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Ellie Kravets' Blog

By Ellie Kravets, Realtor, ABR | Agent in San Francisco, CA

Homeowners' Advice: Adding a Fireplace

With winter coming, the idea of snuggling around a cozy fire with a good book, your favorite lap robe, and a glass of wine is irresistible.

There's just one problem - you don't have a fireplace.

But never fear - you have plenty of options. It's just a matter of finding the right product for your space and your budget.

Before you install a fireplace

Anything that produces smoke is under heavy regulation today, so the first thing you must do is find out if there are any city, HOA or homeowner's insurance rules against your having a fireplace.

Some cities in the west, for example, don't allow wood-burning fireplaces, but you can have a gas-log fireplace. However, you may need a building permit to install a new gas line, so it's best to find out before you start work.

Some condominium associations don't allow you to change the exterior of your building by adding a chimney, or even to add an outside vent. But you may be able to install a ventless gas-log fireplace.

Some insurance companies won't pay for fire damage unless your fireplace is professionally installed, so check your homeowner's insurance policy.

Types of fireplaces

Few winter delights beat the crackling sound and acrid aromas of a wood-burning fire. On the flip side, you have to have a place to store wood, which can invite critters and insects, and haul it in from the cold and wet just when you want to stay warm and dry. Lastly, the ashes don't smell nearly as good as the wood, and they have to be cleaned out before you can use the fireplace again.

A gas-log fireplace doesn't have the ambiance of a wood-burning fire, but it can be very appealing nonetheless. It has a hearth and vents outside, and you get to choose the look of your logs, right down to how burned they look and how they are stacked and lay against each other. You can even click it on and off with a remote.

Wood-burning or vented gas-log fireplaces must be vented to the outside through a wall or chimney. You must have plenty of room for a firebox, chimney, hearth and mantle.

Ventless gas logs that burn so hot, they combust nearly all the fuel they use, leaving little carbon monoxide or soot. They can be installed anywhere, but safety is paramount. Make sure there's plenty of ventilation from a window, and keep combustibles far away.

If having enough room is an issue, you can choose a plugless, ventless freestanding fireplaces that use gel fuel to achieve a true crackling flame effect. These are available as indoor, outdoor, or portable units, and the cans of gel burn for about two to three hours.

Another option is an electric fireplace. These fireplaces plug into an electric outlet, making them portable as well. However, be sure the outlet has the correct amperage and voltage to run the appliance.

The mantle and surround can be one of the most attractive focal points of any room, but proportion is important. Building and ventilation codes will require that your fireplace is proportionate to the space it's going to heat. Otherwise, the build-up of toxic fumes could be dangerous.

If you're not sure what you want to do, talk to a fireplace professional. To get connected to one, try this handy questionnaire from HomeAdvisor.

Written by Blanche Evans

Comments

By Bev West,  Mon Oct 28 2013, 12:22
Nice article.
By David & Samuel Rifkin,  Tue Nov 12 2013, 13:22
Thanks for this great information.

Samuel Rifkin

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