Everyone loves the comfy look of a fireplace, but not all homes come equipped with the favorite feature. The good news is that it's easy to add a fireplace to an existing home. All it takes is a little know-how.

By Sheryl Geerts
Updated June 01, 2020
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You’ve dreamed about the possibility for years, but is a fireplace right for your home? Only you can determine that, but we can help you sort out your options. We’ve done the research for you to make sure you select the right fireplace for your budget and needs. Here’s what you need to know about installing a fireplace in your existing home.

Greg Scheidemann

Is It Possible to Add a Fireplace to My House?

Be assured that it is possible to add a fireplace to an existing home. You’ll just need to determine which one will work best. Get familiar with your area's building codes to check requirements such as minimum clearances around vent pipes and limits on fireplace emissions. Fireplaces generally fall into one of three categories: gas, masonry, and zero-clearance (also known as prefabricated or manufactured fireplaces).

Direct-Vent Gas Fireplaces

For the easiest installation, choose a direct-vent gas fireplace. You can install this type of fireplace on any exterior wall, and it will vent directly out the back. Installation usually takes about a day or a day and a half. While you won't get the sounds and aroma of a wood fire, gas fireplaces give any room ambience and often supply more warmth than a wood-burning fireplace. Plus, gas fireplaces start with a flip of a switch and they're easy to clean up and maintain.

Wood-Burning Masonry Fireplaces

If you want to add a wood-burning fireplace, you need space above to get a chimney through the roof. In two-story houses, choices for placing the fireplace might be more limited, but often you can find the 12- to 14-inch space the chimney requires by enclosing a corner of a room or a spare closet. This is the kind of fireplace that comes to mind for most people and it's the most expensive. It's made of a brick or stone firebox, a brick or stone chimney, and usually a wood mantel.

Zero-Clearance Fireplaces

If you're looking for an inexpensive fireplace option, consider a zero-clearance or factory-built fireplace. These are lightweight fireplaces often with linear designs to fit more modern tastes. In comparison with masonry fireplaces, they're easier to install and require significantly less construction work. Since their firebox enclosures always remain cool, zero-clearance fireplaces can be installed in any room—even directly over hardwood floors and within a few inches of existing walls.

Helen Norman

Where Should I Put My Fireplace?

If you want to get the most use out of your fireplace, plan to put the new fireplace in the most-used room in the house other than the kitchen, such as the family room or living room. For heating practicality, it makes sense to put it in a smaller, easy-to-heat room such as a master bedroom, office, or spare bedroom. No matter which room you decide on, make sure its floor joists are reinforced. You should also factor in the dimensions and thickness of the firebox, the size of the damper opening, and the type of chimney and liner used. Refer to your local building codes to get detailed specifications for each of these considerations as well as for the minimum distance between a fireplace and combustive materials. Some building codes require that the house framing be modified to accommodate the increased weight of the fireplace addition.

How Much Does It Cost to Put in a Fireplace?

According to HomeGuide, on average, a new metal prefabricated gas or wood-burning fireplace costs $2,900 installed, while an electric fireplace costs about $1,200. A masonry fireplace costs an average of $4,900 installed in an existing home with a 12-foot chimney.

Will I Recoup My Up-Front Costs?

Unfortunately, regardless of how much or how little it costs you to add a fireplace, you probably won’t monetarily recoup the money you spend on adding a fireplace. A fireplace generally isn’t calculated separately into a professional home appraisal, thus it’s difficult to assign an increased value from your investment.

However, should you choose to sell your home, a fireplace could increase your home’s appeal to prospective buyers. A recent report from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) says that the overall number of prospective homebuyers who find gas fireplaces to be desirable or essential has been increasing since 2003, rising from 44% to 55% in 2018. The same report also says that 55% of home buyers rate gas fireplaces as desirable or essential and 48% of home buyers rate wood-burning fireplaces as desirable or essential.

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