Equipping your fireplace with glass doors offers both form and function. Glass doors are an economical upgrade available in many forms and finishes that can be easily installed to give your new or existing fireplace an updated look. As far as utility, the windowed doors keep burning logs, embers, sparks, and ashes securely contained, while still allowing you to enjoy views of flames flickering within the firebox.
Unlike open fireplaces, which draw warm air (or air-conditioned air) up and out the chimney, fireplaces with glass doors are extremely energy efficient. The glass doors block heated and cooled air from escaping and amplify the fire's heat, which in turn reduces energy costs. Though doors are generally left open when medium to large wood fires are blazing, glass doors can be closed as fires die down to ensure debris doesn't spill over onto the hearth or floor or become airborne to singe clothing or furnishings. Glass doors prevent household fires, keep curious kids and pets safe, and complement all decorating styles.
Glass fireplace doors are most commonly sold as pairs of bifold doors or as cabinet-style doors that swing open to allow access to the firebox. They are widely available in rectangular shapes (priced between $200 and $1,400) and arched versions (priced between $1,500 and $3,000). L-shape, U-shape, dual-sided, and custom-crafted glass fireplace doors expand your choices.
Door frames are crafted in a variety of materials, including steel, aluminum, and brass, in popular finishes that include gold, gray, black, brass, bronze, copper, white, polished, brushed, hammered, and antiqued. Generally, clear or smoke-hue tempered glass panels outfit the door frames, but other glass colors and textures might be available depending on where you shop.
Consider your personal decorating style, your home's architecture, and your budget when selecting glass fireplace doors for your hearth. Aluminum versions -- arched and rectangular in shape -- can be found for less than $400 at home improvement centers as well as fireplace retailers. You'll find grander (and more expensive!) models at specialty retailers and fireplace design centers. Before you buy, do an online search for glass fireplace doors to review and compare your options.
Think streamlined rectangular shapes in black or steely finishes if your tastes lean toward contemporary. Arched cabinet-style doors with antiqued-metal or wood frames work well in old-world interiors. Windowlike mullions embellish glass panels to create doors with Craftsman appeal. Live in a lodge or cabin? Opt for forged-steel doors detailed with piney profiles or mountain motifs.
Happily, as you'll note when comparing your options, there are fireplace doors that suit every design style and nearly every fireplace form.
Built-up soot, ashy residue, and dirty streaks that darken a door's viewing frames can be cleaned using a number of tricks. If possible, remove the doors and set them atop a protected work surface. Can't remove them? Protect adjacent surfaces, such as hearths and floors, with towels or tarps.
Try the ashes-to-ashes approach. Thoroughly wet a piece of crumpled up newspaper or paper towel and dip it into wood ashes (which act as an abrasive) lying inside the firebox. Rub the ashes across the door frames and glass to scrub off grime; then clean the doors and windows with clean water and rags until all dirt is removed. Other cleaning options include spraying the glass with soapy water or a solution of equal parts vinegar and water and rubbing away grime with a nylon scrubber. Commercial cream or spray fireplace door cleaner will also do the trick.
After you're done cleaning the back of the doors, shine up the room-facing panes with glass cleaner to ensure fire-watchers have the clearest views of bonfires burning behind the glass.