Temperatures are dropping, leaves are turning, and the sun is setting earlier. After a hectic summer, fall is the perfect time to reconnect with family and friends. But the cooler temperatures and shorter days dont mean you need to limit gatherings to your living room. By preparing your patio or other outdoor space youll be able to keep everyone warm and cozy while taking advantage of the crisp air and fall colors. Whether its a tailgate party before the local football game or a get-together with a few close friends, theres nothing like gathering around a warm fire to make the most of cool autumn nights.

Brighten the Space with Pumpkins and Plants

For pops of color, place containers around the patio full of fall-blooming plants including mums, zinnias, pansies, asters, and dahlias. Go vertical with corn stalks picked up at local farms or farmers markets. While youre at it, grab some straw bales to place between seats. They make a great spot for displaying assorted pumpkins and gourds that add more seasonal color.

Light Up Your Nights

Outdoor lights not only help guests make their way safely, they also add a festive touch and help define the space. While small white lights are a timeless classic, you can get in the fall spirit with strings of orange bulbs, with or without faux leaves attached.

Gather Round the Fire

Since the beginning of time, people have been drawn to a communal fire as much more than a place to warm up. If youre making plans for a new patio or improving the one you have, a great place to start is by including or upgrading your fire source. From a simple fire pit to a statement-making gas fireplace, your choice will help set the tone for your outdoor entertainment space.

Here are just a few options to consider:

  • Include a permanent fireplace to anchor the space and create an outdoor room.Outdoor fireplaces offer several advantages, including better defining the space, bringing living room ambiance outside, doubling as a privacy wall, and taking up less space than a firepit.
  • Create a firepit using a round or square smokeless insert, either freestanding or built-in—it’s a great and easy choice that will make a convert out of those who avoid campfires due to irritating (and ever-shifting) smoke. With the Breeo grill add-on, your fire pit doubles as a grill engineered for maximum heat control and durability.
  • Keep things simple and gain table space with a fire table. Fire tables require nothing more than connecting a 20 lb LP tank and hitting the start button to add sophisticated ambiance to your outdoor space.
  • If you’ve got your fire needs covered but are looking for more warmth, mid-wave infrared heaters are a great way to extend your time on your patio or deck, adding two or three months in the spring and fall shoulder seasons.

Help is Close at Hand

There can be a lot to consider when selecting the right fire source for your patio, from choosing between wood burning or gas to understanding local safety and permitting codes. Fortunately, VanderWall can help. For answers to frequently asked questions, check out our outdoor fireplace blog post. For design help and inspiration, stop in our Spring Lake or Grand Rapids store with some photos of your backyard, and our experts will help you determine which fire pit, table or fireplace will best fit your property. If your project involves a high degree of masonry, we can even match you with a local mason who can help you with your project. Or you can always use the “Text Us” tool in the lower right corner of our website.

fireplace installment

Install a Fireplace in a Home Without One

Most of the time, we work with clientele that requests to replace their outdated fireplace with a new and improved one. However, there are also times that we get asked if we can install a fireplace in a home that doesn’t currently have one at all. 

Homeowners might not know how to install a fireplace in a house without one, but we do! Find out more about this process below. 

Can You Add a Fireplace to a House Without One?

In short, the answer is – yes! You can install a fireplace in your home, even if you don’t already have one. There are additional factors to consider, and the design and installation process will likely be more involved, but you can definitely make it happen. 

Can You Add a Fireplace to a House Without a Chimney?

Again, we have the answer you probably want to hear – yes. If your home doesn’t have a chimney and you’re hoping to install a fireplace, we can make it happen. You might be limited on what fireplace you can install, but options are available. Or, you could go a different but similar route and opt for a wood stove, pellet stove, or ventless gas fireplace, as they don’t require full chimneys. 

How to Install a Fireplace in a Home Without One: 5 Steps to Success

1. Work With a Professional Fireplace Installer & Supplier

This step is key to successfully upgrading your home with a new fireplace. When you work with a fireplace installer, they know the industry’s ins and outs and what you can get for your home and budget. Plus, most suppliers offer installation services or can refer you to a fireplace installer, making the installation process a breeze. 

There are many benefits to working with a professional fireplace installer, rather than trying to do the job yourself, including:

  • They are mechanically licensed and insured
  • They are familiar with all the necessary safety precautions to take
  • You’ll have peace of mind knowing that you’ll be able to successfully be able to achieve the results you want. 
  • You’ll have expert knowledge at your fingertips to help you find the right product that best suits your needs and personal design aesthetic. 
  • The stress is off your shoulders. You can sit back, relax, and enjoy the convenience of someone else doing this job for you. 

2. Research Products & Determine Your Budget

fireplace installation

It’s important to take the time to research the fireplace brands you’re interested in. Each company specializes in varying products, designs, and functionalities. Whether you’re interested in an electric fireplace, wood-burning fireplace, gas insert, or wood-burning stove, there is a brand that will have exactly what you’re looking for. 

If you want to see the products in person rather than online, visit a local showroom. You can browse their inventory and get an up-close look at your options. Plus, while you’re there, you can get an estimate of what you can expect to spend. Don’t forget to include special features you want to incorporate, such as mantel design and installation. 

3. Create Your Fireplace Design

The next step is to work with your fireplace supplier and make a game plan for how your new fireplace will be installed. They’ll create blueprints of everything and order all the products you need.

When making this plan, it’s crucial that you don’t forget to consider the size, placement, style, and efficiency of your new fireplace. You’ll also need to consider where the chimney currently is and what wall will be best for installation. Don’t worry, if this all seems a little overwhelming, that’s what the professionals are for. They’ll walk you through these steps, so nothing goes missed. 

4. Schedule & Complete Your Installation

installing fireplace

Once all the necessary products are ordered and arrive, it’s time to get things going. You’ll schedule the installation date that’s convenient for you with your fireplace installer. They’ll do all the work for you, so you can just excitedly await your new fireplace. 

Before the fireplace installer arrives at your home, there are some things you can do to prepare that would be beneficial. We recommend clearing an eight-foot radius around where the project will take place and ensure there is a clear entry and path from your door to the workspace. It’s also best to secure your pets and keep children away from the work area. 

5. Post-Installation Maintenance

Congratulations! You’re officially the owner of a brand-new, stunning fireplace in your home. It’s time to crank up the fire and enjoy all the benefits. 

Don’t forget, to get the most out of your investment and increase the lifespan of your fireplace, it’s critical to perform routine cleaning, have it inspected each year, and perform any necessary maintenance. In most cases, your fireplace supplier or installer should be able to help you organize this and give you a rundown on how to keep it in prime condition. 

Dreaming of Installing a Fireplace in Your Home? Let’s Talk!

If you’d like to install a new fireplace in your home, our team at VanderWall Bros. can help — whether you already have a fireplace or not! Our experts can help you find the perfect fireplace product for your home and lifestyle, then install it to create the warm and cozy space you’ve been dreaming of. Contact us online to get your project started today. 



Gas vs. Wood Fireplace: Which Is Right For You?

Perhaps you’d like to give your space a cozier aesthetic. Or, maybe you find peace in the idea of sitting next to a flame while you’re sipping your morning coffee. Maybe you’re tired of cold toes and noses, and you’d simply just like more heat in your home.

No matter the route you took to get here, you’ve made your decision; you’d like a fireplace. Your next step is to choose which type you want — gas or wood? 

Below is our comparative breakdown of how these fireplaces types differ, the pros and cons of each, and how to determine which is best for you. 

Gas vs. Wood Fireplaces: An Overview

While you likely already know the primary difference between gas and wood fireplaces, there are other characteristics that are important to understand as well. Let’s start with some basic definitions and examples of each. 

Gas Fireplaces

Gas fireplaces operate using either natural gas or propane as fuel. A gas line connects to a residential source or propane tank and runs to the fireplace, which can be turned on either by a switch or a remote.

A few different types of gas fireplaces include gas inserts, gas stoves gas logs, and gas direct vents. You can read more about how these types differ in this blog. 

At VanderWall Bros., we trust and supply gas fireplaces from these brands: 


regency banner

Photo courtesy of Regency® — Model: Regency® Energy™ E33 Gas Insert

Wood Fireplaces

Wood fireplaces operate using wood or wood-derived biomass products as fuel. They’re the most traditional type of fireplace and have been known to heat homes effectively for years. 

Some types of wood-burning fireplaces include wood stoves, masonry fireboxes, factory-built fireboxes, and wood inserts. You can read how these types differ in this guide to fireplace terminology.

At VanderWall Bros., we trust and supply wood-burning fireplaces from the following manufacturers: 


Jotul product

Photo courtesy of Jøtul® — Model: F 500 V3 Oslo CF Wood Stove

Gas vs. Wood Fireplace: Which Is Best For Your Space?

There are several differentiating factors between gas and wood fireplaces, but we’ll be the first to say that there isn’t a “right” or “wrong” choice here. It just depends on which is best for you. 

When deciding between a gas and wood fireplace, you’ll want to take a few things into consideration: you, your home or property, your lifestyle, your design goals, etc. From there, you’ll get a better understanding of which type can best suit your wants and needs. 

TL;DR – Gas vs. Wood Fireplaces

Gas Fireplace

Wood Fireplace

Heat output varies based on the type of gas fireplace, size of heated area, and fireplace efficiency Heat output varies based on the type of gas fireplace, size of heated area, and fireplace efficiency
Cleaner, less sensory experience Full sensory experience (sights, sounds, smells)
Releases fewer pollutants Releases CO2 (but is limited by EPA emission requirements)
Very convenient and easy to use Requires a lot of effort to obtain wood and build fires
Safer to run with less supervision Requires more supervision while burning
Requires annual cleaning and inspection Requires annual cleaning and inspection, plus more day-to-day maintenance and chimney sweep services
Upfront cost varies; operating costs subject to natural gas and propane price fluctuations Upfront cost varies; operating costs more are stable if you have a reliable wood supplier


Gas vs. Wood Fireplace Heat Output

When it comes to heat output, both gas and wood fireplaces vary tremendously. Heat output is typically measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs), but those numbers alone aren’t enough to tell how well a fireplace will heat your space. 

The right amount of heat output can vary based on the product you choose and how much living area you intend to heat. Your fireplace needs to be properly sized, and you also need to consider efficiency. A fireplace can have tremendous heat output but be very inefficient. 

Once you’ve determined the size of the heated area, a fireplace expert can help you determine how many BTUs and what efficiency rating to shoot for.

Gas vs. Wood Fireplace Sensory Experience

Gas fireplaces are “cleaner” — both in terms of physical mess and sensory experience. They don’t present wood chips, crackling noises, burning smells, etc. However, they can still look just as warm and inviting. 

Wood fireplaces are the real deal when it comes to sensory experience. They offer an ambiance of satisfying crackles and smoky scents, which many homeowners and fireplace lovers find cozy and relaxing. If you’re looking for the full effect of a wood-burning fire, no other fireplace option can bring you these features. 

Gas vs. Wood Fireplace Environmental Impact

Both gas and wood fireplaces score certain points for environmental impact — it just depends on what type of impact you’re looking at. 

Gas fireplaces don’t emit smoke or gasses, so they release fewer pollutants into the atmosphere. However, we’ve recently experienced some uncertainty with these fuels in terms of cost and availability. 

Wood fireplaces release CO2, among other gasses, into the atmosphere. However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provided new lower emission requirements for wood-burning units back in May 2020. Also, wood is a renewable resource that you can rely on to be relatively available and affordable. Wood stoves in particular are known to be highly efficient and low-impact. There’s even a valuable biomass stove tax credit available to anyone who purchases and installs one. 

Gas vs. Wood Fireplace Convenience

Gas fireplaces are incredibly easy to operate. You can turn them on and off by simply pressing a remote button or flicking a switch. They’re a great option for anyone who desires cozy fires but doesn’t want to deal with the hassle of building and maintaining them. 

Wood fireplaces require more effort — often a lot more effort. Some wood-burning fireplace owners even describe owning one as a “lifestyle.” You need to gather, maybe chop, stack, store, and move the wood. Then, you actually need to build and kindle the fire each time. If you’re not up for those tasks, a wood fireplace may not be the right choice for you.

Gas vs. Wood Fireplace Safety

When installed, operated, and taken care of properly, both options are inherently safe. The difference in safety mostly relies on how you supervise the fireplace, and those around it, while it’s in use. 

Gas fireplaces are typically safer to run with less supervision. They bring outside air into a sealed combustion chamber, operating behind closed glass doors. They can easily be turned off with the flick of a switch or punch of a button. Plus, gas fireplaces are able to be installed into more spaces due to ease of venting. 

Wood fireplaces require a bit more supervision. While the fire can burn behind closed doors or a gate, it could also be an open, exposed flame. Sparks may fly, and logs may crumble or crash. They also can’t be put out quite as easily. For these reasons, there are very specific requirements with where and how wood-burning fireplaces can be installed. These are also important things to keep in mind if you have pets or small children that you would need to supervise closely while a fire is burning. 

Gas vs. Wood Fireplace Maintenance & Cleaning

Most manufacturers recommend that gas and wood fireplaces be inspected and cleaned annually. This ensures they’re in good condition, safe, and operating at maximum efficiency. 

In terms of day-to-day maintenance, however, wood fireplaces typically require more. Wood comes with chips, dirt, and ashes to take care of, so you may need to clean your wood fireplace more often than once per year. You will also need to get chimney sweep services (to clean out chimney flue or buildup of creosote) at least once per year. 

Gas vs. Wood Fireplace Cost

The cost of gas and wood fireplaces varies based on what type and brand you get and who installs it. It’s difficult to pinpoint which is more or less expensive upfront. 

Operating costs can vary too. Fluctuating natural gas and propane prices have made gas fireplaces more expensive to run compared to previous years. However, they’re still a feasibly affordable option for many homeowners. 

In some circumstances, wood may be a safer bet because it’s a renewable resource that will always be available and isn’t quite as subjected to drastic fluctuations. However, finding a good, reliable source of wood can be a bit difficult if you don’t already know someone. Do you need a few ricks or cords? Will your supplier deliver, and will they deliver to your property — whether that be in a rural area or a city? This is something many people fail to consider but can make all the difference.

Looking to Purchase a Gas or Wood Fireplace? Contact VanderWall Bros.

If you’ve got your mind set on a new fireplace for your space, we’re your top-choice supplier. At VanderWall Bros., we carry amazing selections of both gas and wood fireplaces — all from trusted manufacturers.

From helping you pick the right fireplace to installing it within an artfully designed mantel, we’re here with you every step of the way. Give our team a call or contact us online to start your project.

The Federal Biomass Stove 25(C)

Understanding the Federal Biomass Stove 25(C) Tax Credit

With the uncertainty of natural gas and propane costs, wood and biomass fuels are viable alternatives that can give homeowners peace of mind in cold winter weather. For this reason, many have chosen to invest in wood or pellet stoves as heat sources. 

But pellet and wood stoves don’t just create warm, cozy spaces and offer peace of mind; they also offer serious cost savings! There’s a federal biomass tax credit available for anyone who purchases and installs a qualifying stove. The credit is for both material (stove, venting, etc.) and the cost of installation (labor, permit, etc.).

If you’re considering a new fireplace or heating system for your property, would like to learn more about wood and pellet stoves, and would like to take advantage of a tax credit, keep reading. 

What Is the Federal Biomass Stove 25(C) Tax Credit?

The Federal Biomass Stove 25(C) Tax Credit is also known as the Wood and Pellet Heater Investment Tax Credit. It’s a financial incentive for anyone who installs a highly efficient heating system (typically a wood or pellet stove) that runs on wood and biomass fuels. 

The credit is referenced under Section 25(C) of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) and runs from January 1, 2023 to December 31, 2032. It’s the latest version of an energy credit that was just passed with the Inflation Bill. The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA) had advocated for the Biomass Thermal Utilization Act for years, and this credit was a big part of their push. 

There have been several different energy credits over time, dating back to the 1970s. Since then, the credits have evolved along with new technologies and environmental standards. Just prior to this one was a credit referenced under Section 25(D) of the IRC. Now that the new 25(C) credit is effective, the 25(D) credit will be eliminated. 

However, any product that was purchased in 2022 but is not installed until 2023, and that qualifies for the 25(C) credit, can be claimed on a 2023 tax return. 

What Does the Biomass Tax Credit Mean for Wood Stove Purchasers?

So what exactly does this mean for those who purchase a wood or pellet stove? What are the financial incentives on the table? 

Anyone who is eligible for the Federal Biomass Stove 25(C) Tax Credit can claim a 30% tax credit, based on the combined cost of the unit and installation. The credit is capped at $2,000 annually. 

This is a huge cost savings for anyone who purchases a qualifying stove. The U.S. government has realized the benefits of these high-efficiency heating products and is rewarding those who install them. 

How to Know If You’re Eligible for the Biomass Tax Credit

The eligibility terms for the biomass tax credit are fairly straightforward: buy a qualifying stove between January 1, 2023 and December 2032. In order for a stove to qualify, it must: 

  • Operate using wood or biomass fuels
  • Have a thermal efficiency of at least 75% per the higher heating value (HHV) of the fuel
  • Have a manufacturer certification statement verifying that the product qualifies

If you’d like, you can use the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Certified Wood Stove Database as a reference. Just keep in mind that not all of the products on this list qualify; look for the ones with at least 75% efficiency. 

Where Can I Find More Information?

If you’d like to gather more information about wood stoves and the Federal Biomass Stove 25(C) Tax Credit, there are a few trusted resources we recommend checking out. 

For more personalized resources and recommendations, you could also contact a trusted wood stove supplier, like our team at VanderWall Bros. We’ll be able to walk you through which stoves are eligible and answer any questions you have about receiving your tax credit. We also provide installation and maintenance services to keep your stove looking and functioning well for years to come.

Take Advantage of the Biomass Tax Credit & Buy a Wood Stove From VanderWall Bros.

If you’re interested in taking advantage of the Federal Biomass Stove 25(C) Tax Credit, VanderWall Bros. can help. We supply a full selection of highly efficient wood and pellet stoves from top manufacturers like: Jøtul®, HearthStone®, Osburn, Harman®, Vermont Castings™, and Napoleon. For more information on what products qualify and how to get started, contact our team.

fireplace napoleon high country

Your Guide to Fireplace Terminology

For anyone who’d like to install their first fireplace or upgrade to a new style, the terminology they’ll come across when researching can be a bit confusing. The industry is full of misnomers and terms that appear similar, but are actually quite different. 

That’s why we’ve created this glossary-style article — to help clear up any fireplace terminology confusion and ensure you get the type and style you’re looking for. 

Important Distinctions in Fireplace Terminology

After working in the fireplace industry for decades, we’ve noticed some of the most common fireplace terms that our customers misunderstand. We’ll start by getting to the bottom of them.  

Gas Insert vs. Gas Log vs. Gas Direct Vent

It can be easy to get these terms tangled up because they all signify a type of gas fireplace. However, there are key differences between how these three look, function, and perform. Below are definitions, explanations, and photos of each. 

Gas Insert

A gas insert is a manufactured fireplace (with steel, logs, sealed glass and safety screen) that’s placed into a masonry wood-burning fireplace. It allows an old wood-burning fireplace to become a high-efficiency heating appliance, while also allowing for the ease of using gas. 

Gas inserts are considered highly efficient because they have sealed glass on the front with a safety screen. They bring fresh air in from the outside, and vent to the outside as well. 

Also, if you have damage to the flue or chimney of your old wood-burning fireplace, a gas insert is a great option because it will cover the flu with a new cap and liners, prolonging the life of the chimney structure. This is a key advantage for Michigan homeowners whose chimneys have suffered wear and tear from freezing and thawing during the winter.

For reference, here’s a photo of a gas insert from one of our trusted brands, Kozy Heat®.

kozy heat chaska

Photo courtesy of Kozy Heat® — Model: Chaska 34

Gas Log

A gas log is a stack of ceramic or concrete logs that are placed inside an existing fireplace structure (typically a masonry wood-burning fireplace or a zero-clearance firebox). It is often more decorative in nature. 

There are vented and vent-free options, but vented is the majority of what you’ll see in West Michigan. They’re used when the chimney doesn’t have any damage and require that the damper is locked into open position to vent fumes. Since the damper has to be locked and in open position for fumes to disperse up the chimney, gas logs are mostly for ambience.

Here’s a photo of a gas log system made by RH Peterson.

rh peterson fireplace

Photo courtesy of RH Peterson — Model: Real Fyre G31 Three-Tiered Vented Gas Log System.

Gas Direct Vent

A gas direct vent is a type of vented gas fireplace with a sealed glass firebox. The combustion chamber is completely sealed so it can vent directly out a side wall or ceiling. For this reason, gas direct vent units can be highly efficient and allow heat to enter the room; they bring fresh air in from outdoors and vent directly outdoors as well. 

Gas direct vents are typically implemented in new construction or renovation projects that require framing and stone facing around them.

Here’s a photo of a gas direct vent unit from Kozy Heat®:

kozy heat bay rec

Photo courtesy of Kozy Heat® — Model: Bayport 36.

Wood Fireplace vs. Wood Stove vs. Wood Insert

Similarly, each of these terms seem identical because they are types of wood-burning heating solutions — but they’re not. Here are their distinctions. 

Wood Fireplace

A wood fireplace is the typical wood-burning fireplace you’d first imagine. It’s a ventilated structure that’s built into the wall of a building, and it’s made from heat-resistant materials like brick or stone. There are also options that come in zero-clearance, factory-made steel boxes. 

Here’s a photo of what your typical wood fireplace may look like: 

fireplace napoleon high country

Photo courtesy of Napoleon — Model: High Country™ NZ 6000.

Wood Stove

A wood stove is a wood-burning device, rather than a structure. It stands alone (not built into a wall) and is made of various prefabricated components, like a firebox, chimney, and vent pipe. It is also a highly efficient option, offering up to 70% average efficiency. We discuss wood stoves in more detail in this blog, if you’re looking for more information. 

Here’s a photo of a wood stove made by HearthStone®:

hearthstone fireplace

Photo courtesy of HearthStone® — Model: Mansfield 8013.

Wood Insert

A wood insert is a self-contained unit placed inside an existing firebox. It’s a sturdy, heavy steel or cast iron box with insulated glass doors. It’s also considered highly efficient and designed to get maximum heat from the wood into the room.

Here’s a photo of a wood insert made by Vermont Castings™:

vermont casting fireplace

Photo courtesy of Vermont Castings™ — Model: Montpelier II.  

Other Key Fireplace Terms and Abbreviations to Know

Aside from the common misnomers listed above, there are other fireplace-related terms and acronyms to know and understand. As you research the perfect fireplace or heating solution for your home, you’re sure to come across at least one of them. Here’s a glossary-style list of their definitions for your reference: 

  • Air Vent: A device, typically placed below or above (or both) the fireplace, that helps with air circulation, cooling, and venting within the fireplace and out of the building.
  • Biomass Stove 25(C) Tax Credit: A federal tax credit that grants a 30% tax credit (capped at $2,000) to consumers who buy a highly efficient wood stove, pellet stove, or larger residential biomass heating system. 
  • Chimney: A system that directs smoke and other gases up from a fireplace, typically through the roof of a building. 
  • Damper: A device used to seal a building’s chimney when a fire isn’t running. It helps keep cold air from entering the building. 
  • Electric Fireplace: A type of electrical heating appliance that simulates a real fire/fireplace using visual flame effects and a heat source. 
  • Firebox: Often called the “central hub of the chimney system,” it is the enclosed space behind a fireplace’s opening or doors where fires are started and kindled.
  • Flue: A vertical passage that enables smoke and other combustion fumes to exit the firebox, rise, and exit the building. Historically, this term was used for the entire chimney system, but is now used to describe just the vertical passage. 
  • Hearth: The base of a fireplace (specifically a wood-burning fireplace). 
  • Hearth extension: The area in front of a fireplace. It’s what most people assume is the hearth. 
  • HPBA: The acronym for The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association. It’s North America’s industry association for those who manufacture, sell, and service all types of fireplaces, stoves, heaters, barbecues, and other outdoor living appliances. 
  • HPBEF: The acronym for The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Education Foundation. It’s a nonprofit educational organization for the hearth industry. 
  • Mantel: The decorative framework above a fireplace’s opening.
  • NFI: The acronym for The National Fireplace Institute. It’s the professional certification division of HPBEF, and its goal is to improve public safety by creating standards for planning and installing residential fireplaces and heating appliances. 
  • Pellet stove: A type of heating device that burns compressed wood or biomass pellets to create heat. 

Questions? Contact VanderWall Bros. 

If you have questions about any of these fireplace terms, or a term you didn’t find on our list, don’t hesitate to reach out. Our fireplace specialists have been in the industry for decades and have seen it all, so we’re always happy to direct you toward the answers you’re looking for. 

Give us a call, stop by one of our locations, or contact us online.

vermont casting wood stove

What Is a Wood Stove?

There’s something about the warmth, coziness, and crackling of a wood fire that just can’t be beat. Fortunately, if you’ve been dreaming to install a wood-burning fireplace in your home, there are many options to choose from — one being a wood stove

Below, we’ll give an overview of what a wood stove is, how it works, why it’s a great choice, and where to get started in your search for one. 

What Is a Wood Stove?

Let’s start with a definition. A wood stove is a type of heating appliance that generates heat by burning wood fuel, or some type of wood-dervied biomass fuel (e.g. wood pellets or sawdust bricks). 

For reference, here’s an photo of a wood stove from one of our manufacturers, Jøtul®.


Photo courtesy of Jøtul® — Model: F 500 V3 Oslo CF.

The Difference Between a Wood Stove and a Traditional Wood-Burning Fireplace

Important tip: a wood stove is not the same as a traditional wood-burning fireplace. Although they both use wood or wood-derived products as fuel, there are key differences between the two. 

The biggest difference has to do with construction. A traditional fireplace is a structure that’s typically built into a wall and made of block, firebrick, clay flues, etc. There are also some decorative and high-efficiency fireplaces made of steel. 

A wood stove is a standalone device consisting of three prefabricated components: a firebox, a vent pipe, and a chimney. It isn’t built into a wall, and it can be made of materials like steel, cast iron, or soapstone. 

This difference in construction affects various other characteristics of a wood stove (appearance, performance, efficiency, etc.), which we’ll discuss more below.

How Does a Wood Stove Work?

There’s a unique science to how a wood stove works. The most important factors are maintaining steady airflow through the stove’s vents and creating a controlled environment where wood can burn efficiently. When you think about the fire triangle — fuel source, heat (spark), and oxygen — wood stove do a particularly good job with the oxygen component. 

Here’s a closer, step-by-step look at the process: 

  1. You put wood inside of the stove’s firebox.
  2. You light the stove with a spark, and the fire is contained with the stove’s fireproof walls.
  3. Air is pulled in through the stove’s air vents and dampers, which control the amount of airflow that reaches the firebox. This allows the wood to burn slowly and efficiently.
  4. Exhaust fumes are drawn up through the stove’s chimney and exit the home/building.

Where Can a Wood Stove Be Installed?

Wood stoves can be installed in any new construction or renovation project. One of their benefits is that they make installation a relatively easy task, compared to other types of fireplaces and heating appliances. Their prefabricated chimney pipes enable them to be installed just about anywhere you’d like. 

However, there are a few important things to keep in mind when choosing your ideal wood stove placement, including: 

  • Level of warmth — You’ll want to put your wood stove as close as possible to the center of the area you’d like heated. 
  • Efficiency — Try to avoid placing your wood stove near any exterior walls. The closer proximity to cooler outdoor temperatures can make your stove work significantly harder.
  • Space for firewood — Make sure you have plenty of room surrounding your stove to keep firewood nearby. 
  • Flooring protection — Wood stoves have fireproof boxes, but the occasional spark may fall out while you’re kindling. Install fire-resistant flooring or a hearth pad.
  • Wall protection — Same goes for your walls. They’ll experience some serious heat coming from your stove, so it’s important to have materials that can withstand it.

Top 5 Benefits of Wood Stoves

Wood stoves offer many benefits — regardless if they’re installed in a home, office, or other type of building. Here are five of the primary advantages you’ll enjoy if you choose one. 

1. Long-Term Affordability

Wood stoves are known for their cost-effectiveness. When you consider the relatively low cost of firewood and the high level of efficiency offered, it’s difficult to find a heating appliance that’s more affordable in the long run. 

2. Consistent Fuel Supply

We’ve recently experienced a lot of uncertainty when it’s come to things like inflation, rising gas prices, and supply chain shortages. With a wood stove, you’ll have one less thing to worry about. You can always have peace of mind that firewood will always be available and relatively affordable, even when gas and other fuel sources may not be.  

3. Unmatched Efficiency

Wood stoves are significantly more efficient at converting wood to heat than traditional wood-burning fireplaces. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), wood stoves have an average efficiency of around 70%. This means they’re capable of converting about 70% of wood’s organic matter into heat. When you compare that to a traditional fireplace’s average efficiency of about 25%, the efficiency is indisputable.

EPA-certified wood stoves also produce fewer than 2.5 grams or less of smoke per hour, which is incredibly low. Older, uncertified stoves and traditional fireplaces release much more smoke into the environment — at levels of 15-30 grams or more per hour.

There’s also a new tax credit under Section 25(C) of the Internal Revenue Code that anyone purchasing a wood stove with at least a 75% higher heating value can take advantage of. It’s a 30% credit that’s capped at $2,000 annually. 

4. Installation Freedom

Due to their compact size and prefabricated components, wood stoves can be installed just about anywhere. As long as you consider the installation factors mentioned in the section above, you should be able to enjoy your wood stove to the fullest, wherever you’d like it.

5. Simple Maintenance

Traditional wood-burning fireplaces have flues, which can be quite difficult to clean and maintain. Wood stoves don’t have flues, but rather use vent pipes for this purpose. Vent pipes are much easier to clean and maintain, leaving you with less time and money spent on maintenance. 

However, we do still recommend that you have your wood stove and vent pipes inspected and cleaned by a certified chimney sweep at least once per year. This will ensure your stove is functioning properly and running at top efficiency. 

Our Favorite Wood Stove Brands

If you’re hoping to install a wood stove, it’s important to do your research on what brand you purchase. Here’s a list of some of the wood stove brands that we trust to deliver high-performing, highly efficient models. At VanderWall Bros., we carry models from each of these brands — along with various other brands with different heating appliance product offerings. 

Interested in Installing a Wood Stove? Contact VanderWall Bros.

Wood stoves have been heating homes efficiently for years, and increased EPA regulations have only made them better. If you’re interested in installing one in your home, get in touch with our team. We carry various models from popular, trusted manufacturers, and we provide professional installation and maintenance services. 

outdoor fire pit

Outdoor Fire Plans Heating Up Your Backyard

By the time spring comes around in full bloom, most people are more than eager to spend some well-deserved time in the sun, enjoying outdoor entertainment and leisure. When looking to create a fire pit to enliven the outside of your home with a shared gathering space made for s’mores, burgeoning conversation, and fun games, there are more options available than you may realize.


A traditional fire pit can be constructed with loose brick and any type of level ground, whether dirt, a concrete slab, or another sustainable area of your backyard. These fire pits give off a noticeable impression of down-to-earth family togetherness and communal joy/entertainment.

Fire Pit & Patio

You can also buy a pre-made fire pit, which can be easily set around your yard and is typically made of a stainless steel or cast-iron ring or something completely finished.

Fire Pit & Grill

These types of pits are very affordable, customarily costing in the low hundreds. Depending on your level of comfort in building DIY (do-it-yourself) tasks, this could easily be a one-day project or even an afternoon job for the whole family to work on. By buying loose bricks, a level, and any other tool you may need to dig and scrape out dirt, you are already halfway there on making your own backyard fire pit.

On the flip side, you can hire local professionals to install your fire pit, giving you the assurance of a job well done, as well as a wide array of fire pit options to choose from. In general, most folks use wood as their fuel, while some use gas. Both have pros and cons: for wood, it can be easy and cheap to find, especially if you have nearby woods. Others may find it burdensome to need to purchase or haul firewood. It is important to keep the area clean as a preventative measure for future safety – fire pit covers can also be a simple method to keep anything unnecessary out and will keep a low dying fire from sparking and catching external things on fire. For especially windy locations or smoke-sensitive customers, some brands offer smokeless fire pits. Additionally, for those looking to grill/cook foods above the fire pit, there are countless types of grill accompaniments or kettle hooks to fit your needs.


Fire Table

Similarly, a fire table is a ready-to-use piece of furniture, which adds a more distinct look of luxury and class to your backyard, whilst still initiating a place where people can gather comfortably. These are typically set on part of a deck, patio area, or brick pavers. They tend to cost somewhat more than fire pits. These tables rely on gas, which can either be run in from a gas line to the house or an LP tank that is hidden beneath the table itself.

Fire Element on table

Some of these even incorporate a water feature for additional sound and contrast. Unusual in shape and size are torches or tabletop fire inserts that can fit into the umbrella slot in a traditional patio table. This allows for a small cozy setting during dinner or drinks.

Most of these units are not suitable for those who appreciate cooking over an open flame. The use of small holes where the gas/flame comes out, they typically do not feature a grill attachment. They generally come with rocks or glass type media that one would not get greasy or dirty as they would no longer be as nice to look at while sitting alongside it.

Outdoor Fireplace


For an awe-inspiring grandiose display of warmth and luxury, installing an outdoor fireplace can greatly enrich your life as well as the overall worth of your homeFireplaces inherently create a relaxed and inviting focal point. They create a leisurely space where one is welcome to sit and talk, read, rest, eat, etcetera. Such a place is a highly appreciated asset of any home, adds social value to your home, as well as obvious accompanying economic advantages. For fuel, both gas and wood are equally feasible. Price wise, these can cost somewhere between $2,000 and $6,000, which is fully contingent on the quality and type/area of installation you desire. Overall, however, homes with fireplaces, both indoor and outdoor, have a higher selling value, which only sets you up for success in the future. By working with local professionals, you can distinguish your home and backyard with a welcoming and aesthetically pleasing fireplace.

Fireplace and seating area outside

**All of these prices can fluctuate significantly depending on any additions chosen to accompany the basic fireplace, pit, or table.


Regardless of whether your fire unit relies on gas or wood, it is important to check whether you must acquire a permit from your local township or county office. Permits often work in accordance with the height and size of each unit. It is best to keep fire pits and tables a minimum distance of 10-20 feet away from the house or property line. For more specific requirements, calling local officials can easily iron out any remaining questions/details. Additionally, manufacturers can supply introduction/safety manuals for your particular unit regarding placement and usage.


After working in this industry since 1922, VanderWall and their in-house technicians have the experience and knowledge to support you in whatever fire unit avenue you decide upon. Our expertise will make this addition as clean and worry-free as possible, and we are excited to bring to life the idea you were dreaming of all winter long. Contact us today to get a quote or get your questions answered.

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