Fireplace Materials: Pros and Cons

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rusty chimneyA fireplace increases the value of your home, so if you’re looking to sell or simply improve your home in some way, consider a fireplace and chimney. A real wood burning fireplace adds more value to your home than a gas fireplace or any type that simulates fire. The most popular fireplace materials are stone, brick, or block, where the most popular chimney materials are masonry, stone, and metal. The choice is ultimately yours, so let’s go over some pros and cons of each.

Brick, Block, or Stone Fireplaces

Masonry fireplaces are some of the most beautiful types of fireplaces; they may also be the most plain type, depending entirely on the homeowner’s personal tastes. Brick, block, or stone may be arranged in a dazzling display of masonry work, or simply lined along a wall to create a very basic fireplace.

Pros: Durable and long lasting with proper upkeep. Increase the value of your home. Obviously a very intricately designed masonry fireplace will increase the cost of your home more than a simple fireplace. Improves the heating efficiency of your home as the stone, brick, or block absorb and redistribute heat from the flames.

Cons: Must be set on a concrete foundation, and often weigh several tons. More expensive than prefabricated fireplaces. Take up a large portion of a single room due to required clearance from combustible materials. 

Prefabricated Fireplaces

Prefab fireplaces are much less expensive than their masonry counterparts. They are made primarily of sheet metal with a pre-built firebox that installs into a hole in the wall. Prefab fireplaces can be made to look very pretty, and almost identical to a fully hand-built masonry fireplace. Please note that you must use a specific chimney type for most prefab fireplaces. Make sure you purchase the correct chimney for your chosen fireplace.

Pros: Cost effective. Easy installation. Minimal cleanup. More decorative design freedom due to smaller clearance requirements between the fireplace and combustible materials.

Cons: CSIA (Chimney Safety Institute of America) states that more than half of prefabricated fireplace installations violate safety codes on clearance from combustible materials due to improper installation. Does not last as long as a masonry fireplace due to inability to withstand a lifetime of high heat. 

Both types of fireplaces require regular maintenance regimens. In fact, there is no fireplace or wood burning appliance that doesn’t require regular maintenance. Prefabricated fireplaces require just as much regular maintenance as their wood burning counterparts, and may become fairly expensive to upkeep if mechanical parts wear out.

Chimneys

The primary chimney materials are masonry or metal. Both provide an excellent way to rid your home of the smoke and toxins produced by a fireplace. Come back in a few days and I’ll have written a blog post outlining different types of chimneys along with their pros and cons.

Always remember to schedule your yearly maintenance for your fireplace and chimney. It’s extremely important. I would rank it as important as having the oil changed in your car, or going to your physician for a yearly checkup. Discovering a problem with your car before you break down beside the road is a much better scenario than sitting on the side of the road waiting for help. Likewise, discovering creosote buildup before a chimney fire is much better than the opposite.

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