If you are living anywhere north east-ish in North America, you have likely been hibernating (or wishing you were) because it has been FRIGID cold here. Like -45 degrees with the wind chill cold. Like why do I live where the air hurts my skin cold. All sarcasm and hyperbole aside, the freezing temperatures can be very dangerous so I do pray you and your loved ones have all been safe and warm this weekend.
In light of all this cold talk, I thought I would share some important considerations regarding adding a fireplace to your home. A fireplace provides ambient light, physical warmth and such a cozy feeling that I argue they are essential in every home. Whether you are planning a major reno or want to add one into an already finished space, here are some things to keep in mind:
1. GAS vs. ELECTRIC vs. ETHANOL CANISTERS
There are three major kinds of fireplaces sold on the market (for simplicity sake I am taking wood burning out of this discussion).
A gas fireplace runs on natural gas. Similar to a gas range in the kitchen, it's instant heat and an actual fire flame. So you go from zero to 172 degrees in seconds. It's efficient, it's lowest cost (post installation) of them all, and it's awesome. It is always my first recommendation to clients where appropriate.
Electric models you hang and plug in and they provide heat via a fan. The "flame" is fake, and they are big time energy $$$ suckers. BIG TIME. Where space or venting prove to be problematic they can be an adequate alternative but I prefer gas when possible.
Lastly there are ethanol canisters that you insert into a fireplace cavity that provide an actual flame. The flame from personal experience isn't exactly roaring and the heat output isn't as much as gas and pretty expensive in the long run. It's a solution if you want the ambiance of a flame but aren't picky about the heat output.
The kind of fireplace you go with is largely impacted by space which leads me to…
2. VENTING & INSTALLATION RESTRICTIONS
For electric fireplaces you don't need to worry about venting and less about space- this is one great advantage to them. Some electric fireplaces are super skinny, very slim and quite attractive like this one in the Delta Chelsea Ottawa. You should be careful that you don't install the thing too close to a curtain or something that can combust as the fan on the unit pushes hot air out in a fairly focused direction. For gas there are several considerations to consider.
If you are planning a custom home renovation your credible designer, builder, HVAC technician will worry about this for you. But if you're planning on adding one to an already finished space here's what you need to know.
The same way you need a fan in the kitchen to pull all the bad fumes out of the home when you are cooking, same applies to gas fireplaces.
For a gas fireplace being installed to a non exterior wall (meaning it's in the middle of the house for example), you have to allow for the cylinder venting which takes up about 12" of space once framing is considered- so if you are adding a fireplace into an already finished space you will need to consider this space footprint in your planning. You may have to consider a bulkhead on the ceiling or wall if the venting has to travel far to an exterior wall. Confirm all measurements and venting pathways with your contractor and licensed HVAC team.
In my small living room I was really concerned about the space a gas fireplace would take up (as I don't have space to lose!) but the beauty and functional purpose of a fireplace won out for me. Speaking of beauty…
3. FIREPLACE CLADDING
There are a multitude of materials you can use to clad a fireplace- natural stone probably being the most popular in my opinion. What you need to ensure is that you follow your fireplace's installation guide on how far to place combustible materials (like a wood mantel for example) away from the flame in the case of gas. Another consideration is that if you are putting a TV above your fireplace you want to deflect the heat away either by using a mantel or recessing the fireplace into the fireplace structure. Again, ensure you consult installation guidelines carefully to ensure you don't void product warranties and of course ensure safety.
You can really create a gorgeous focal point in a space. In the photo above we used Erth Coverings Silver Fox large strips.
My fireplace is clad in Paloform concrete tiles which I have been literally dreaming about for 5 years so I am so excited to finally have them in my home : ) If your style is modern these simple tiles will likely be up your alley.
In my home with 4 small kids safety is of course a big priority. It has become a huge priority too for the regulation boards in both the US and Canada. If you did not know, there is a new US and Canadian safety mandate for all gas fireplaces to now include a safety screen after too many children got burned. On my model, the Marquis Infinite, the screen is basically invisible due to its seamless design- which from a design point of view for me is amazing.
If you need an after market screen consider Anvil Fireside– beautiful handcrafted iron designs made in Canada as pictured above.
5. SEE THROUGH vs. NON SEE THROUGH
I am a big fan of the see through fireplace like this one from Marquis. Where space is a luxury, you can create a really fun focal point and open sight lines. The openness of a see through fireplace is your major consideration factor. Make sure whatever is on the other side of the fireplace is attractive, and does not need to be private.
I LOVE my fireplace and the thing is on daily at our house- we have been particularly thankful for it during this very frigid cold spell. I hope these tips are helpful- designer / builder friends I would love your opinion too- have I missed anything crucial? Love to know in the comments below!