Thursday, 27 January 2011

A Quick Guide to...Fireplaces

Have you decided the allure of a warm, toasty fire is something you can no longer resist? Is the purchase of a fireplace in your future? There are many options depending on your needs, where you plan on installing the fireplace, and your budget. Below are some things to think about and consider.


Is your fireplace going to be in a new home you're constructing or are you adding one to an existing home? As you probably expect, it's much easier to put in a fireplace if you're building a new home or putting one in an addition you're adding on. If you are adding one to an existing home, you need to consider the following. Is there an existing chimney I can use for venting and is it in good shape? If I don't have a chimney to use for venting is there somewhere I can place the fireplace so that it can directly vent outside? Or am I considering a vent-free fireplace?

What type of fireplace do you want? Would you like a wood-burning fireplace? If you are venting your fireplace through a chimney, the chimney needs to be in good working order. If you don't have a chimney or if it will be very expensive to get the chimney working properly another option for venting your wood-burning fireplace is with a direct venting system. A direct venting system can be used on nearly any room with an exterior wall. Do you prefer a gas fireplace instead of a wood-burning fireplace? A gas fireplace lets you avoid the work and mess of burning wood and can either be vented through a chimney, direct-vented or possibly even using a vent-free system.

Be cautious if considering a vent-free fireplace. Adding a vent-free fireplace to an existing home can be an attractive option to many people because there's no need to worry about having a safe chimney or having to have an outside wall to place the direct vent. And because there's no venting to the outside, there's no heat loss.

If you are considering a vent-free fireplace though, be aware of these proper operations procedures:
  • do not use in a small confined space
  • do not use as the only source of heat
  • vent free fireplace should not be installed if anyone in your home is pregnant, anemic, has respiratory problems; has heart problems, or is diabetic

Another fireplace option is an electric fireplace. The electric fireplaces today are efficient and fairly inexpensive to operate. An electric fireplace is pretty much a "plug and go" item. You take it home, plug it in, and enjoy it. An electric fireplace will generate some heat but is not intended to be used as the primary source of heat in a room.


Look before you buy. A great place to do research is a store that sells fireplaces and/or fireplace surrounds. Some companies who specialize in selling brick, stone, and tile for fireplace surrounds also sell the fireplace inserts as well. If you go to their showrooms you'll have the opportunity to see both the fireplaces and some of the fireplace surrounds with different styles of mantles, stone, brick, tile, and hearthstones.

Work with a professional. Unless you are purchasing an electric "plug and go" fireplace or you are an expert in the installation of fireplaces, don't attempt to install one yourself. Consult with a professional because you want to make sure it is installed correctly so there are no dangerous fumes emitted and so the fireplace is not a fire hazard.


With gas fireplaces you do not lose any of the heat. This is a common problem with wood-burning fireplaces because the heat escapes up the chimney. The gas fireplace is extremely fuel efficient and are not expensive to purchase. If, on the other hand, you want a gas fireplace that is purely for decoration, then you can also buy inserts in which the grille is hidden or decorated in some way.

Everone is aware of the advantages of having a wood burning fireplace and this is not necessarily for the main reason that comes to mind: heat. There is the notion that a wood burning fireplace comes with the idea of romance and warmth for the soul not to mention the added value to your home if you decide to sell.

Electric fireplaces are really easy to use and you don't have to worry about sparks from burning wood or fumes from gas. These fireplaces light at the flick of a button and radiate the heat to all corners of the room. Electric fireplaces are also cost-effective because they are energy efficient and do not cause a drastic increase in your electricity bill.

An insert is basically a small stove that you set into the fireplace. In addition to providing heat and a cozy feeling, an insert adds an element of elegance to any fireplace. A typical insert consists of glass doors so that the chimney doesn't draw all the heat upwards and not let it radiate out into the room. With gas inserts, you have a temperature control so that it doesn't get too hot. With wood, you basically have to let the fire die down to control the heat, but with either one, you can have a blower that blows the heat where you want it.


The range of styles and designs available in fireplace mantels often makes it hard to choose the one you want. You do have to consider the style and the d├ęcor of your room when you are purchasing a fireplace mantel. Even if you already have a fireplace you can give it a whole new look by adding a mantel. You have to look at the overall effect that the mantel will have on the room and then choose accordingly.

There are many different designs to choose from in the line of fireplace mantels. You might like a Victorian style in various hardwoods and an antique finish. In an older style home with a lot of wood, what would look nicer than one of the colonial styles of fireplace mantels? For a really authentic design, you can also have a genuine stone mantel.


We all love the allure of wood burning fireplaces, but you always need fireplace screens for safety reasons. There are so many types on the market today that it may be difficult to choose the right screen for you. One thing is for sure is you have to have one. Wood gives us a lovely fire, but it also crackles and sparks and this is where your fireplace screen comes in. Of course it does more than protect your home from sparks that may pop out on your floor. It also helps to control your heat and give your chimney help in venting the smoke to the outside.

There are many different kinds that you can buy besides glass. Screens range from luxurious to custom made to the manufactured.


With a wood burning fireplace, it is really essential to have fireplace tools which usually consist of a iron poker, a pair of tongs, a broom and a dustpan. You will find a use for each of these when you need to turn the logs to burn a little brighter - the tongs will do the job without a problem. You will use the poker quite frequently with the adjusting of the logs on the fire. The broom and the dustpan are usually used for the job that nobody wants to do and that is the cleaning of the fireplace. When you decide it is time, these tools will come in handy, too, for sweeping the ashes and gathering them in to a fireproof metal bucket.

Don't forget to shop for a log holder that you can sit by your fireplace to make it easier when you need another log on the fire.


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