How to buy a fireplace
A fireplace buying guide
Fireplaces have many uses. They can provide comfort, enhance your decor or warm a room. Fireplaces used to be a stationary item, mostly found in living rooms, but now they can be placed in almost any room of the home. They might be installed in bedrooms, kitchens or bathrooms. There are many different types of fireplaces, so there is a lot to consider when purchasing one. When determining how to buy a fireplace, think about the room the fireplace will be in, what the fireplace will be used for, the fuel type you'd like to use and the fireplace style you'd like. By knowing how to buy a fireplace, you can make your home more comfortable and energy efficient.
>> What room will the fireplace go in?
When choosing among the types of fireplaces for your home, you may have an idea of what room you'd like it in. As you figure out how to buy a fireplace, take into account where you would like it to be and where there is space to install one. It's important to think about fireplace sizes. You can install a fireplace in your wall if it's an exterior wall, depending on your local building codes.
There are many other choices if using an exterior wall is not an option. A freestanding fireplace can easily be mounted on a wall or on a floor with a mantel. If you don't have adequate space, fit a fireplace on a corner wall of a room.
>> Is the fireplace for looks, heating or both?
The type of fireplace you select depends on what you will use it for. You may want a fireplace purely for decorative purposes or you may want to lower the cost of your heating bills. You may want to warm up a certain area of the house, or you may want to install a fireplace for all these reasons.
If the fireplace is just for decoration, you have many options. For example, an electric fireplace does not have many limits. However, if you rent an apartment, there may be restrictions on the use of an electric fireplace due damage to the wall during installation.
If you are looking at a fireplace as a heating source, you must consider British thermal unit (BTU) output. You will need a higher BTU to heat an entire house than you will to heat only one room.
>> What type of fuel do you want to use?
Fireplaces use different fuel types: natural gas, wood, pellets or electricity. A natural gas fireplace gives you a lot of flexibility. You don't need to install it on a wall, and it does not require much ventilation. The flames are realistic, and your room will heat quickly. A gas fireplace has consistent and adjustable flames. There is very little maintenance with a natural gas fireplace.
Wood burning fireplaces are highly economical if you have a supply of wood available. These require no electricity, so they are useful in case of a power outage. These can give off so much heat that they might heat an entire home depending on the square footage. A wood burning fireplace is traditional and natural.
Pellets are a renewable fuel source, generally of compacted sawdust or wood chips. Other environmentally friendly items, such as grass and coconut shells, can be pelletized. Pellets are made from a by-product of wood, so you can easily keep a good supply of them. Pellets are not messy. They burn for hours. It's possible to heat an entire home with a pellet fireplace. There are many venting options available with pellet fireplaces.
An electric fireplace is convenient and simple. You can place it just about anywhere because there is no venting to worry about. Electric fireplaces are used more for design than for heating large rooms.
As you determine how to buy a fireplace, you need to understand the types of fireplaces and fuel that are most efficient for use in your home. The following fireplace comparison chart details some important features of each fuel type.
Type of fireplace
|Natural gas ||Large rooms ||Gas line or propane ||Yes ||Low |
|Wood ||Large area ||Need constant supply of wood ||Yes, with wood inserts ||High |
|Pellet ||Large area ||Supply of pellets ||Yes ||Medium |
|Electric ||Small ||None; access to an electric line ||Yes ||Low |
>> Choose your style
When selecting a fireplace, the fireplace style is very important. You don't want to select a style and in a few years have to buy another fireplace when you redecorate your home. There are three main types of fireplace styles to choose from.
A traditional fireplace is considered elegant. It seldom goes out of style, and it can be paired with furnishings in just about any style. A contemporary fireplace is simple and modern and fits well in almost any type of design setting. Transitional fireplaces combine traditional and contemporary styles. They offer a beautiful and comfortable look.
>> What type of venting will you need?
When choosing among the different types of fireplaces, you must consider the venting type. The venting requirement could be determined by local regulations. You should check on any restrictions or regulations where you live, because venting is a major factor when considering how to buy a fireplace.
A fireplace that needs venting needs an outlet for the combustion, such as a chimney or a hole in the wall. You can have a direct vent, which draws the air from the outside in and returns the combustion air to the outside. A B-vent draws the air from inside the home and expends the combustion air outside.
Ventless fireplaces do not require a chimney or an exterior outlet. The inside air is drawn into the fireplace and helps emit heat. However, the combustion byproducts are released into the room. Manufacturers state that these fireplaces are safe and efficient. Many states believe that if ventless fireplaces are not properly maintained, they could produce harmful byproducts.
>> Other fireplace considerations
When deciding how to buy a fireplace, in addition to fireplace designs, you may want to consider fireplace accessories. Fireplace grates are used for electric, gas and wood burning fireplaces. Fireplace tools include snuffers, wall brackets to hang them on and decorative tool sets.