Freestanding fireplaces offer every homeowner the opportunity to kick back in front of flickering flames in whatever room they prefer. Ranging in price from $100 for a simple stove to $2,000 for streamlined, modern models, the versatile and easy-to-install hearths require little or no construction. Some units need to be attached to a vent pipe in the ceiling or to a gas pipe; others can simply be set near a wall or tucked into a corner. Most of these fireplaces are equipped with doors that allow them to burn and generate heat in a very efficient manner. Because they aren't built into a wall, many feature exposed faces and sides, which amplify the amount of heat radiating into a room.
When shopping for a freestanding fireplace, consider how you want to fuel future fires -- the fuel source determines whether the unit needs to be vented via flue or chimney to the outside, which may limit your placement possibilities. Ventless versions need no chimney and can be placed wherever you want to enjoy a fire.
If you want to burn wood or pellets (compacted nuggets of wood and/or crop byproducts), you'll need a vented fireplace. Like a traditional fireplace, these require stocking up on fuel, filling the firebox, and cleaning regularly to remove debris and ash.
You'll need to add a line or pipe to connect gas and propane fireplaces to their fuel sources, but depending on the model, you may not need a vent. Always-ventless electric fireplaces produce faux flames generated by LED lights and need only be plugged in to a 120-volt outlet. Another ventless alternative, freestanding gel fireplaces are powered by canisters of specialty gels that burn and crackle like real flames. Because no real logs are used in gas, electric, or gel fireplaces, they require little or no maintenance.
Do a quick Internet search and you'll find an abundance of freestanding fireplace options. Traditionalists will be drawn to freestanding fireplaces sporting a carved or paneled surround or set inside a finely finished cabinet. Midcentury modernists are likely to be taken with sculptural orbs or spoon-shape constructions that appear to dangle from the ceiling. Country fans may flock to cast-iron, soapstone, and steel stoves that supply period-past profiles. Contemporary aficionados will love ultra-cool models crafted with long, rectangular fireboxes with glass sides and strategically spaced campfire-like flames shimmering inside.
There are freestanding fireplaces for inside and outside, portable and tabletop designs, and lightweight selections that can be mounted to a wall. Some freestanding fireplaces -- equipped with shelves and cabinets -- double as media centers.
When comparing freestanding fireplaces, ask about each unit's installation and maintenance requirements, its heating capacity, and how it circulates or distributes heat. Consider the cost of installing a chimney for vented models or adding a pad to accommodate a freestanding stove. If you're opting for a gas, electric, or gel fireplace, choose a model that can be operated via remote control and features dimmers and programmable controls, which optimize convenience and minimize your fire-tending labors.
As with any large element for your home, choose a freestanding fireplace or stove that reflects your personal decorating style, complements your home's architecture, and boasts a focal-point-worthy form.