Updated on October 2, 2022
If you’ve been thinking about getting a fireplace for your home or updating an existing one, you’ve come to the right place.
We’ve put together a complete buyer’s guide to fireplaces for you. Why do you need one? Well, quite simply, there are so many options when it comes to fireplaces that it can be overwhelming at first.
Having a fireplace in your home is a great way to create a wonderful, warm atmosphere. For many, a fireplace brings them a nostalgic feeling, transporting them to a place of family and friends.
Well, fireplaces have come a long way over the decades. No longer do you only need to rely on the traditional, wood-burning fireplaces of the past. Now you have many options, ranging from gas and electric to gel and ethanol.
We want to walk you through the whole process. We’ll talk about fuel types, styles, and installation. We also want to cover costs as well as talk a bit about fire safety. Browse through our guide below and you will be well on your way to having a wonderful fireplace for your home.
Fireplace Buying Guide
We want to walk you through all of the major decisions that you’ll have to make when buying a fireplace. First we need to figure out what fuel type you want, as well as how you want your fireplace mounted. Then we can move on to the size, style, and materials.
Fireplace Fuel Types
The type of fuel you use for your fireplace may be dictated by what is available in your area. We want to talk about the main options you will encounter with fireplaces: Electric, gel, ethanol, wood, and gas.
1. Electric Fireplace
Electric fireplaces are a popular type of fireplace. Creating warmth by heating inner coils, most of these models come with a fan inside that helps distribute hear throughout your home.
There is no real flame with electric fireplaces, but most have a ‘fake’ flame that ensures that you retain that classic fireplace look. The flickering fake flame sometimes come with a ‘fake’ log as well, giving you even more of that nostalgic fireplace style.
The one we had in our home was great, because we could turn the heat off and leave the flame on, keeping the mood going. Some higher end models come with a remote control so you can increase of decrease the temperature without having to get up.
Electric fireplaces are great if you are on a budget. The cost to operate them is fairly low overall and since they don’t require a venting system, they are cheaper to install. Maintenance costs are lower for these fireplaces and you don’t have to clean them or cop any wood.
Of course, if you have kids, you don’t have to worry about them getting into the flames with this fireplace.
2. Gel Fireplace
You may be wondering what a gel fireplace is. Don’t feel bad, they aren’t as common as many of the other types we’re discussing.
Gel fireplaces are easy to install and all you need is a refill can of gel to refuel them. You don’t need venting or extra electrical wires running to them. Usually, gel fireplaces don’t weigh much so you can mount them on a wall or move them around easily.
The flame is real, only requiring a lighter to get it going. Unfortunately, you won’t get much heat from a gel fireplace. They are mainly items used for a great look.
3. Gas Fireplace
Gas fireplaces are also another popular alternative to wood-burning fireplaces. They are fairly low cost and not hard to install. Often, gas fireplaces can be inserted into existing fireplaces and chimneys.
Not only do they cost less up front, but if you have a gas line going to your home, these fireplaces are highly efficient, so you could have lower heating bills.
You can also find free-standing gas fireplaces that don’t require you to put them into existing fireplace areas. They can go into any room, giving you great warmth and style anywhere.
For a free-standing model, you can get vented type that doesn’t require too much structural change to your home, or you can get a ventless model that comes with many safety features.
For gas fireplaces, you can use natural gas or propane. Natural gas types use the gas line running into your home. If you don”t have a natural gas line, you will have to use a propane tank.
4. Wood-Burning Fireplace
Ah, the wood-burning fireplaces from our childhoods. Well, maybe you didn’t have one, but your’e certainly seen them. Wood is the fuel source humans have been using for thousands of years, and wood-burning fireplaces are classic.
We know you love the sound of the crackling as the wood burns down. The heat is comforting and fire sounds like, well, like it should.
Of course, there is a reason these types of fireplaces are becoming less common. They are expensive to install and let’s not talk about the professional cleaning that is required. Also, you have to either buy or chop the wood.
That being said, these fireplaces aren’t likely to disappear any time soon. They are still popular and we love them.
You can use a wood-burning stove as an alternative. Sure, it’s not a fireplace, but it will heat your home up.
5. Ethanol Fireplace
An ethanol fireplace is similar to the gel fireplaces we discussed above, but the fuel source is liquid bioethanol instead. Most of these fireplaces have a burner that is filled with the bioethanol and can be refilled.
You can adjust the temperature of these fireplaces and it turns on and off easily. This type of fireplace is easy to install, but don’t’ expect to use it as your main heating source. This is more decorative. They are light weight can be mounted many places easily.
Fireplace Mounting Options
So you have a fuel type selected, but now you need to figure out how you want to mount your fireplace. Let’s walk through the main mounting options.
1. Traditional Open-Hearth Fireplace
A traditional open hearth is used for wood-burning fireplaces, but you will see many other types mimic an open hearth.
These are usually made out of stone or brick and built into the wall of your home. You will have a chimney and flue for ventilation.
If you don’t already have one of these in your home and are going to have one installed, plan on spending a good bit of money. This takes restructuring whole areas of the home to install.
2. Wall-Mounted Fireplace
Wall-mounted fireplaces work really well for small homes and apartment, as well as outdoor entertainment areas.
You will find two types of wall-mounted fireplaces. One type requires it to be connected to a chimney and the other type does not. It depends on what kind of fuel source you will use.
You can find many different styles of wall-mounted fireplaces, so there will certainly be one that matches your home decor style.
3. Free-Standing Fireplace
You will find that free-standing fireplaces are great alternatives to an open hearth. Free-standing types can either mimic a traditional style and go on the wall, or they can be like the one in this photo and be in various places in the room.
Depending on the fuel type, you may or may not need to attach to the ceiling or wall for ventilation. For electric, you have a good bit of versatility, but gas free-standing fireplaces will need to stay put once they are installed.
Often, you will see free-standing fireplaces being coupled with entertainment centers so that the TV is mounted above them.
4. Tabletop Fireplace
A tabletop fireplace is a great option if you are going for an aesthetic look for your room. These types can be moved around easily, as they are very light weight.
There are outdoor tabletop fireplaces that do generate a good bit of heat for the people sitting around them, giving you a great option for cool nights. Other options, like the one above, simply look amazing indoors.
5. Hanging Fireplace
Hanging fireplaces really work well if you are going to a really modern vibe in your home. They are pretty unobtrusive and connect to the ceiling with their vent pipe.
6. Built-In Insert Fireplace
If you have a traditional wood-burning fireplace but don’t want to go through the hassle associated with it, you can find many options that insert themselves into the existing space.
You can find an insert that uses electric, gas, gel, or ethanol. All the options simply slide into the traditional fireplace opening. This really lowers the cost to you, as you don’t have to invest in any major construction.
7. Two-Sided Fireplace
We like two-sided fireplaces, as they can serve multiple rooms at once. Many split the dining room and living room, while others, like the one above, are in bedrooms, separating the sitting sleeping space.
Fireplace Design Options
There are many overall design options when it comes to fireplaces, coming in all shapes and sizes. Many different materials are used for fireplaces today.
With style, you are being dictated by the dimensions as well as the materials you want to use. We want to cover some of the basic styles with you.
Think of the image that comes to mind when you think of fireplaces and it’s likely this – a traditional style.
Usually made with stone and brick, these are usually the wood-burning styles. Remember, if you have a traditional wood-burning, you can insert many other types into it.
When we talk about contemporary, we are talking about a look that uses sharp, wel-defined lines. They look newer and look great in modern homes.
You can find a contemporary fireplace in many sizes and made from many materials, but they don’t usually stray too far from a regular fireplace design overall.
Many people will lump modern styles and contemporary styles in the same category, and that’s fine, but we think a modern fireplace goes a bit further. Many times, a modern fireplace will say goodbye to brick and stone and use marble or glass. They become pieces of art, blending with the style of the home well.
The size of your fireplace depends on a few things: fuel type, where you want it, and mounting option.
Three are some small fireplaces out there, but the smaller ones won’t work for most wood-burning options. There are also some really big fireplaces, some that take up entire walls.
You will find that electric and gas fireplaces are smaller, while wood-burning fireplaces and inserts for them are larger.
The material you use for your fireplace will be its defining factor. It is what everyone will see when they look at it. We want to cover some of the most common materials people use to cover their fireplaces.
1. Ledgestone Fireplace
Ledgestone styles use small strips of stone to create a wonderful look. It brings a natural element while still maintaining order.
2. Fieldstone Fireplace
Fieldstone styles are more natural looking. Often, it seems like the stones were just found outside (in the field) and piled around the fire. These are great for a more rustic style.
3. Brick and Wood Fireplace
A traditional brick covered fireplace with a hardwood mantel is a classic look. It is hard to go wrong with this style.
4. Concrete Fireplace
A concrete style fireplace brings a more modern look to the whole area, and will work well in newer homes. If you have a sharp, contemporary vibe in your home, this will really fit in.
5. Plaster Fireplace
Plaster fireplaces really give a fireplace a Southwest vibe, taking a construction common in Native American and Mexican cultures.
6. Metal Fireplace
Depending on what look you want, a metal fireplace can work for many styles. We’ve seen them mimic a rustic traditional style along with a contemporary one like you see in the photo.
7. Marble Fireplace
A marble fireplace is the way to go if you are looking for an elegant style for your room. It is classy and luxurious.
Your mantel is the part of the fireplace that is decorative, but can be functional as well. Some hold decor and others hold TVs. Some fireplaces don’t have them, but you need to be aware of some things before you choose your mantel.
There are guideline for mantels that go around wood-burning stoves. You need a minimum of six inches between the mantel and firebox, and for every 1/8 inch the mantel protrudes, you need an additional inch.
A mantel can expand the overall size of your fireplace area, so choose wisely. You want something that matches the overall style of your room.
Fireplace Chimney and Flue
A traditional chimney and flue are only require when you have a traditional wood-burning fireplace. Other types do require venting, but not at the same expense of installing a chimney and flue.
You will find three types:
1. Masonry Chimney – constructed from brick or stone and paired with a tin-lined flue.
2. Reinforced Concrete Chimney – in older hones, prone to cracking and no longer used.
3. Metal-Lined Flue – similar to what you find on a gas fireplace and double walled to vent smoke out.
How much heat do you need from your fireplace? Larger rooms or homes will need to have a fireplace that produces a lot of heat, so some fuel types and fireplace types may not work.
Is the fireplace your sole heating source or will it work in conjunction with a central heat source?
Depending on what you want and whether or not you already have a fireplace in your home, installation can take no time at all or up to weeks if you have to remodel for a new wood-burning fireplace.
For free-standing models, like electric fireplaces, three is no installation. A gas fireplace will have to be connected to the gas line, but if you don’t have one, having one installed will be more expensive.
Room and Location
What room will your fireplace be in?
Keep in mind that wood-burning fireplaces will need to be located near exterior wals, while other types work well on interior walls. Free-standing models can be moved around, giving you a range of options.
We know living rooms are a common are for a fireplace, so these may require more heat because a living room is usually larger. Many people want a fireplace in their bedroom, but these fireplaces may not need to be as large.
IF you want a fireplace outdoors, you can choose from all of the options we’ve listed. It just depends on how big or small you want it.
Any time you are dealing with fire, you need to be careful. Make sure installation is done professionally. The last thing you want is your fireplace putting yo, your family, and your home in danger.
Always be aware of safety for kids and pets. A traditional open hearth fireplace can be easy to get into, so you may want to invest in a screen or gate.
If you have a wood-burning fireplace, it needs to be cleaned professionally. The chimney and flue can get backed up and create a smoke and fire hazard.
If you are using a gas fireplace, ensure the gas line is connected properly. There are oxygen-depletion sensors that can be used with gas fireplaces that automatically turn the gas off if too much carbon monoxide builds up.
Always have a carbon monoxide detector in your home.
Cost and Budget
How much you spend on a fireplace is entirely up to you. Know what kind of budget you have and start shopping.
For smaller options, you can get a fireplace for a few hundred dollars. For larger options, you can end up spending more than $10 thousand, especially if you have to remodel your home.
Most electric, gas, gel, and ethanol range between $500 – $2,500, and you will find that free-standing units are cheaper than built-in inserts.
Remember, if you have to pay for installation, the costs will rise. Also, cleaning and inspecting wood-burning and gas fireplaces will cost you money each year.