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Choosing A Fireplace

A fireplace is in the top ten list of wants for home buyers. Before you decide on adding a fireplace to your home, there are a number of decisions you will have to make.

Wood vs Gas: There is nothing like the heat from a wood fireplace, and purists will agree a gas flame cannot hold a candle to a crackling wood fire.
However, that does not take into consideration the hassle of gathering or buying wood, which can be very expensive; not to mention the mess or the storage issues. Gas direct vent fireplaces are virtually smoke free and can be less expensive to use than conventional wood. There are also units that burn pellets, coal, or alcohol and others are simply electric heaters designed to look like a fireplace.

When selecting your fireplace, you need to determine what your needs are:
Is heating your home an issue or will the fireplace be used for aesthetic reasons?
Where will it be located? Todayís units can take up a whole wall or be nestled into a corner. They can be open on two sides to accommodate two rooms or act as a divider. You donít need a chimney if you are putting the fireplace on an outside wall. Direct venting fireplaces are connected to the outside by vents which provide all the air needed without drawing it from the inside of your home. Consult your local building codes and contractors to ensure the proper ventilation for the type of fireplace or stove you choose.

What is your budget? A stone or marble fireplace can be very costly; but there are companies that manufacture cultured stone. Cultured stone looks and feels like real rock, but is flat on one side and is easier to install yourself. It comes in a variety of colors and styles. Another inexpensive alternative is using tile with a wood mantle. Slate and limestone are other options for a beautiful fireplace front. And of course, there is always brick or adobe for a classic look.

Fireplace basics: There are two types of heat conductors in fireplaces; radiant and convective. Radiant heat is the transfer of heat to objects in a room. Radiant heat fireplaces donít heat the air space between the objects, just the objects themselves. Fireplaces made with heat conducting materials, such as brick, ceramic tile, stone, or adobe produce radiant heat. Additional heat is added to the room because these material soak up and store the heat, slowly releasing it into the room as radiant heat. Conventional open hearth fireplaces, with no air vents, are radiant heaters. Open hearth radiant fireplaces alone are inefficient as heat producers because 90% of the heat goes up the chimney. Radiant cast iron stoves, on the other hand, can be very efficient heaters, as the cast iron stores and releases the heat.

Convective heat is created by heating the air and circulating it around a room. Convective fireplaces and stoves typically have 2 or 3 walls around the firebox. Cool air is drawn into these areas by vents and circulated around the firebox. The warm air is then recirculated into the home through vents above the firebox. These models produce the same amount of heat as radiant models, but are more efficient because they circulate the heated air with fans. Most gas fireplaces today use convective heat.

Foundation is also an important consideration. If you are planning on a stone fireplace, you need to make sure it has enough reinforcement to support it. This should be determined by your local codes and your contractor.
Buy some books at your local home store for ideas. The possibilities are endless with todayís technology. Use your imagination and create a fireplace that showcases your personality and lifestyle.


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