What are the Different Types of Fireplaces and Their Applications?
Where to Begin with Your Fireplace Project
It can seem like a daunting task to install a fireplace. With so many different options on the market, it can be difficult to decide which option is the correct one for your home or business. We’ve put together this helpful guide to highlight some of the major considerations you’ll need to make before purchasing.
What to Consider Before Starting Your Build
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for installing a fireplace. The type of fireplace you select, the location in your home, and cost considerations will all factor into deciding which model offers the correct fit for your installation. Before you begin your project, be sure to understand all technical specifications of your fireplace as well as any applicable local codes. Above all else, read your product manual.
Here are some of the most important factors to consider when building your fireplace.
Fireplace Fuel Type
There are three primary fuel types to choose from when beginning a fireplace project. Each option has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Electric fireplaces are a newer market than either wood-burning or gas fireplaces. Of the three primary options, electric fireplaces offer the most “plug-and-play” experience. In the case of wall-mount units, installation is almost as easy as hanging a TV.
Though built-in electric fireplaces and fireplace inserts will require proper framing and clearances, no special venting is required in most cases. This installation flexibility makes electric fireplaces a popular option for those looking to add a fireplace to their home with the least amount of hassle. Though some of the heating capabilities and realism are sacrificed when compared to wood-burning and gas fireplaces, these problems can be mitigated by selecting a higher-end unit with an integrated heater and realistic flame presentation.
Electric Fireplace Highlights
- Easiest fireplace option to install; Many units offer a “plug-and-play” design
- No special venting required, allowing for more flexible installation options
- Lower heat output and less realistic flame appearance versus wood or gas
Wood-burning fireplaces and stoves have existed for centuries for good reason. In addition to an unmatched flame presentation, these units offer exceptional heat output. These heating capabilities make wood-burning appliances an excellent option for homes in areas experiencing colder temperatures during the year.
Wood-burning fireplaces require special venting to ensure safety and performance. These units must be vented vertically. Wood fireplaces and stoves have specific venting requirements depending on the manufacturer of the fireplace as well as the model of the wood-burning unit. Venting components are NOT universal. Even if an existing chimney or venting componentry is in place, a new wood-burning fireplace may require different chimney pipe components.
Always refer to a product manual before purchasing venting components in order to ensure compatibility.
Wood Fireplace Highlights
- Exceptional heat output makes these appliances a viable heating option
- Unmatched flame appearance—real logs burn like real logs
- Require more maintenance due to ash and soot; Special venting is required
Gas appliances offer another alternative to wood-burning and electric fireplaces. These units still offer an impressive flame appearance without the mess associated with wood. In addition, these fireplaces can still produce an impressive amount of heat, which makes them another viable option for heating. Gas fireplaces can be further categorized as either vented or vent-free/ventless units.
As their name states, vent-free fireplaces do not require special venting due to the relatively clean-burning nature of their design. While this may seem like an attractive option for those looking to add a gas fireplace to their home without extensive remodeling, there are several important facts to consider when choosing a vent-free fireplace.
One downside of a vent-free fireplace is that they can produce a gas odor when the burner is in use. Also, vent-free gas fireplaces naturally deplete oxygen in a room, which is why these units include oxygen sensors so as to not reduce the oxygen level below a dangerous threshold. However, by reducing ambient oxygen, vent-free fireplaces can make the room feel dry. It’s also worth noting, vent-free gas appliances are not permissible in all areas, so be sure to check your local codes and regulations.
Vented fireplaces offer a much more realistic appearance than their vent-free counterparts. These fireplaces also operate without the downsides of vent-free systems like moisture, odor, and oxygen depletion.
In the past, Natural Vented or “B-Vent” fireplaces were popular. Today, however, most fireplaces are known as direct vent systems. These direct vent systems can be vented outdoors horizontally through an exterior wall or vertically through a roof depending on the specific installation. These fireplaces work by pulling exterior air into the firebox, using it to aid combustion, and then venting the exhaust back into the exterior. These units are completely sealed in order to achieve this and are therefore extremely energy efficient—a great to save money on utility costs.
Just like wood-burning fireplaces, vented gas fireplace venting components are NOT universal. In order to determine the venting requirements of your fireplace, refer to your owner’s manual before installing.
Gas Fireplace Highlights
- Efficient heat output and realistic flame performance
- Available in both vented and vent-free styles for more installation options
- Vented units must use the proper venting components specified by the product manual
Electric, gas, and wood-burning appliances are all available in different build styles to suit specific installation scenarios. While each unit offers its own pros and cons, there is no “best” option—each installation will dictate the needs of the space.
Freestanding Fireplaces and Stoves
One of the biggest benefits of a freestanding fireplace or stove is the flexibility of its installation options. Due to the way these units are vented, they can be placed in nearly any area so long as proper ventilation is run. Unlike inserts and built-in units requiring adequate wall space for framing, these units can sit just about anywhere if clearances from combustible materials are met.
Fireplace inserts differ from built-in fireplaces in that they must be installed in an existing operational fireplace—like a masonry fireplace. These fireplaces require a chimney system inserted within an existing chimney.
For more specific requirements, refer to applicable fireplace insert product manuals.
Built-in fireplaces offer a complete manufactured unit capable of being installed into a framed enclosure, mantel unit, or wall space. For venting purposes, a built-in fireplace requires a dedicated chimney or vent system within several inches of combustible materials to ensure safe operation. This venting can be run through an exterior wall or into an existing chimney with proper compatible components.
Electric fireplaces can also be built into a wall or mantel. The primary difference between electrics and other built-in fireplaces is the lack of venting requirements for electric fireplace units. All venting for an electric fireplace will be within the unit itself, and no special venting components will need to be purchased.
These fireplaces can be hung on a wall like a television, making them an excellent option for a low hassle installation. Many wall-mount fireplaces can also be built into the wall fully or partially recessed for a lower profile appearance, but this will vary by model. See an owner’s manual for more specific fireplace mounting information.
In addition to the previously mentioned considerations, certain installations may have other factors involved when adding a fireplace. Although these details may not be as important to the actual build, you’ll want to address each to ensure your finished fireplace is one you’ll continue to enjoy for years to come.
Be sure to take fireplace size into account when designing a fireplace installation for your room. Not only will a unit too large or too small detract from the appearance of the room, but it may also perform poorly. A fireplace too large for a room may put off too much heat to be comfortable, while a fireplace too small could leave a room cold and drafty.
When beginning your project, be sure to research heating recommendations for your space. You may also want to mock-up a fireplace design within your room to determine general size requirements in addition to the exact measurements you’ll need for your build.
Fireplaces come in all shapes and styles and two installations will rarely come out the same. In addition to your personal tastes, consider the décor of your room. While a fireplace can theoretically add to the value of a home, this won’t be the case if your installation ends up being an eyesore.
Whether your design tastes skew modern or traditional, there are fireplace units to meet your needs regardless of fuel type. Be sure to check out our full selection of products to find the right model for your home.
Are you looking to make your fireplace as convenient as possible? Consider a fireplace model with remote control options. When researching fireplaces, consult the product manual of the unit you wish to purchase to ensure remote functionality.
Fan and Blower Functionality
A fireplace fan and blower can greatly increase the efficiency and effectiveness of your fireplace unit. These convenient add-ons improve air circulation from a fireplace heater. The resulting output can further decrease your energy bills.
Different fan and blower kit options are available, and not all fireplaces can accept a fireplace blower. Consult a fireplace product manual to review compatibility.
Get Help with Your Fireplace Project
We hope you’ve found our fireplace building guide helpful. Check out our full selection of fireplace products to start planning your installation today. Our team of experts are also available to assist you as necessary. Give us a call at 888-977-6849 to speak with a member of our team. Our customer service team is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central Time to assist you during the building process. You can also contact us via our website.