Nowadays, indoor fireplaces are much more than a source of warmth and a means of reducing heating costs. They add unique ambience to the room, enhance its visual attractiveness and create a sense of desired coziness (by the way, the extraordinary potential of an outdoor fireplace is worth exploring as well!).
Just imagine those peaceful evenings when the weather outside is far from encouraging and all you want to do is to nestle down comfortably on the couch, sipping tea and watching the fire. Sounds pleasant, doesn’t it? The good news is that — with careful planning and a sufficient budget — it’s all within your reach. What to consider before building or installing a fireplace in your home? Read on.
This article was written in cooperation with Vitcas — a global manufacturer of best quality refractories and high temperature insulation products.
Choose your type
Before you start wondering how to build a fireplace, make sure you know what type of it will be most suitable for your home and what requirements need to be taken into account in the decision-making process.
Basically, indoor fireplaces can be divided into three main categories: a traditional fireplace, i.e. a wood burning masonry fireplace that probably comes to your mind as a first association with the word “fireplace”, a zero-clearance fireplace or a gas fireplace. Let’s have a look at them separately to better understand all the limitations, difficulties and possibilities that come with each of the types.
Wood burning masonry fireplaces
Wood burning fireplaces are what many people describe as the most impressive-looking ones. Indeed, skillfully-built stone or brick fireplaces, with their majestic masonry chimneys can undoubtedly look spectacular.
Despite the unquestionable charm, building a wood burning fireplace is difficult — disclaimer: it’s hardly a DIY fireplace project — and it costs a lot, not to mention that repairing and maintaining it poses many challenges as well. What’s more, various clean air programs that are being launched these days along with strict rules and regulations may not allow for wood burning in your area, which adds yet another item to the list of drawbacks.
Building a stone or brick fireplace: planning
Although it’s more demanding to build this type of indoor fireplace in an existing home instead of including it in designs for a new house, it certainly can be done.
If traditional fireplaces are still an option you’d like to go for, choose the room in which you want the new addition to be located. Make sure the floor joists are properly reinforced so that they can carry the heavy weight of the whole construction (bear in mind the considerable amount of bricks or stones that are going to be used to erect a fireplace of even a moderate size).
Then, consider all details concerning the dimensions and sizes of different elements of the construction, such as the firebox, the damper opening, and the fireplace chimney, and the minimum distance between combustible materials and the opening of the firebox.
You also need to check your local building code requirements for the most significant aspects of the chimney construction (e.g chimney wall thickness, the minimum chimney height, etc.). It’s advisable to consult all the details with professionals who have both skills and in-depth knowledge of building that are necessary to carry out this kind of undertaking.
This option is both less challenging and less expensive when it comes to the construction work that is supposed to be done in order to install this type of indoor fireplace. Due to the fact that a zero-clearance fireplace has its own insulation, no clearance between the firebox and combustible material is required, which makes it a great project for rooms that do not offer much space. It also doesn’t need a hearth to function properly, plus, it can be a really efficient source of warmth in your home. There are many models available nowadays: you can choose a fireplace burning wood or pellet, or go for a gas-based model or an electric fireplace.
Installing a zero-clearance fireplace: planning
First, do the math in order to buy a fireplace of the correct size. You can do it by adding the measurements of the width and length of your room (in feet) — the result of this calculation equals how big your fireplace opening should be, but in inches (e.g. if the two measurements of your room add up to 25 feet, you will need an opening of at least 25 inches).
Another important aspect is connected to the type of a venting system (except for electrically powered models). The majority of zero-clearance fireplaces are vented through the ceiling by means of a metal tube, but there are models equipped with an external feature that draws air from the outside, which makes them more efficient but, at the same time, affects the location — such models need to be installed on exterior walls.
Gas fireplaces share many benefits with zero-clearance models: they require less invasive construction work, they are less costly, and their design makes them suitable for smaller rooms. What makes them increasingly popular among people concerned with ecological issues and those who value convenience is the fact that they are considered a more environmentally-friendly option than any fireplace that burns wood and that they are much easier to clean.
However, if the pleasing-to-the-ear sound of cheerfully crackling fire is what you seek to listen to on chilly evenings, fireplaces that burn natural gas will not provide you with this experience; the only thing you can get is the illusion of burning logs, which — convincing as it is — can be a visually satisfactory solution.
Installing a gas fireplace: planning
Basic installation requirements, apart from choosing the right size of the firebox, include connecting the unit to the gas supply line (e.g. by situating your fireplace in close proximity to the natural gas line) and providing necessary venting (e.g. through metal tubing or an existing chimney).
Bonus: fireplaces without fire
If, in your home improvement endeavors, you just need a decorative element that won’t produce any heat, but will be a focal point of your room, a fake fireplace (or a faux fireplace) can be an option worth considering. You can boost its authenticity and attractiveness by adding some stone around the fireplace frame, putting some wood logs inside, or displaying interesting belongings on the mantel.
Your fireplace project — final thoughts
alt=”Building a fireplace is a challenging task, but the end result can be worth the effort”No matter which type of a fireplace you would like to have in your home — whether you opt for a traditional solid construction with impressive stone fireplace surround or whether you are inclined to choose one of modern-looking zero-clearance models — some work will definitely need to be done to either install or build a fireplace brick by brick.
It can involve a wide range of activities, such as laying fire bricks or concrete, rendering and plastering, all of which require the most reliable fireplace construction materials that can ensure both an outstanding and a long-lasting effect. That’s precisely what Vitcas products guarantee: they won’t do the job for you, but they will help you do the job right.