How to Design Your Own Fireplace

Written by janece bass
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How to Design Your Own Fireplace
This ornate, traditional fireplace is in the Embassy of Columbia in Washington DC. (Mr. T in DC:

Fireplaces or wood stoves were once a necessity to stay warm during the harsh, cold winters. While they still serve the purpose of providing warmth, fireplaces also create an intimate ambience that lends itself to a relaxing, cosy or friendly atmosphere. Installing, or even upgrading, a fireplace that matches the style and decor of your home changes the entire look and feel of any room in your home.

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    How to Design Your Own Fireplace

  1. 1

    Determine where the fireplace will go and what size it should be. Knowing that will help you determine what kind of fireplace will function best for you. For example, position a double-sided fireplace in the middle of a wall adjoining two rooms to service both, or a three-sided fireplace at one end of a dividing wall.

  2. 2

    Choose the energy source you want to use. Decide between gas, electric, wood or wood pellets. Gas (or propane) fireplaces are typically lit by flipping a switch, but real wood-burning fireplaces offer the crackling and smell of burning wood reminiscent of the old days.

  3. 3

    Decide which type of unit you want, such as a two or three-sided unit, one built flush with the wall, a corner fireplace or even a freestanding stove. Ventless fireplaces (usually fuelled by gas) burn efficiently as the heat goes into the room because it does not leave through a vent. Vented units (also typically gas) use a vent or chimney to release any toxins; however, most of the heat is lost that way as well. Masonry fireplaces are units that are built with bricks and stones, usually ending with a large brick chimney outside. They tend to be on the expensive side as they are built by hand, and they are more for show than heat. Inserts are available to change the function of a fireplace without changing the look. They are like boxes that slide into the existing fireplace. Electric fireplaces are generally smaller and can be installed anywhere they can be plugged in as they require no chimney. Electric units are available that resemble traditional fireplaces, including mantels.

    Look through home magazines and websites specialising in fireplaces to get an idea of the styles and designs that appeal to you. Save them in a folder or file to refer to throughout your design process.

  4. 4

    Select or sketch a mantel and surround that appeals to you. Choose from rocks, bricks, no mantel, fireplaces that are the centre of a media niche or whatever you envision. Opt for materials and colours that match the feel and colour scheme of the room.

Tips and warnings

  • Several fireplace web sites offer online design tools where you can choose the options you want and see immediate results.
  • Do not attempt installation yourself unless you have experience with gas and major home-improvement experience.
  • Professional installation is recommended because fire is dangerous and a fireplace needs to be properly vented.
  • Check your local laws and statutes to see if there are any fireplace restrictions. For example, some cities, like Tempe, Arizona, requires fireplaces installed after 1998 to have permanent gas or electric log inserts or meet specific environmental standards. California does not allow ventless fireplaces to be installed. Some areas of California require residents to obtain permission before lighting a wood-burning fire, and new wood-burning fireplaces are no longer allowed to be installed.
  • Check with your local building and zoning committee to see if any permits or inspections are required before beginning the installation or construction of your new fireplace.
  • Fireplaces to be installed on upper levels need proper support, especially for heavier units. Contact a contractor to inspect the house for proper structural support. They can tell you if it's not a good idea or help you choose an optimal place to add a fireplace.

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