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Fireplace Guide

Use this guide to find the right fireplace for your home.

Today's fireplaces combine efficiency, convenience, and style—and there are several types on the market. Use this guide to figure out which is right for you.

Updating an old fireplace or installing a new one adds warmth and comfort to your home now and increases its resale value. According to the National Association of Home Builders, a fireplace is one of the top three features homebuyers want. Luckily, adding a fireplace to an existing room doesn't have to be a major remodeling project. Inserts improve the efficiency and convenience of existing masonry fireplaces, and new venting options in gas fireplaces provide flexibility in terms of placement. For example, direct-vent fireplaces can be vented through a wall or a traditional chimney, while ventless fireplaces don't require any outside ventilation. To help you choose a model that suits your needs, we've compiled an overview of the options available and their costs.

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PROS:

  • Offers the sounds, smells, and ambiance of a real fire.
  • Uses an inexpensive, renewable resource for fuel.
  • New EPA-certified units produce up to 90 percent less wood smoke emissions than traditional wood-burning fireplaces.

CONS:

  • Less efficient than other fuel types.
  • You'll need to haul wood and clean up ashes frequently.
  • Chimney requires regular maintenance (the EPA recommends having your chimney professionally inspected and cleaned every year).

PRICE:

  • $3,000-$5,000, installed.
  • High-end models can cost more. In general, the price increases as efficiency increases.

PROS:

  • More efficient than a wood-burning fireplace. Some direct-vent fireplaces are more than 75 percent efficient (they convert 75 percent of the potential heat into usable heat).
  • Features sealed combustion technology, which seals the combustion process from the home's interior for improved efficiency and safety. (Air for combustion is pulled from outside the home and then expelled outside the home through a separate pipe.)
  • Units can be vented directly out the wall and do not require a chimney.
  • Convenient and easy to use.

CONS:

  • Doesn't provide the sounds and smells of a real fire.
  • Flames don't look completely realistic (although some high-end models come close).

PRICE:

  • $3,000-$5,000, installed (with no gas-line work).
  • High-end models can cost more. In general, the more realistic the flame and log set, the higher the price.

PROS:

  • Easier and less expensive to install because it doesn't require venting to the outside.
  • Very efficient (about 92-99 percent of potential heat is converted into usable heat).
  • Designed to produce a hot flame that results in almost full fuel combustion, which decreases the amount of carbon monoxide emissions and soot produced.
  • Features an oxygen-depletion sensor, which turns off the gas before carbon monoxide can reach a dangerous level in the home.

CONS:

  • These models are banned in some states and do not meet all building codes.
  • Debate continues on their effect on indoor air quality. Manufacturers state that these fireplaces meet or exceed indoor air-quality guidelines, but some industry experts have concerns about venting the fireplace into the home rather than outside.
  • Water vapor produced by the fire and vented into the home can cause condensation on windows and mold and mildew, especially in tightly insulated homes.
  • Flames don't look as realistic as they do in many vented gas fireplaces.

PRICE:

  • $800-$2,000, installed (with no gas-line work).

PROS:

  • Increases the efficiency of an existing masonry or factory-built fireplace, which can let heated air escape through the chimney.
  • Multiple fuel options are available; units can burn wood, natural gas, propane, coal, wood pellets, or oil, or run on electricity.
  • Self-cleaning glass doors reduce pollutants entering the home.
  • Units can be made to look like real brick.

CONS:

  • Must be installed within an existing masonry or factory-built fireplace with a working chimney.
  • With direct-vent and wood-burning fireplaces, you'll likely need to add a chimney liner and may need to make other modifications as well.

PRICE:

  • $3,000-$4,000, installed, for wood or gas inserts (with no gas-line work).
  • $100-$300 for electric inserts.

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