Warmth and Ambience: Still the Chill with a New or Updated Fireplace

by admin - October 14th, 2015
Posted in: Energy Efficiency, Fireplaces, Home Improvement, Interior Features, Remodeling

A guest post by Remodelers Council of Greater Des Moines member Kaufman Construction, a residential design-build firm. The original version of this article appeared at

Soon, a chill in the air will have us retreating more to the warmth of our homes. And what sounds cozier during the winter months than curling up in front of a fireplace?


Many years ago, adding a fireplace to an existing home was prohibitively expensive due to all the required structural changes. Today, however, there are so many options available that installing a fireplace or replacing an old inefficient one is not only affordable, but pretty easy.

Traditional wood burning fireplaces are the epitome of comfort and warmth, but they actually really do little to heat a home. In fact, they’re pretty inefficient, as nearly all heat escapes through the chimney. They can also exacerbate asthma and allergies, and are not very environmentally friendly.

If you love the ambience of a crackling fire, but seldom use your wood-burning fireplace because of its drawbacks, consider an insert to increase its efficiency. These keep the inside and outside air from interchanging, which means they allow the fireplace to lose less heat and give off way more heat than the traditional setup would.

You can also convert your wood-burning fireplace to gas through a gas insert. This increases the fireplace’s usability (no gathering firewood) and reduces maintenance. Even if you don’t plan on using your fireplace much, putting in one of these will have a positive impact on your heating and cooling bills, as you won’t lose all that air up the chimney.


If you don’t already have a fireplace in your home, they’re a great addition. They add incredible ambiance and can be amazing focal points. Not to mention, they can help with energy costs during cold winter months. We don’t recommend doing anything simply because you’re trying to increase your home’s resale value, but homebuyers do report fireplaces to be among of the most desirable features.

The most inexpensive new fireplace option is an electric one. Honestly, we wouldn’t generally recommend one of these. The heat output is nominal and, of course, they don’t have an actual flame, which we think is the best part about a fireplace. There are some newer models with fairly realistic LED “flames,” but still…

Typically, we find that most homeowners prefer gas units. A high efficiency wood-burning unit is also an option, but gas is so much easier to use – you just flip a switch. They also can be somewhat easier to install than wood burning since they require smaller pipes that can make more turns. Wood-burning pipes, conversely, need to basically vent straight up, so there are some limitations on where these types of fireplaces can be installed. As long as you have a natural gas connection or propane availability in your home, you can install a gas fireplace almost anywhere.

Lastly, another option to freshen up your home is to give your existing fireplace a facelift. If you like its location and functionality, but you just think it’s ugly or outdated, reface it. There are endless possibilities for new brick, tile over brick, built-ins, et cetera. It’s amazing what a fireplace refacing can do to transform a room and improve the home for a very reasonable cost.

Overall, if you’re looking for some bang for your home renovation buck, consider updating your fireplace or adding a new one. They can have a dramatic effect on your home for a lot less money than many other renovations projects.

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