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What To Consider When Adding A Fireplace

The soul-warming scent, crackling sound and hypnotic sight of a roaring fireplace can enhance the look and warmth, as well as value, of any home. There are two types of fireplaces homeowners can consider installing, based upon their personal needs and the existing structure – wood or gas. Both types can be built in a wide range of styles, but aesthetics aside, there are multiple factors to consider prior to choosing between the two.

Study The Local Building Code – Building codes vary from location to location and mandate specific requirements for fireplaces, chimneys and their surrounding area. These include criteria for multiple details, including chimney footer thickness and projections, fireplace emissions, length of roof penetration and the location of an exterior air supply. Before you consider building, make sure you read and understand the requirements and code for your area.

Put Safety First – Fireplaces may be installed from scratch or rebuilt from an existing, unused structure. Either way, unless you yourself are a pro, hiring a professional is a sound decision. A fireplace that is faultily installed can cause everything from respiratory problems to a fire. A professional can make sure safety is built into your project and also explain the differences in installation requirements between gas and wood for your specific type of house. They can also assure that an existing chimney is clear and doesn't leak, eliminating a safety hazard. No matter what type of fireplace you install, make sure smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are plentiful and always have fresh batteries, and look for a contractor who specializes in fireplace installation and safety.

Determine Your Needs – A beautiful, open wood fireplace can warm up a room's atmosphere, but if your goal is added warmth and a lower heating bill, a gas fireplace will probably provide more heat plus provide an energy-efficient option. An added plus to gas is diminished spark-throw. If you opt for an open wood fireplace, make sure to include a grill in your building plans. Today's gas fireplaces also provide immediate ignition and temperature monitoring as well as a more natural look than in years past.

Calculate Cost – Fireplace installation and ongoing costs range from several hundreds to multiple thousands of dollars. At the low end are electrical-powered, vent-less fireplaces, which can be either gas or gel. Those magnificent, roaring, open-hearth wood-burners can go above $20,000 and will require a mason's expertise. Determine your budget and calculate ongoing expenses such as maintenance, propane or wood. You will also want to consider purchasing an annual service contract with a professional fireplace and chimney inspector or cleaner. If you plan on selling your home, a fireplace may add value and help up the price by several thousand dollars, helping to recoup your initial output.

The Wood-Burning Stove Option – If added warmth is a priority and you prefer to work with a renewable resource like wood, you might wish to consider adding a wood-burning stove to your home instead. While lacking the inherent charm of a fireplace, wood-burning stoves are highly controllable and efficient, and come in a wide range of styles and sizes able to provide enough heat to warm a very large area or even an entire home.

Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at

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