Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Feeling the Lexington Chill? How about a Fireplace?

It’s the time of year when frightful weather makes many people think, “Man, I would love to warm my feet in front of a fire.” Fireplaces rank high on the most-wanted list for buyers—40% would pay more for one—and installing one can add as much as $12,000 to the value of your home, according to a survey by the National Association of Realtors®. And you don’t necessarily need to knock a hole in your wall and roof for a chimney, either.

Here are the four basic types of fireplaces on the market, along with their pros, cons, and price.

Wood-burning fireplace
Pros: Love the look, feel, and smell of an old-fashioned hearth? Most people do—it’s the stuff of ski lodge dreams. Plus, fuel doesn’t get cheaper than burning wood, especially if you have a lot of trees in your yard. (Alas, we’re not calculating the cost to the environment.)
Cons: Be warned, adding a wood-burning stove or fireplace is the most labor- and price-intensive option. Not only do you need a pro to hack a hole in your house, but keeping up your firewood supply is also a job in itself.

“Cutting, splitting, stacking wood? To me, I love this. To others, it’s a drag,” points out Mark Clement, co-founder of And although traditional fireplaces may feel warm, they’re actually gobbling up heated air, he says. Plus, when they’re not active, cold air can enter your home through the chimney.

Price: About $4,000, and you’ll have to pay a licensed mason $5,000 more to cut a hole in your wall and install a chimney.

Gas-burning fireplace
Pros: There’s no splitting and hauling wood, and less maintenance than wood-burning versions. And “having a switch or a remote control that turns on the fireplace is incredibly convenient,” says David Schneider, former contractor and current interior designer. (We like the sound of “click and done.”)
Cons: That gas you’re burning does cost more money than wood grabbed from your backyard, and you don’t get to enjoy the crackling sound and woodsy smell of burning logs. Still, it’s a great low-maintenance option.

Price: About $2,000, plus $5,000 for installation, including the gas line.

Electric fireplace
Pros: Who doesn’t love a fireplace that you can simply plug in?
“Electric fireplaces require zero construction and installation,” explains Schneider. Plus, since you aren’t actually burning anything, they pose the lowest risk to people’s health.
Cons: You lose out on the feel (read: flames) of a traditional wood-burning or gas unit.
“Most people want to see a real fire,” says Schneider. As such, he gets few requests for electric, although it’s a growing market.

Price: About $400.

Gel fireplace
Pros: Gel fireplaces—the newest type on the block—burn fuel in the form of a tin of alcohol-based goo. And since the emissions are approved by the EPA as safe for household use, the fireplace is ventless, making installation easy, unlike with an electric fireplace, you get a real fire!
Cons: You need to buy the fuel, with each can lasting only 2 to 3 hours.

Price: Around $500, with the gel cans costing around $3 a pop.

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