Types of Fireplaces To Consider When Remodeling an Existing Home

This wood burning fireplace uses the Rumford design for maximum heat efficiency when the fire is burning. However as it is not a sealed-combustion unit, it is not as energy efficient as other types of gas or wood fireplaces. If efficiency trumps beauty, then a sealed-combustion unit is a must. As design was paramount in this home, the Rumford fireplace was a must-have feature.

Types of Fireplaces for a Remodel, Wood burning, Gas or Ethanol

Nothing is as romantic and relaxing as sitting in front of a roaring fire on a cold snowy night. While a fireplace might not be the most efficient way to heat your home, it does create a warm homey atmosphere in any room from the living room to the master suite.

Traditionally the fireplace is where you gather with family and friends during the holidays. But today, many new homes don't include a fireplace. Despite the number of buyers who list a fireplace as a “must have” feature, many homes just don't have them.

Contemporary Prairie Linear Burner Gas Fireplace

The contemporary prairie design of this home is complimented by a linear burner fireplace. Instead of a traditional square firebox and immitation gas logs, this fireplace uses glass beads and a large flame in a horizontal, rectangular firebox.

Today, there's good news! Fireplace technology has improved to the point where most homeowners can affordably add a fireplace to their home. Putting a fireplace into an existing home can be done and depending on what you're willing to compromise on, adding a fireplace to your home is within the reach of most homeowners.

Types of Fireplaces

Today there are many types of fireplaces to choose from. Whether it's the traditional wood burning fireplace, or a convenient gas or ethanol-based one, a fireplace can create a beautiful focal point in a room, enhance your quality of life, and even add value to your home. Choosing the right one can be challenging. Let's explore your options:

• Wood Burning Fireplaces

Linear Gas Log Fireplace

This fireplace is a transitional element, using a traditional gas log in a contemporary firebox. Ideal for areas that have a TV over top of the fireplace, the low-slung fireplace design allows plenty of required space above it for a mantel, so that a TV can be installed above.

This is the oldest and most traditional option and it's valued for its aesthetic value. Nothing beats a natural wood burning fireplace for the look, the smell, and the sound! However, adding one to your home can be expensive and difficult. That being said, if you are adding an addition, and the budget it's easier than adding it to an existing space.

That being said, along with all of the beauty, comes a certain amount of maintenance and upkeep. You'll need to store wood, there is periodic upkeep like chimney cleaning and cleaning the firebox. You'll also need to spend additional money on fire tending tools and a fireplace screen to prevent embers from escaping. Finally, a wood burning fireplace can actually lose more heat up the chimney that they create, if you don't choose a sealed-combustion wood burning fireplace.

• Gas Fireplaces

Clean View Gas Log Fireplace

Stone masonry fits tight to the firebox with minimal black metal showing at the edges in a gas log fireplace with a clean view kit. The hearth of a gas fireplace is for decoration and is not required.

Gas fireplaces use natural gas or propane as their fuel. They come in a number of different configurations can heat a room if equipped with a fan and can either be vented or ventless. Gas fireplaces can be turned on with a remote, and some offer adjustable flame heights. They are convenient, affordable and flexible.

Vented Gas Fireplaces – Like a wood burning fireplace, vented fireplaces have a firebox that is vented through a chimney. They offer the widest variety of burning elements ranging from realistic ceramic logs to more modern looking flames that burn through glass beads.

Direct vent fireplaces draw air from outside and use a horizontal venting system so they can be placed on any exterior wall. Direct vent fireplaces can also use a vertical chimney. The flame is contained behind glass and they emit a large amount of heat. Because the firebox is sealed, drawing in outside air for combustion, they do not lose interior warm air up the flue. This makes them energy efficient.

Gas Log Fireplace with Vertical Chimney

Gas log fireplaces can be versatile in their placement. Many are located on an outside wall using a direct-vent method, but with equal efficiency and results they can occupy an interior wall with a vertical chimney.  This clean view fireplace with gas logs has stone from floor to ceiling.

In general, side-vented or vertical-vented sealed combustion fireplaces are equally efficient. The type of gas fireplace which is less efficient is one that has operable doors on its face, as indoor air escapes up the chimney both summer and winter, even if the damper is closed.

Ventless Gas Fireplaces – require no exterior exhaust so they can be placed against internal walls as long as a gas source is available. They combust inside air and off-gas into inside air. This is possible because the flame burns cleanly. All of the heat remains in the house. In Wisconsin's tightly-built, energy efficient homes these fireplaces are not used. A ventless gas fireplace could be used in a leaky cabin, a screened porch, or a 3-season room.

• Ethanol-Fueled Fireplaces

Contemporary Linear Burner Fireplace

Gas fireplaces offer the flexiblity to be installed in modern and non-traditional manners. This linear burner glass fireplace has a curved brushed nickel face, and is installed in a copper metallic decorative painted wall.

This is one of the newest additions to fireplace technology. Ethanol fireplaces are ventless which means they can go almost anywhere. While they don't offer as much heat as a gas fireplace they can produce up to 13,000 BTUs which is significant. They have a tank that requires refilling. When used properly they are safe, but you must be careful when refilling. An alternative to propane or LP gas, this type of fireplace might best be used in a rural situation where natural gas is not available. Because it is ventless, it should be used in a leaky cabin, a screened porch, or a 3-season room.

Choosing The Right Fireplace

Gas Log Fireplace in Cabinetry

This non-traditional gas fireplace installation uses an exposed direct-vent system to go through a vertical chimney section before turning horizontal out of the house. The decorative face of the fireplace and high-end log system is designed to make this fireplace flame appear more like a geniune wood fire.

You need to define your needs when choosing the right fireplace. First, are you looking for ambiance or heat production? If you're looking for heat, a wood burning insert and some gas inserts are viable options. Inserts can be installed into an existing fire box which can eliminate drafts and update the look of your fireplace.Gas burning inserts are convenient, produce some heat and work with the push of a button. If you're more concerned with ambiance, a custom gas log set in an existing fireplace is the perfect option. Gas logs can be installed right in your existing fire box with few alterations.

If your starting from scratch you're only limited by your style preferences and your budget. In terms of budget, it's important to determine your budget before you begin. Knowing the expenses of each step of the process can eliminate surprises. For example, when budgeting for an insert, consider that there will be additional costs like installing a gas line, electrical line or propane power source. There may be demolition costs, framing, materials, and labor, a new mantle or drywall repairs in addition to the fireplace itself.

A fireplace is a wonderful addition to any home. If you're considering adding a fireplace to your remodeling project, the good news is that there are models available to fit almost any budget and the new technology can be placed almost anywhere. The best course of action is to speak with your designer or design-build contractor. They can help you to choose the model most appropriate for your situation and your budget.

This article was updated by Abe Degnan on 8/1/2018.


About Degnan Design Build Remodel
Since 1981 Degnan Design Build Remodel has provided home improvement and construction services to customers throughout Greater Madison, Wisconsin. Our goal is to WOW you with a "Designed For Your Life" solution using a process that will transform your home into a beautiful living space, delivered on time, and on budget. We are known for our communication, respectfulness, and a commitment to our customers and our community. Contact us to speak with one of our designers about your home improvement project.