Whether they are in use or not, fireplaces are the focal point of any room they are installed in. The fireplace is one feature in a new home that, at once, is a decorative fixture and a functional part of the home. It can help create ambience in a space and at the same time provide physical comfort.
From the time our earliest ancestors discovered that fire could be controlled and used to their benefit, humans have been fascinated by its beauty and power. While learning the benefits of fire, it also became apparent to our predecessors that it could be very destructive when not properly controlled. Through the years, many methods have been created to control and contain fire so we can enjoy its many uses. From the simple fire pit to the modern day fireplace, those methods continue to evolve to this very day.
While discussing fireplace options with our customers, it is very common that there is some confusion with the basics of what decisions are needed and it may be helpful to explain that for you.
There are basically two components to a fireplace that an owner needs to decide upon for use in their new home. The fireplace unit is the box that the fire is burnt in and is one of the components. The fireplace façade is the other basic component and this is what surrounds the fireplace unit and is the more visibly impactful of the two components.
The fireplace unit options are:
- Masonry – This type of fireplace is primarily a site built masonry firebox and flue system. This type allows for wood burning or a gas log. The relative cost factor is high for this type of fireplace.
- Vent-less – This gas-log-only, fireplace requires no flue and has a sealed glass front. This type of unit provides the most flexibility for placement within the home and is ultra-efficient. The relative cost factor is low for this unit.
- Direct-venting – Similar to the vent-less, this gas-log-only unit has a sealed glass front and is very efficient even though it is vented to the exterior. This is by far the most popular unit requested. The relative cost factor is mid-range for this type of fireplace.
- B-Vented – Although not as efficient as the vent-less or direct-vent units, it is relatively efficient. This gas-log-only fireplace does not allow for the flexibility of flue placement that is afforded with the direct-vent unit but it does offer operable doors and screens to get a more “realistic” look. The relative cost factor is mid-range for this unit.
- Dual-fuel prefabricated – Wood as well as gas logs can be burned in this unit. It is a metal fireplace that is vented similarly to the masonry fireplace with the exception of the flue being of metal construction. Although efficiency is rather low for this type of fireplace, optional glass doors will help reduce heat loss. The relative cost factor is mid-range for this type of fireplace.
Unlike the amount of fireplace unit options, the fireplace façade choices are many and the list below is just some of the more popular choices:
- Ceramic, Marble or Granite surrounds.
- Brick or natural stone. (note that these will require support down to the foundation)
- Manufactured stone.
- Drywall sculpturing
Combining materials and determining whether to take the façade from floor to ceiling or just to mantel height increase the possibilities for making a unique statement with your fireplace design.
Mantels are a big part of the fireplace façade as well and the style and type of material need be considered when designing the façade. It is not uncommon however, for owners to choose to use no mantel at all.
For years fireplaces have been primarily a fixture in the family room or great room but the trend seems to be that people want fireplaces installed in rooms other than the great room. The most popular location these days seems to be outside of the home in exterior living spaces. When determining where you want to place your fireplace, keep in mind that there are building codes that guide what type of fireplace can go in specific areas.
We would love to discuss in greater detail, the fireplace options that you may be considering for your new home!