Fireplaces are a central feature of many homes and apartments. The mantel is one of the best locales for family photos, art prints, and seasonal decor. The hearth is a classic symbol of comfort, togetherness and even survival. If your current home doesn’t have a fireplace, your family room or outdoor living area may feel incomplete or lacking. Thankfully, there’s a solution—you can install a fireplace that will add beauty and value to your home.
The Choice between Gas, Wood Burning, and Electric
There are three main options for installing a fireplace, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. For the rugged types who love making and nurturing a fire, a wood burning fireplace may be the most attractive option. It’s the most efficient at producing heat, it works during power outages, and you get to choose what type of wood you burn—and therefore the aroma that fills your home. But before you decide on harkening back to pioneer days, you should know that wood burning fireplaces are heavy, and you may need to reinforce your flooring before you install. Burning the wrong type of wood can produce a dangerous, flammable coating called creosote in your chimney. However, if you know what you’re doing and are well-versed in fireplace safety, the authentic feel may be worth the trouble.
Gas fireplaces are a little more hands-off. You just turn on a switch to ignite the flames. They’re also less expensive than wood burning, but you should expect to sacrifice a little ambiance. One complication you might face when you install this as an add-on to your house is that you’ll need to run a gas line, which could raise your installation costs.
Since your place wasn’t built with a fireplace where you’re planning to put it, you may find it’s not the ideal spot for a gas or wood burning one. This might be a huge disappointment, but there’s still another option: an electric fireplace. Electric are the most hands-off option: digitized flames mimic the appearance of real flames while the unit produces real heat. It subverts costly installation, making it the cheapest option by far. It won’t work during a power outage and, of course, you miss out on the authenticity.
Built-in fireplaces require some demolition, costly materials, and even floor reinforcement. But if you’re set on a wood burning fireplace and don’t want go to the trouble of installing a built-in and chimney, there’s another option. Freestanding models demand much less in the way of installation. You can vent the fireplace through the wall by way of a stovepipe, meaning you are free to select the best location without regard for a chimney or gas line.
A freestanding wood fireplace will offer some of the advantages of a built-in wood fireplace, but you will probably be sacrificing the aesthetic of a mantel and hearth.
Part of what makes your exterior inviting is mimicking the comforts of the indoors. An outdoor fireplace or chiminea can serve as a focal point, a gathering spot, a method for preparing food, and a source of literal warmth on cold nights. A built-in fireplace is certainly an option for your exterior living space, but like an indoor one, it is going to be include costly materials, installation, and structural changes. If your family and friends spend a lot of time outdoors and essentially treat it as home, a built-in outdoor fireplace may be worth the work.
However, if you’re looking for something a little more budget-friendly and straightforward, a chimenea is the perfect cross between a fireplace and a fire pit. Chimeneas are well-ventilated, designed to keep the brunt of the smoke and fumes away from those gathering around to enjoy it while still serving up the heat. Cast iron and cast aluminum are the most popular options for chimineas, but aluminum is heavier and will not rust, which may make it the better option as long as you are not planning to move the chimenea to another location. Make sure to place it on a flat surface and allow plenty of overhead room for proper ventilation.
Now that you know your options, you can choose one that works best for you and your family’s heating, aesthetic, and safety needs. Enjoy your new home feature!