Even nowadays, many people consider choosing the right fireplace to be a luxurious extra for their homes, and something optional that improves the coziness and overall ambiance of their homes.
However, there are homes where this apparently decorative wood burner has the vital function of making the place warmer, and giving it that long-desired homey atmosphere in a practical and cost effective way.
Therefore, fireplaces ought to be both beautiful and functional, so that investing in one will actually be a reasonable idea.
Image source: Knudson Interiors
But how to choose the right fireplace for your home without spending too much? Let us share few strategies that bring up the best results:
The basic question: wood, electricity, or gas?
Image source: Shirley Meisels
Your fireplace design and style is completely dependent on the fuel you’ve decided to burn, so tackle the question before you’ve even considered the idea of installing a fireplace.
For instance, burning wood will be an option only for chimney breast properties, the same as the traditional gas fireplaces and stoves, but you have to make sure the chimney has been cleaned and inspected for suitability and safety.
Image source: Sigmar
Most up-to-date homes are built up without chimneys, but that doesn’t completely eliminate your possibility to install one. You may not be able to burn wood, but with a well-balanced and professional fuel system, gas won’t be an issue.
Even wood can be considered with twin wall pipes, or any similar outlet or stove you can afford on a suitable price.
Beautiful vs. functional
Image source: Acucraft Fireplaces
The second big dilemma is whether to go for a beautiful and decorative fireplace that will add depth to your place, or lean towards function to choose something that can actually warm you up, and still look aesthetically pleasing. Depending on the are you live in, we recommend you to prefer function, and choose an energy efficient piece that can respond to both purposes.
Next challenge: Looks
Image source: Slifer Designs
There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all fireplace, since everyone has different preferences and needs.
Some of us would opt for a modern, chic glass beads and clean, geometric forms to contrast the logs, while others would keep on with the natural setting, and install a den fireplace with brass and dark accents to replicate the fireplace theme.
Here are some of the most common accessories to be considered when installing a fireplace (note that some of them are purely decorative, while others are practical too):
- A mantel: Mantels are originally not intended to be attached to fireplaces, but they can easily be prefabricated to match the setting.
Image source: Studio Marcelo Brito
The good thing about them is that they can be found with all sorts of materials and finishes, placed on the wall or in the corner, or absolutely unique and designed to match a specific type of fireplace.
Instead of purchasing a pre-made one, we recommend you to built one on site once you have a clear idea of how you want your fireplace to look like.
Image source: Oivanki Photography
- Accessories: Even if most fireplaces are decorated in a similar way, you don’t have to follow the concept, and you can always deviate from the common frames, wooden trims, louvers, and doors.For instance, you can choose a specific and rare material, such as stainless steel, or make an unexpected color choice.
Accentuating, however, should be left for the final phase, because it has a purely decorative function for which it makes no sense to sacrifice basic functionality.
- Firebrick liners: Firebrick liners are often installed on fireplaces, most of the time with classic metal and matte black interiors, with the main purpose to make the fireplace look more beautiful.Many people believe they also have a longevity function, but that’s only because it is more difficult to spot damage on darker than lighter surfaces.
- Blowers: Unlike the above mentioned liners, blowers do have a purpose, and an important one. Once the fireplace is set up and running, blowers spread the heated air around the place, distributing heat in an appropriate manner.Blowers, however, need electricity to function, which is why you should consider installing the fireplace closer to a plug.
An important thing to consider here is that blowers do make a sound, even if that’s nothing compared to vacuum cleaners and similar appliances.
- Remote control: The operation of most modern fireplaces can be controlled remotely; even if the best way is still to use controls located on the very fireplace, or to regulate it manually.Some fireplace controls do nothing but to switch on/off, while other comes with specially developed touch screens and complex programs for thermostatic control.
Which choices do you have?
Image source: Jeff Wilkinson, RA
- An open fireplace: Open fireplaces require an open chimney-base recess, positioned and surrounded depending on your decision. The classic choice in this category is the so-called Inglenooks fireplaces.
- Holes in the wall: This is the classic type of fireplace that doesn’t require expensive mantels or decorative settings. All you’ll have to do is to prepare the place, and install the pebble/ceramic fire basket that will hold the fuel or the logs.
Image source: Charles Cunniffe Architects Aspen
- The all-in-one solution: These solutions stand for every style or design element you’ve decided to implement, be it simple fire baskets or mantel. Hearths are usually not included.
- Hob grates: Hob grates are Georgian and Victorian legacy, a common name for coal burners in casted iron hobs that can also be used for cooking. They are perfect for traditional and rustic settings.
- Register grates: They were first introduced in early 1850, as combinations of fire backs (backplates), grates, moveable fuel plates which adjust the draught, and inner frames.
Choosing the right material: stone, wood, metal, or no material at all?
Image source: Jasmine McClelland Design
Let’s take a look at wood first – this is the perfect material for country-style settings, where a wooden surrounding in needed to soften modern and elaborated designs.
Still, wood is not less popular in modern environments, where fireplaces are usually made of oak and mahogany, or any similar dark nuance that is currently trendy.
Holes in the wall: The timeless, still insanely popular fireplace solution owes a large part of its popularity to the simple and very feasible design, since it accommodates all fire sources, and created a relaxed focal point without investing in additional materials.
Stone: Stone fireplaces are commonly perceived as traditional setting solutions, which doesn’t stop them from being applied in modern and luxurious homes too.
They too date from the Georgian and Victorian era, but have been transformed many times to suit crisp, modern, and minimalist rooms.
Metal: Metal fireplaces used to be very popular in the Edwardian and the Victorian period, which is why stand for a classic, timeless choice even nowadays.
They’re now made of cast iron and stainless steel, ideally enriched with brushed and polished finishes.
Venting: Two inefficient methods to remember
Image source: Sater Design Collection, Inc.
Venting methods are often neglected when installing a fireplace, even if they are probably the most important thing to consider.
What people are afraid of is that ventilation pipes will destroy the look of their fireplace, especially with fuel fireplaces where vent has to be set as close to the fireplace as possible.
The first choice you have to avoid is the so-called ‘dual fuel’, when the vented gas logset is added to wood burning fireplaces.
They produce the most genuine and warm flames, but you should know they have their gas guzzling moments. You have to keep the doors constantly open which means you have to spend more money on maintaining them, and probably use the fireplace only on specific occasions.
The second not that cost-effective solution is the well-known Natural Vent (B vent) method requiring you to specify a log-surrounded area and burn the materials inside.
Obviously, such fireplaces can’t be remotely controlled to burn less o your wood\gas, which can make them very expensive.
Some of them will also require you to keep doors open for the warmth to spread, instead of pointlessly leaving the room through the chimney.