Tips to know before buying
Adding a fireplace to your home will not only add to the aesthetics and comfort of your home, it will also add to the value of your home. For many people having a fireplace in a home is a major selling point, which is why it is so often noted in real estate listings.
If you are thinking about adding a fireplace to your home there are a number of things to take into consideration when selecting which type is best for your needs. The three main factors you will want to decide on are the purpose, style, and fuel source (gas, wood, etc.).
When fireplaces were first invented, they were meant to be functional. Their purpose was to provide heat and a means of cooking food. In the 1950s, more and more homes began to add fireplaces that were purely decorative. Far from heating the home, they actually drew warm air out and sent it up the chimney, increasing the heating bills. In the past few decades, as designs have improved and costs have come down, homeowners have again warmed up to the idea that a fireplace can be part of their heating system rather than in competition with it.
Most homeowners will want to spend the time to find a fireplace that not only looks good but heats efficiently. These two goals are not at odds. Check to see how many BTUs the fireplace puts out and what its efficiency rating is. That rating should be at least 70%, and the higher, the better.
If you’ve got the space, a freestanding “stove” unit may be right for you. You don’t have to tear down any walls or fit it in any tight spots. Just make sure you’ve got enough space left over so that nothing needs to be situated too nearby.
An “insert” is a popular option if you have an existing fireplace that you would like to convert to a more fuel-efficient design. If you live in an older home your fireplace is likely to be the sort that sucks heat out rather than puts it in. An insert can convert this space to a heat-producing design.
You can choose from gas, electric, wood, and wood pellets. Electric is the simplest, since you just plug it in. Some gas models require venting, while others do not. People tend to go with gas because it doesn’t produce ash, charred wood, and creosote, and it doesn’t require a chimney. Wood is the most “realistic” and you may want the delightful variation it provides. Wood pellets provide a cleaner, more even burn, and tend to be cheaper as well.
Nothing can replace the aroma of burning wood wafting into the house. That’s why, even with many attractive and lower maintenance options available, many homeowners continue to accept no substitutes. For many of them, buying the wood, hauling it in, setting the kindling, and getting a roaring blaze going are not a chore. They’re all part of the rugged romance. (Cleaning the ash, of course, is a chore. There’s nothing fun about it, but many homeowners feel it’s worth it for the upside.)
Wood burning fireplaces tend to be the most complex to install. Where you may only need a box or blank wall to install a gas or electric fireplace, for a fire burning fireplace you will need a chimney with sufficient height to create a draft that will pull the smoke out of your home. This is something that must be installed by a professional. It is possible to install a chimney in an existing home, but best done during construction.
Properly installed and used, a wood burning fireplace can provide plenty of smoke-free warmth with a minimum of risk.
A gas fireplace can provide the look and feel of burning wood without the hassle of having your chimney swept or ashes cleaned. Plus, there’s no need to buy firewood and find a place to store it. In fact, a gas fireplace doesn’t even need a chimney! This makes it far easier to install and to maintain.
Vented gas fireplaces do need to expel gases and fumes, however. So they should be installed along an outside wall so that the vent can be connected to the outside. However, ventless gas fireplaces are available for interior walls.
Gas fireplaces are easy to operate. All it takes is the flip of a switch. Most models even come with a remote control so you can flip that switch without leaving the sofa. Once on, the gas fireplace will provide consistent, thermostatically controlled heat that can warm a room or even a moderate-sized home.
Whatever style you choose, a good gas fireplace can add significantly to the resale value of your home without requiring a lot of maintenance while you live there. You won’t feel the appliance is more trouble to use than it’s worth. And even when it’s not in use, it will provide a decorative enhancement that is sure to please.
An electric fireplace can enhance your home decor and meet your home heating needs at the same time. It’s easy to use and has absolutely no work associated with it, all you have to do is plug it in!
A good electric fireplace will come with a 120-volt heater with a built-in thermostat to take care of your heating needs. A 1400 watt model can put out 4,600 BTUs. A 2600 watt model can put out 8,700 BTUs. It should also have controls for the flame speed and contrast to have the best effect in showing off the decorative aspect.
Electric fireplaces can fit in any space. A standard model will be about 36 inches wide and 31 inches tall. The shallow depth — about 14 inches — adds versatility to your placement options.
With no gas line and no venting, an electric fireplace is quite simple to install. It can be placed wherever it will be most effective, without worrying about having to hook it up to anything except the electricity. Electric fireplaces can be found in the same styles as the wood burning variety, from classic to contemporary.
Doors & Screens
Fireplace doors should close fully and form a tight seal with the perimeter. This accomplishes two things. First, in conjunction with a tightly sealed damper, it cuts off the supply of air when your fire has burned out. This reduces the risk of dull embers glowing back to life. Second, it makes sure that your fireplace isn’t a drain on your heating and cooling budget by making that part of your home airtight.
A fireplace screen stands in front of your fireplace to block pieces of ash and sparks that may come out of the fireplace. They also serve as a reminder to stay at a certain distance for your own safety. While they don’t provide complete protection, they can certainly be helpful; and they can look stylish as well.
Your fireplace gets good use during the winter months, and then it sits dormant, waiting for the next fire season. Around here that means the fireplace is idle for at least half of the year. During this down time, the fireplace can be more than just a gaping hole. Consider decorating your fireplace during the
off-season so that it can be the focal point of the room all
year round. Here are some simple decorating ideas to
get you started:
Instead of being a dark hole, your fireplace can be used to extend the room. During the off-season, you can position a mirror or mirrors in front of the glass doors. Now, instead of being dark, that area of the room is filled with light.
Flowers and Plants
Once your fireplace has received a good cleaning after its last seasonal use, it becomes the perfect place to display a floral arrangement or an artificial plant. Measure the inside of your firebox and plan your arrangement with those dimensions in mind. Remember to leave about seven inches at the top and three inches at each side so that the arrangement doesn’t seem to be crowded in there. This is the perfect chance to get out that special vase that you’ve never had a chance to display. Now, for the summer months at least, that vase will show off its beauty front and center.
A simple arrangement of candles can help you use your fireplace for fire display purposes year round. The candles won’t give off much heat, but they’ll contribute the romance and mystery of dancing flames and flitting shadows. A few large candles on short stands may be all it takes to transform your fireplace for the spring and summer months. Or you may want to arrange a dozen of them on stands of differing heights. You can purchase a fireplace candelabrum for this purpose. There are many different designs available. Looking through them all will surely get your creative juices flowing. And the candles you choose can have various scents to add to the enjoyment.
Another option that will give year round benefits is painting the fireplace. As it ages, brick can become dingy and faded. Even if you clean it well, it still won’t have much luster. But if you clean it and then paint it, the brick can really brighten up the room. Just remember to use primer and paint that’s rated for porous material like brick and for high temperatures. Then choose the color you want and transform your space.
Using these decorating tips along with your fireplace
will help keep it a space your family enjoys year round. Remember that this will be a main focal point to your room and keep it beautiful in the winter with dancing flames and in the summer with plants, candles, and such. For more information on installing a fireplace in your home, contact
a licensed contractor.
Having a fire in your home doesn’t have to be dangerous, but it shouldn’t be treated casually either. Here are some basic tips to make sure that your fireplace experience is a safe and happy one.
- Have your chimney professionally cleaned. This should be done at least once a year, more if you use the fireplace a lot. One of the main risks of a fireplace is not fire in the living room but fire up in the chimney where you can’t reach it. Cleaning will alleviate the buildup of creosote, which is what catches fire.
- Burn seasoned, hard wood. Soft woods such as pine burn at lower temperatures, creating creosote. Hard woods like oak and maple burn cleaner and hotter. But if the wood is green, creosote will still be a problem. Use dry wood, seasoned for at least a year.
- Use a spark screen. Spark screens keep sparks and bits of kindling from floating out into your living room and catching the carpet on fire.
- Make sure everyone in the family respects the fire. It’s easy to forget how hot and dangerous the fire is. Remind everyone not to get too close and to move carefully when in the vicinity. A fireplace screen to establish a safe perimeter is a good idea if you have small children or pets.
- Close the damper and doors tightly when you are done. A fire may appear completely dead, but a midnight draft can get the embers to burn again. And a slight breeze can take them out into your living room.
- Clean the fireplace between each use. Old bits of partially burned ash are ideal candidates for bearing flames up your chimney or out into your living room.
- Do not clean the fireplace until you are sure that the fire is completely dead and everything is cool inside. You risk injury to yourself from smoldering charcoal. And if you don’t injure yourself, you could well start a trash can fire.
- Make sure you have smoke alarms. Hang smoke alarms outside all sleeping areas, on every level of the house, and above stairwells. Test the smoke alarms once a month. Replace them every 10 years.
- Have a fire extinguisher and know how to use it.
- Have an evacuation plan. Make sure everyone in the family knows at least two routes to get to the outside from any part of the house.
- If you do have a chimney fire, close the damper and doors tightly. Then leave the house and call the fire department from a neighbor’s house.