Adding a Fireplace to Your Home – The Complete Guide
For many years the focal point within living rooms was centered around the television. Nowadays, and particularly with our interior design clients, we are seeing many homeowners want a more relaxed environment that doesn’t have the same emphasis on the TV. Instead, they choose to make the fireplace more of a focal point!
Fireplaces can be beautiful. From different mantel and surround options, and not to mention the many different fireplace types in any event, there is a lot to consider and decide. For anyone thinking of adding a fireplace into their home, it’s important to understand the options available, costs involved, and what their differences are.
In this article we will focus on adding a fireplace into a home and explore the various options available so you can be better prepared and closer to making a decision! Throughout this article we share some real life examples and what to expect from adding a fireplace.
Different Types of Fireplaces
First of all, let’s explore the different types of fireplaces available and outline their differences or similarities. There are wood burning fireplaces, gas, and electric fireplaces.
Wood Burning Fireplaces
Wood-burning fireplaces are the most traditional option which you’ll see a lot of in older properties. These have a wood burner (for burning the wood), a large open hearth that is typically brick or stone, and a mantel. A wood-burning fireplace must have a chimney to extract excess smoke and provide ventilation.
Modern wood burners are more energy efficient than an old open fireplace, yet still create the authentic and rustic ambiance of real flames and wood crackling. They do require regular cleaning and maintenance to keep them in good condition, and will require a screen to protect ash from entering the room (also needed for those with kids or pets for safety).
You can purchase log burners themselves for under $3K, but they are expensive to add into a home as they are more complex than adding a gas fireplace.
When adding a wood-burning fireplace, a footing needs to be poured and leveled on the external side which is then built up, often with masonry. We have seen quotes for this go for $25K-$35K depending on the height of the chimney (two story, one story, etc) and specifications required for the footing (some need to be reinforced due to their size). This is assuming the exterior of your home is siding.
Gas fireplaces are a popular alternative to wood-burning fireplaces. They have a glass panel on the front, with faux logs within it. These can be lit via a remote control and therefore don’t require any skill of lighting a fire in the traditional sense.
These fireplaces can require a vent or flue, however this can be done through a wall or ceiling vent. This makes adding them much less expensive than adding a wood-burning fireplace, as discussed above.
You can add a gas fireplace inside the room (on an exterior wall) or create a “dog house” on the exterior where the front of the fireplace is flush with the wall. You won’t need a chimney that extends the entire height of the home, only high enough for the vent to reach a specific height off the ground as dictated by building code.
There are ventless models available, but these aren’t our favorite. Gas fireplaces inside the room are the least expensive to build. You can expect to pay $7K-$10K. If adding a gas fireplace outside the room where there’s a dog house built to accept the firebox, then the cost will be closer to $12K-$15K.
And lastly are electric fireplaces. These are best suited for more modern spaces, but there are some designs available to suit a more transitional style of home if used with the right mantel and surround. Electric fireplaces are an affordable way of adding the overall ambiance to a space.
Some of the advantages of electric fireplaces are that they are safe, easy to install, and extremely energy efficient. The downside? You won’t have the same crackle of real wood burning or the realistic look of natural flames.
This option doesn’t require any additional venting through, as they are fan-assisted, and therefore installation costs are much lower. Think of them as pretty space heaters. They are great for those on a tight budget but would still like the appearance of a fireplace in their home, or adding a flue or chimney is not possible.
Planning for a Fireplace in a New Construction
The planning needed for a fireplace in a new construction home will depend on the type of fireplace you choose to install. As we have explored above, wood-burning fireplaces require a masonry built chimney to the exterior of the room where the fireplace will go. This will need additional footings that will need to be accounted for in the very early stages of the project.
Similarly for gas fireplaces, there will need to be a vent or flue and so this extraction will need to be carefully planned depending on where you plan the fireplace to be installed. The sooner you can plan and account for a fireplace in a new construction home the better.
Other aspects that will need to be considered during the project are the size of the hearth (and material of this), and the size, location, and material of the mantle. You should consider the hearth size early on so you can make adjustments to the overall room size if necessary.
Regardless of whether you plan to have a fireplace in your new construction home, remodel, or existing home, you should make the relevant trades aware of this as early on as possible. Always seek advice from a professional.
Adding a Fireplace to an Existing Home
This route is more complicated because you may be restricted with what you can or can’t have, due to existing building conditions.
Does your home already have a chimney that can be used for the new fireplace? It’s important to consider whether this is in the right place for the new fireplace, or whether it will need moving to create an optimum room layout. This can hike prices considerably so it’s important to seek advice as soon as you can.
And lastly, do you have an external wall in the living room/family room where a chimney, vent, or flue can be installed? If you don’t have an external wall suitable for the fireplace to be installed on, you will need to install an electric fireplace that doesn’t require any air extraction or a ventless gas fireplace.
Installing a fireplace to an existing home will require some building work so it’s important to be aware of this. Hiring the best contractor for the job is critical.
If you’d like to add a fireplace to your home, we’re here to help. We’ve walked many clients through this process and would love to help you too. Please reach out through our contact page so we can learn more about your project!