Different Types of Fireplaces Compared
Fireplaces have served as the focal point for warmth and comfort in homes worldwide for centuries. Regardless if it’s 1821 or 2021, lounging around a warm and cozy fire during a bitter winter night is an unrivaled feeling that transcends multiple generations.
When thinking about fireplaces, you would typically conjure an image of a beautiful open-hearth with large flames and crackling logs. What you’re imagining is the classic wood-burning system. While wood-burning systems are ubiquitous and useful, many don’t realize there are a large variety of other types that will warm, stylize, and add financial value to your home.
What are the Different Kinds of Wood-Burning Fireplaces?
A wood-burning hearth is the standard fireplace used worldwide, as it has been for centuries. It’s what comes to mind when most people envision a beautiful fire in a living room.
Types of wood-burning fireplace systems are:
- Site-Built Masonry
The standard open hearth’s natural beauty and ambiance are next to impossible to replicate in other systems.
While traditional wood fires sound simple, there is far more to this sort of system than meets the eye! There are various types in terms of heat-output, style, and expense.
Site Built Masonry
The traditional fireplace is a site-built hearth. Constructed from masonry, brick, or stone material and consists of a chimney flue. It’s worth repeating, the ambiance and authenticity created by an open-hearth is simply unmatched; however, it can produce substantial amounts of smoke and isn’t always an efficient heat source. If you experience any issues with smoke or draft, please know there are ways to avoid those problems. Call your local certified sweep for assistance.
Open Masonry Hearths in most cases are built on-site, meaning they are carefully handcrafted in your home by skilled masons.
How Much Does it Cost to Build a Masonry Fireplace?
If you plan on building a new brick or stone fireplace in your home, be prepared to spend some serious money. This is especially true if you do not have an existing hearth and chimney.
The overall cost for this type of major project will be high due to home restructuring, materials, and labor requirements. You will also be required to schedule annual inspections and cleanings to keep your system safe from creosote build-up and other hazards.
If you’re interested in learning more about our process to build a complete residential masonry hearth system click the button below.
Prefabricated systems, or what is also sometimes referred to by retailers as, “zero-clearance,” are relatively new alternatives to standard Masonry. The entirety of a system consists of factory-built metal parts that are assembled on the job site.
Prefab has consistently grown in popularity over the years because they have a few distinct advantages over standard masonry.
The labor and materials cost for prefabricated fireplaces is significantly cheaper because the factory-built parts are easier to install. Not only are they simple to install, but they also come in a wide variety of style, size, and shape options to fit your home’s aesthetic.
Prefab models include a blower motor, insulated walls, and metal that improve heating efficiency and air circulation.
While these systems have come a long way, masonry still wins the durability contest. It’s inevitable that the factory-built unit will wear out after heavily repeated use over time. Even more reason why you should always schedule annual cleanings and inspections.
What are the Different Kinds of Gas Fireplaces?
As you could’ve guessed, unlike wood-burning systems, fire is produced in a gas fireplace by … *drum roll* gas! More specifically, natural gas or propane produces flames.
You can experience the heat and look of a wood-burning fire without any of your wood splitting and seasoning, ash mess, and fire maintenance. Turning a knob or flipping a switch will ignite your flames. In many models, you can even control the amount of gas-output, in turn, controlling your heat and flame levels.
As you will see in the different types below, what gas lacks in authenticity and comfort, they make up for in costs, efficiency, and operation.
Direct Vents (DV’s)
Direct Vent Gas Fireplaces have become a trendy choice for homeowners because they are efficient, promote healthy air quality, are easy to operate, and visually pleasing.
Unlike traditional gas fireplaces, direct vents are highly effective because they expel exhaust gases, either vertically or horizontally, outside a home while using outside air instead of inside for combustion.
As a result, DV units have two vents: One draws air outside while the other draws air inside.
Direct vents are customizable and versatile. Various styles improve the aesthetic value and heat-up almost any room in your home.
Cost to Install Direct Vent Systems
Depending on your chosen DV brand, venting specifications and needs, and appliances, direct vent installation costs can range from $4000 to $7500.
Natural gas or propane ventless gas fireplaces, as the name would imply, don’t require any vent or chimney. Vent-free systems designed for heating efficiency and easy installation. These no-vent fires come in different varieties:
- Built-In Vent Free Gas
- Ventless Gas Logs
- Indoor and Outdoor
- Dual Sided Glass Fireplaces
Whether you choose to install one into existing masonry or on a wall in your home office, it’s an attractive, cost-efficient fire that adequately heats a room.
However, there are a few caveats to going ventless.
Considering your gas exhausts aren’t being vented to the outside, you run the risk of allowing carbon monoxide to enter the home.
B-vent or natural vent, gas fireplaces offer the comforting look and feel of a wood-burning system without any of the inconveniences that come with it. B-vents are prefabricated units that are usually open to the room, which means they will utilize inside air for combustion and vent gas exhausts outside through a vertical flue.
A substantial amount of heat produced will escape through the venting; with that in mind, a b-vent is excellent for aesthetic and stylization purposes, not as a primary heat source.
The price of a B-Vent Gas Unit before installation is as low as $229 to $7900 or more depending on the style you choose. This project must never be attempted without a professional.
Learn more about this sort of chimney and its requirements on our chimney types page.
What are the Different Kinds of Electric Fireplaces?
A variety of electric fireplaces are simple to install, easy to operate, and, undoubtedly, the most cost-effective choice for homeowners with diverse chimney system issues.
It doesn’t get more convenient than electric, as all it takes to experience subtle warmth and a beautiful LED flame is clicking a remote-controlled button. Some electric systems even allow you to maintain the burning flame LED display while turning off your heat-output.
There are different types of electric fire systems and each come in a wide range of options:
- Built-In Electric
- Electric Mantels
- TV Stand Fireplace
- Wall Mounted
Say goodbye to worrying about creosote build-up, chimney inspections, and other maintenance; These electric wall-mounted fireplaces require a 110-volt outlet to function. No flues, chimneys, or venting needed. Which makes them a solid choice for homes with no gas line or an existing fireplace hearth.
Whether your current chimney system has various issues that make you unable to safely burn wood or gas. Or perhaps you’re just looking for something reasonably priced a brand new electric unit is an excellent choice for your home.
Electric Fire TV Stand
An electric tv stand is a combination of two essential household items: A TV stand/entertainment center with a built-in fireplace. These factory-built models are great for people who want the fire experience but have little available space in their homes.
These TV stands come in a variety of options from modern to traditionally styled flames. No matter what design you choose the look will add character to any room without the hassles of needing fuel to burn.
Price of Entertainment Centers with Electric Flames
The costs for electric tv stands typically range from $500-$1500 on the high end. No installation required.
Like the electric tv stands, mantel electric fireplaces combine multiple things. This unit, however, tries to recreate the entire vintage wood-burning experience. Not only does it produce flames and heat, but it also has a charming mantel to go with it!
Reconstructing an area of your home for a new chimney system is not necessary; with an electric mantel, you can experience the relaxed and comforting ambiance in any room in your home. For some of our customers who own real fire hearths in their living rooms, they opt for electric bedroom fireplaces for a lovely atmosphere and convenience.
Cost of Electric Mantels
The cost of an electric mantel unit depends on size, type, and style choice; however, the high-end models are typically priced between $1200-$2000. It’s essentially a very expensive, luxury space heater.
Decorative Flame Alternatives
Your more decorative alternative varieties are listed below. They’re purely for convenience and beauty.
Please Note: Here at Full Service Chimney, we do not install nor service these options; however, we hope these choices provide you with inspiration and education!
If you can’t have the fire you want due to household restrictions, there are other modern alternative fuel options:
- Ethanol Flames
- Gel Flames
- Ultrasonic Flames
Ethanol is a modern, intuitive, and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional wood-burning systems. Ethanol is a ventless choice that burns alcohol-based fuel to create a real and smokeless flame. It’s very versatile, as it doesn’t require a chimney or venting to operate.
To light your fire, simply place the ethanol fuel into a container and light it with a long lighter. Limit the burner opening to decrease your flame size and close it completely to turn the flame off.
The ability to pour the fuel source directly into it is unique compared to the others listed. This means you can install it in the middle of a wall, existing masonry, outside, or even the middle of your room. The most common styles are wall-mounted, tabletop, and converted existing masonry, but the creative possibilities are truly endless.
The question that remains is, are ethanol fireplaces safe? Yes, it is safe for your overall health and is eco friendly.
Burning ethanol fuel for three hours emits a similar amount of carbon dioxide as would two candles. We prefer to keep ethanol fires outside since there is always some safety risk involved any time a flame is present.
Safety Warning: Complete combustion produces a translucent blue flame. Ethanol fire burners that produce a yellow flame means incomplete combustion occurs when it’s in use, which causes C.O. Carbon Monoxide.
Ethanol won’t produce much heat, but they are an eco-friendly and cost-effective option that will look stunning in a simplistic and modern home.
However, when compared to the big 3 (electric vs gas vs wood-burning), the ethanol fire experience may be a bit underwhelming for traditional hearth lovers.
Gel and ethanol get lumped together because they have many similarities; however, they are not the same. Yes, they both have alcohol-based fuel sources and mostly for aesthetic purposes, not heating. But the gel fireplace flame doesn’t flicker as often and is considerably thicker.
Gel fireplaces also feature the user-friendly option of putting a 30 oz heat source fueled can, which is easily put into the container, lasting for up to 3 hours. The fuel also features added elements that simulate the crackling sound of a real fire.
Of course, they are easy to install, eco-friendly, and have versatile installation options. Due to so many contrasting sizes and models of both ethanol and gel systems, it isn’t easy to document an accurate price range.
Tabletop Gel Fires are a wonderful addition to a backyard patio and can be purchased for less than $200. These tabletop versions also come with ethanol fuel options.
If you are interested in nothing but achieving the open flame look without worrying about a mess, heat, harmful emissions, etc., this is the one for you! Ultrasonic, or water vapor, fireplaces use LED lights and water mist to create the illusion of an authentic fire.
Ultrasonic waves are vibrated at an inaudible level to produce water vapor. The misty water vapor is emitted into the air and reflects the LED lights, creating an incredibly realistic 3D flame.
Similar to your other alternatives above, this kind requires no venting or chimney. Which, of course, means you can install it anywhere in your home. It’s also safe to touch and produces no harmful toxins or smoke.
How Much Do Ultrasonic Flame Systems Cost?
Again, these come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and installations. Prices can be as little as $45 or as high as $4500. Regardless, this is a unique option to satisfy your craving for flames!
What Fireplace is Best For You?
Many people don’t know what kind of fireplace they have in their home and this page should help clear that up. But perhaps you do not yet own a fireplace and need guidance on how to choose the right fireplace for your home.
Some various types and styles have specific advantages and disadvantages depending on what’s best for your house.
Studies show that over 50% of people prefer a stone surround. And nearly 78% of people own a standard hearth. Meaning the Most Popular Type of Fireplace is a Traditional Masonry Style Hearth. | Source
How Do You Know What Type of Fireplace You Have?
Maybe you already have a fireplace but don’t know what kind it is or how to maintain it. If you’ve compared each section on this page to determine if you have a gas, wood, electric system and you’re still not sure how to identify the sort of system you have in your home then here’s a few more helpful resources:
A fireplace can be much more than a method for heating; if properly installed and cared for, it can transform the way your home looks, feels, and functions. But choosing the right one for your home can be complicated. Some require specialized venting and reconstruction to function correctly, while others just need a standard 110-volt outlet.
Whether you’re ready to convert or install something new or just need an inspection to know where to start, Full Service Chimney is here to help you, the people of Kansas City achieve it.
Call us today at 913-642-6171 for help with your fireplaces annual care plan.