Mike Holmes on Fireplaces

By Mike Holmes


Photo Credit: Alex Schuldt, The Holmes Group

A fireplace can be a great focal point to any room. It can increase a home’s appeal and transform cold living spaces into cozy retreats. And once cold weather sets in, nothing can remind you more of warmer days gone by than the right fireplace.

Most fireplaces are usually in living rooms, family rooms, dens and finished basements. But lately I’ve been seeing more and more installed in bedrooms, dining rooms and kitchens. They’re great additions that can help decrease heating costs, which is bonus for any homeowner today.

Adding a fireplace can be expensive but it’s possible to add one without breaking the bank. Just like any other home renovation project, the trick is do your research, plan smart and hire the right pro to do the job.

Installing a fireplace isn’t easy. When you’re dealing with a potential explosive and CO2 you need to hire a professional who knows what they’re doing. Connections need to be made with existing systems and structures. You need to make sure the fireplace has proper venting. This isn’t easy work. And if done improperly, it can be very dangerous and lead to hazards that compromise your health and safety.

If you’ve decided that a fireplace is just what your home needs the next step is to decide which one is best for you and your home. The biggest decision is between wood-burning fireplaces and gas fireplaces.

Wood-Burning Fireplaces

There are two main contenders when it comes to wood-burning fireplaces: prefabricated and traditional masonry.

Prefabricated fireplaces are basically different versions of a metal box. There are models out there that offer the highest energy efficiency rating possible. An energy efficient prefabricated wood-burning fireplace costs something like $2,000-$3,000. But a brick fireplace and chimney will run you at least $15,000—but in most cases, much more.

Traditional masonry fireplaces can last centuries, while metal ones will not last more than 25 years. But glass doors and built-in fans increase the efficiency and warm air a prefabricated fireplace pumps out compared to traditional masonry fireplaces. In fact, a traditional masonry fireplace is the least clean-burning and energy efficient fireplace you can choose. Depending on its shape, a masonry fireplace can actually use more heat than it produces—which defeats the whole purpose for a lot of homeowners.

Gas Fireplaces

Gas fireplaces require minimal maintenance. This makes them a great option for homeowners who love the look of a fireplace but hate the extra work of a wood-burning unit. People forget that they’ll have to go outside and get wood, chop it, haul it back home, find the proper storage—plus all the costs that go with it. But once a gas fireplace is properly installed the only thing you need to do is flip the switch when it gets cold.

I have a gas fireplace and I love it. I’m especially a fan of direct vent gas units because of their flexibility—you can install them almost anywhere. Direct vent gas fireplaces don’t require a chimney. Instead they vent horizontally out a sidewall or vertically through the roof. And they draw the air they need for combustion from outside. That means they don’t use your home’s warm air.

If you decide to get a gas fireplace be careful who you hire to do the installation. Make sure you hire a pro with a lot of experience installing these units and who can help you out if there’s ever an issue.

Topics: Holmes Makes it Right, Mike Holmes, Renos & DIY, Renovating, Contractors, Fireplace, Budget, Wood-Burning Fireplace, Gas Fireplace, Masonry, Safety, Family Room, Living Room, Bedroom, Dining Room, Kitchen

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