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Fireplaces are nice…cutting wood isn’t. That’s where gas fires come in. They have a lot of benefits over wood fires; often being safer and easier to turn off and on as needed. However, they also lack a lot of that cozy air that a roaring fireplace can give.
That’s where gas logs come in; heat safe faux wood that spruces up your fireplace, making it look just like the real thing.
There are a surprising number of types and variants out there, so why don’t we look at a few, and what makes them so good?
For the complete product list, please continue reading...
7 Best Vented Gas Logs Sets (2020 Reviews)
This is, in my opinion, by far the best looking gas log set out there, vented or no. Oak is just a very nice, refined wood, and it’s painted meticulously well so the texture looks perfect. You can, of course, tell it’s not real wood when the fire isn’t lit, but the way the fire reflects off it and slightly warps the air covers up any of those imperfections.
The logs are also satisfyingly long, perfect for larger fireplaces, and do come in smaller sizes as well for those with less spacious fireplace settings.
The heat output is good (90, 000 BTUh) but most of the radiant heat is of course lost due to the venting.. Still, it’s good for days that are moderately chill and you want to make your living room a little toastier and warm your feet after coming inside.
Even the price is pretty good. On the high end, but no more expensive than most of its peers. If you’re going to choose one set, this is the pinnacle of vented gas logs.
Looks absolutely gorgeous with extremely detailed texturing
Good price for the quality
Natural gas only
May be too big for some fireplaces
Another set of 24 inch logs made up to look like oak, and arguably better than the Peterson Real Fyre options. These logs look even more real in some ways, though look a lot more like fresher wood, with nice craggy bark and a range of hues in the interior of the wood.
These shapes lend themselves well to being stacked, which makes sense as they’re all cast from actually pieces of wood, in a good relatively lightweight cement, with nice steel fiber reinforcement to keep those logs chugging for a long time. The additional shaping ability over logs with less catch points on them also makes the fire look a lot nicer than more standard gas logs.
On the other hand, the price is a little less pretty. You get a cost of about 150% of our winner, and I don’t think it’s actually that much better, in terms of either appearance or materials.
The fact that it’s effectively a lifetime purchase takes the sting out a bit, but the price hike still might make you balk, even as the look of the logs captivates you.
Extremely realistic looking; cast from real oak branches and logs
Very stackable with a lot of “catch points” to let you arrange them well
Looks even better under the fire than just sitting there
Very durable cement and steel fiber construction
A bit on the expensive side
A slight step down in quality but a huge step down in price from our winner makes this a very tempting option.
Sure Heat gives us a quite nice full kit, with a solid burner (burns between 50 and 60, 000 BTUh) and some very nice hickory logs. The texturing on these is very nice, but the coloring is what throws it a bit into the uncanny valley. Where, while the fire is lit at the very least, the first two options we’e talked about would be indistinguishable from real wood, this faux hickory just doesn’t look quite right to me.
It’s a combination of the darkness of the bark and the paleness of the yellow interior which does it for me, which doesn’t quite capture the natural beauty of hickory perfectly.
Still, that’s overall a minor gripe. At a distance, and especially while lit, these logs look very nice, and fit in a wide variety of fireplaces. If you’re not feeling the idea of paying a huge amount for your fireplace logs, or you’re not so keen on oak as a wood, these are an excellent option.
Imitation hickory, rather than oak, is a nice change of pace
Heat output is great for the price
Price is good in general; about half of the high end average
Dual burner design works well
Produces bright, convincing flames
Wood doesn’t look quite real
This is another very nice set of just logs from Midwest Hearth, which is really my only issue; they’re about the same price as our winner, but don’t come with the gas burner included, so you’ll need to provide your own.
For some, this won’t be an issue, but the pricing makes it hard to recommend OVER Peterson’s offering even if the extra bits in that might not be needed by some. This is just a good alternative for those that don’t.
The wood is one of the most realistic looking on this list, cast from real oak branches and twigs much like the other nice ones here. They’re nicely craggy and have great coloring. They are also, much like the Grand Canyon logs, very easy to arrange in a variety of natural looking shapes that frame the fire perfectly.
The hand painted textures look perfect both lit and unlit, making this a perfect year round option so long as you make sure to keep them soot free.
As a purely decorative log, these ones are really hard to beat, though do suffer a bit for the complete lack of a large central log to them, which some might prefer. As a result they work better for outdoor fire pits than indoor ones (and are beautiful in that setting), but work well enough for fireplaces as well.
Excellent hand painted textures
Perfect for outdoor gas or propane fire pits
Variety of sizes and shapes make stacking easy and let you get creative with shaping the pit.
Cast from real oak pieces for realistic texturing
No burner included
Petite branches don’t look as nice in an indoor fire pit
This set from Barton is a very nice budget set. While not as good looking as any of the above options (save maybe the Sure Heat hickory logs above, depending on your preference), it also comes in at a quarter the average price of a high end set, and looks a lot better than that price might imply. Keep in mind that a part of that price drop, however, comes from its lack of included burner or frame, so you’ll have to provide your own.
These petite logs are very nice and stackable, through the cracks in the design definitely start to show once you start building your fire. These flat logs don’t have the nice protrusions that let you create elaborate, but natural looking patterns like many of the others above. Instead, you simply get to stack a bunch of flat, not quite uniform blocks together.
The end results don’t look horrible, but definitely look manufactured, which may be a turn off for many people. Still, for the exceptionally low price for logs of this quality, it’s a sacrificing potentially worth making. The materials are good, they gold up to heat and abuse well, won’t scratch your fireplace, and look real from a distance, especially when burning (though are pretty clearly fake when unlit, sadly).
These are excellent starter logs for someone who might be on the fence about moving to vented gas logs full time.
Nice birch wood aesthetic
Stackable flat surfaces are easily placed however you want them
Look very realistic under the fire
Noticeably fake when the fire isn’t lit
No included burner kit or frame
These are sort of the old standby of the fake log scene, and what a lot of people think of when they think about non-wood fireplace logs.
They are a bit primitive, in my opinion. The design isn’t terrible, but there are much nicer ones out there. These logs definitely look fine (though clearly not real wood) when lit, with a good red/orange glow underneath as the fire goes, but they are, in my opinion, frankly ugly when the fire’s not lit. It’s not a matter like some of the others, where the truth is only revealed if you look for it and are aware they’re fake, but these look like no log I’ve ever seen; they’re too rectangular and uniform.
They’re large and stack well, however, giving the appearance of a very meaty fire when stacked nicely in the fireplace (they don’t work well as outdoor logs at all). The artificial ashy charring on top is a nice touch, though it too draws a little too much attention to the fact that the rest of the log looks completely unnatural, with its ruddy red brown coloring.
I don’t hate these logs, especially for the fairly low price (a little more than our above offering, but they are much bigger), but they wouldn’t be my first choice.
Fairly uniform rectangles that stack easily
Look pretty good when the fire’s going
Are clearly fake without fire light to obscure the fine details
No included burner kit or frame
These are definitely no lookers, especially when unlit, but they get the job done.
This 4 piece set is durable and easily stackable, plus they don’t look too bad when a fire’s roaring in them; they have a nice charred look to them already.
But there’s no getting around the fact that as a year round decorative feature they are not a great choice. They are very clearly fake, with almost no resemblance to real wood when unlit.
However, what they are is cheap, as well as small, making them a very good “supplementary log”. If you buy a few more that look good, you can throw these in under the nice looking ones to bulk out the size of the pile while remaining hidden from sight, and at that they excel. You’re looking at about a sixth what our winner costs, so you can make do with that pretty easily if you’re feeling up to it, and can find a good, nicer looking but still relatively cheap alternative.
Work well as a supplementary piece for other logs and fireplace decorations
Ugly and unrealistic when unlit
While I think the Natural Glo and QuliMetal options have their merits (lack of cost being a bit factor), the other options all hold a lot more appeal to me for various reasons. The Peterson Real Fyre logs being the best, but the others like the Grand Canyon logs (despite the expense) having a lot to recommend them over that set.
For those it’s going to come down to preference and need. You might not need an included burner, or may want something that looks better indoors than outdoors or vice versa. Ultimately I think the top 5 options here are the best on offer in most situations, with the final two being best only if you have a lot of budget concern.
What Should I Look for in Vented Gas Logs?
The biggest factor here is aesthetics. A set of gas logs or fake logs should look good above all else (save basic safety concerns, of course). The textures should look natural, and the paint should enhance that aesthetic. Being cast from real branches and logs is a good sign that you have a high quality log, as that usually enhances the realism of the texture, as does the logs being hand painted.
Oak wood is a particular favorite of a lot of these companies as well, so it often looks the best by default. While in real woods I usually prefer others (especially birch and ash wood), those tend to look less good on average than their oak counterparts. Other woods shouldn’t be completely avoided, but they should be treated with caution.
They tend to come in one of two materials as well: ceramic or cement. One is about as good as the other in terms of aesthetic, but ceramic is a lot better at radiating heat, so are better if you need the fireplace to actually heat your own as well.
As for price, that one’s tricky. Like all decorative items you’re paying for the looks, so price can vary. Expect to pay at minimum $50, and potentially well over $200 or even $300.
How Do I Use Vented Gas Logs?
Assuming you have the burner set up (due to either already having a gas fireplace installed or installing it from an included kit), you just need to arrange the logs. Logs that can hook onto each other for realistic looking log piles are a plus here, as they can be shaped into great, naturally “tossed on” looking shapes, made deliberately by your hand. Flat logs work well enough though.
There is one important thing to keep in mind when arranging your logs, however: keep them away from the flame. About 1.5” away from anywhere the fire is actually coming out of. This is where people often stumble, get their logs burnt directly, covered with soot, and ruined. Most tales of this are user error and not an actual problem with the product.
If you keep your logs away from open flames, they can last a lifetime.