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The 6 Types of Fireplaces That You Need to Know

Fireplaces act as great focal points to add character to a space. Here are six types to explore for your next new build home. Keep in mind that the myriad options available could leave you spoiled for choice, so I strongly recommend using an interior designer to determine the best options for your space.

1. Wood-Burning Fireplace

Wood-burning fireplaces often feature in bedtime storybooks and traditional homes built in the last century. They use wood logs as fodder, providing a heartwarming, unmistakable “hygge” or cozy quality, often with an open masonry concept and producing a nice crackling sound. However, open masonry fireplaces are inefficient, create a lot of smoke, are not eco-friendly, and require a chimney. Adding wood fireplace inserts – sealed fireboxes placed inside an open masonry fireplace – can greatly improve the heating efficiency. Many come with gas starters too, great for giving newer homes a traditional look. 

Pros: Smells nice/outdoorsy, looks beautiful, feels natural, has a romantic crackle, and is interactive (adding logs to the fire).

Cons: Can get dirty with lots of ashes to clean, requires maintenance, can create poor air quality in the home, can start a home fire (when embers fall outside), can damage wood floors and rugs, requires abundant firewood, requires annual chimney sweeping, adds to pollution, not eco-friendly.

Costs: Can be expensive to install, depending on the size and style, but operating costs are minimal if you have enough stock of firewood. Related costs include annual chimney inspection, maintenance, and cleaning.

2. Electric Fireplace

Electric fireplaces can be installed anywhere by simply plugging them into a wall socket. They can be switched on and off with ease, come in various sizes and shapes, and are easy to clean. They do not come with the risks of a naked flame or dangerous fumes. The latest systems use technology to create the illusion of real flames, which can be adjusted. They don’t provide the same amount of heat as a gas fireplace or the old-world charm of a wood-burning fireplace.

Pros: Perfectly clean, very low maintenance, easy on/off switch, safer than other options, better for air quality than other options.

Cons: Not as attractive as a wood-burning fireplace, no natural look or sounds. 

Costs: Among the most cost-effective for initial purchase, usually under $1000, with many lower-cost options available at around $300. Requires ongoing electricity charges.

3. Gas Fireplace

Gas fireplaces offer a very clean burn with natural gas or propane. Newer systems can help keep most of the heat in the room. They are effortless to use with the flip of a switch or remote control and don’t require the cleaning of a wood-burning fireplace. Ventless systems don’t even require a chimney. Gas fireplaces don’t have the aesthetic appeal of a crackling flame and may emit an unpleasant gas odor that can kill the romantic vibes! However, cosmetic additions such as glass or ceramic logs that mimic the look of a wood-burning fireplace are currently in vogue.

Pros: Easy on/off switch, many of the visual benefits of a wood-burning fireplace without the ashes, cleaning, and maintenance.

Cons: No wood-burning sounds, unfortunately.

Costs: Initial investment varies based on the style and size and whether it would require installing a new gas pipeline. Additional costs include a carbon monoxide detector, annual inspection, maintenance, and cleaning.

4. Fire Pits

Fire pits are great for large outdoor gatherings during the colder months. They provide a place to gather and talk while enjoying the warmth and mesmerizing beauty (visual, heat, and sound) of burning wood, but they require fire starting skills. Smokeless fire pits radiate heat from a hot base.

Pros: Minimal clean up, no chimney to sweep.

Cons: Requires fire starting skills, adds to pollution.

Costs: Simple fire pits cost less than $100. You can also get creative and build one yourself for free!

5. Outdoor Fireplaces

Outdoor fireplaces are great for creating fun, happy vibes during family get-togethers or intimate moments with a special one. They may burn wood or use gas. The usual air-quality concerns of wood burning are less prevalent outdoors. Outdoor fireplaces can be positioned carefully to block prevailing winds to prevent heat loss.

Pros: Aesthetic appeal, creates natural sounds, styling options include brick and stone.

Cons: More expensive than fire pits, adds to pollution, needs lots of wood, may require a chimney cap to contain sparks on windy days.

Costs: Building costs vary by style and size. A masonry fireplace could cost upward of $1,000. Additional costs include annual inspection, maintenance, and cleaning.

6. Alternative-Fuel Fireplaces

Two new fuel options for fireplaces are now available:

Ethanol fireplaces: These are primarily decorative, as the warmth produced is not enough to heat a house. They come with an enclosed burner for temperature control and are easy to install. They’re small in size and portable, so you can move them to any space you like.

Alcohol gel fireplaces: They don’t produce substantial heat, but they offer a denser flame than an ethanol fireplace. There is no option for adjusting the temperature. They are very easy to install and portable.

Costs: The main expense for both types is fuel. One liter/quart of bioethanol costs roughly $10 (approximate cost only) and can burn for about four hours. One 13-ounce ready-to-use canister of alcohol gel costs about $3 (approximate cost only) and will burn for about three hours.

The Art of Staying Cozy

Fireplaces have an enchanting feel and are perfect for instantly adding a warm and cozy ambience to any space. When exploring options for your home, it’s best to consult a professional interior designer with knowledge of building and safety codes before choosing and installing a fireplace.

Ready to cozy up your home? For more exciting ideas, read my blog post on the hottest fireplace trends of 2022!