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Fireplace Options For Your Home

If you’re considering adding a fireplace to your home or restoring an existing fireplace, the options may seem overwhelming. There are many things to consider, like aesthetic goals, ambiance, and sustainability. Luckily, we've assembled this essential guide on fireplaces to help you decide what’s right for you.

February 22, 2024

Fireplaces create a wonderful mood and a place to gather around. They’ve been the center of a home for ages. Though their origins are utilitarian, as the need to use fireplaces for actual cooking and heating has changed, they've moved into items we want rather than ones we need. And as fireplace technology and smart home technology have changed, the options for what types of fireplaces we can have in our homes has changed, too.

When we look at the design of a home, we consider a lot of different factors for the best solution. And this remains true for fireplaces. Here are some of the things that a good design team will help navigate as you explore the best design option for a fireplace for your space.

What is the fireplace for?

While a fireplace now is probably not for cooking or heating (although it can be, see below for more), the intent of a fireplace can help set the mood. Is it a fireplace that anchors a living room and provides a cozy place to gather around? Is it an outdoor firepit that also helps create life in an outdoor space? Is it for atmosphere in a primary suite? Why you’re picking a or updating your fireplace and for what purpose can impact what option you might want to choose.

What kind of fireplace options are there?

There are a few different types of fireplaces, all with pros and cons. You have classic wood burning fireplaces, gas fireplaces, electric fireplaces, and even biofuel fireplaces. Understanding the overall design goal of the project helps us narrow down what options make the most sense.

Wood Burning Fireplaces

Wood burning fireplaces are classic. Generally, they offer the opportunity to create a larger firebox than any other type of unit. They are also deeply unsustainable, contribute to poor air quality, and can remove more heat than they generate.

Authenticity can certainly come at a price, and constructing wood burning fireplaces can be expensive. It is also likely that more progressive building codes will eventually phase wood burning fireplaces out, making them unavailable as an option.

If you go down the route of a wood burning fireplace, there are many design options and much more flexibility in terms of aesthetics. These can also be beautiful in an outdoor room or in a firepit setting. Like any wood burning fireplace, outdoor options require time and tending.

Gas Fireplaces

Gas fireplaces are another popular option. They come in two types: retrofits and self-contained appliances.

Retrofits start an existing or new wood burning chimney. They don't require glass fronts and, if you remove the gas log set, you can also continue to burn wood in the fireplace. For this reason, they’re as equally inefficient as wood burning fireplaces at keeping heat inside. Still, a gas retrofit might be a good option if you want the convenience of turning on a gas fireplace but the design options of a wood one.

The other category are self-contained appliances with a gas log set within. These are far more energy efficient than a gas retrofit but are still fueled by a non-sustainable source. Design options for gas fireplace inserts are quite varied and can suit traditional to modern interiors equally well. They can also be some of the ugliest things for sale. If you choose a self-contained gas fireplace, a careful understanding of the options available is needed to ensure you find fit – you don’t want it to look cheap and dated!

Electric Fireplaces

Electric fireplaces have had a surge in popularity lately because they are more sustainable than gas and wood burning options. They’ve also come a long way in their design and are better looking than they used to be. They also, unfortunately, still have a long way to go on that front. Despite their less-than-realistic fire look, they are far more sustainable than other options and almost always more affordable. Plus, they can work in spaces where a gas or wood fireplace won’t.

Finding an electric fireplace that is a great design solution for a project can be challenging (which might be an understatement) so going into a conversation with your designer understanding the pros and cons of this option is key.

Biofuel Fireplaces

The final option is biofuel fireplaces. These fires are fueled by relatively eco-friendly bio-ethanol fuel made from plants. The fuel powers a flame for a limited amount of time with no smoke. It also has to be purchased as it runs out (like you might with propane) because you can’t get a direct line hookup of biofuel to your home. Still, it can be a good solution for folks who want a real fire created with a more sustainable fuel option. Plus, more and more fireboxes are coming on the market, which means options are expanding.

What features do you want in a fireplace?

All of the options above have different things to take into consideration when it comes to a design solution that works for your project. In looking at your holistic remodel, a designer can help determine what fireplace features make the most sense for you.

Here are some questions to ask yourself and discuss with your designer when the time comes.

  • Do you want your fireplace to be controlled by remote?
  • Will your fireplace integrate into a smart home system?
  • How important is sustainability to your project?
  • What sound, smell, and visual cues from a classic wood fireplace are important to you?
  • How big of a fireplace is appropriate for your space?
  • Do you want your fireplace to produce heat or just ambiance? A super-hot fire can be useful in a big space and overwhelming in a small one.
  • Do you want to cook in your fireplace? An outdoor pizza oven is a great example of this.

Fireplaces are a complicated design element which, if designed correctly, can be something you enjoy for generations to come. There is a reason why people love them so much! We design a lot of fireplaces here at Board & Vellum and know how to help guide you to the best fireplace solution, all while answering the myriad questions that come up in the design process. We’re always happy to help you and advocate for the best design solution!

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Fireplace Options For Your Home

If you’re considering adding a fireplace to your home or restoring an existing fireplace, the options may seem overwhelming. There are many things to consider, like aesthetic goals, ambiance, and sustainability. Luckily, we've assembled this essential guide on fireplaces to help you decide what’s right for you.

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