Fireplace and Remodeling

Fireplaces Remodeling

In this post, we will show you how to install a fireplace in a remodel project and achieve added value and enjoyment for surprisingly little cost.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

1: Inexpensive enhancement of property value and marketability
2: Electric and ethanol fireplaces
3: Why an electric fireplace?
4: Why an ethanol fireplace?
5: Fireplace installation

We have included electric and ethanol fireplaces at Home Pro Info for two reasons. First, the hearth is the symbolic heart of the home and lives in our ancestral memory as “hearth and home.”  After all, this is where the family would gather for warmth and cooking before the cooking function moved to the kitchen. So everyone loves a fireplace.

Second, if there is no fireplace in the home, there are good practical reasons for adding one. And there are also easy and inexpensive ways to do it.

Inexpensive Enhancement of Property Value

I am a real estate broker. And I can tell you for sure that there is a good reason why a fireplace features in a realtor’s listing. It is because a fireplace adds both value and marketability to the home.

The National Association of Realtors issued a 2003 study of the Value of Housing Characteristics. It stated, “fireplaces have a strong, positive effect on selling price with each fireplace adding about 12 percent.”

The current median price of a home in the United States is around $320,000 and the average is around $370,000. In my opinion, a 12% value-add from a fireplace is at the high end of the range. It will certainly depend on the type of fireplace actually installed.

For example, a baronial wood-burning fireplace with a grand stone mantel and chimney has a great market value. And typically it would have been installed during original construction. But it would be very expensive and disruptive to replicate it as a home upgrade. You would never recover its cost on sale.

Fortunately, there are other much less expensive and much more practical ways to add a fireplace. Now the type of fireplace we are advocating here will not add 12% to the value of the home. But it will more than recover its installation cost upon sale. And it will make the home more marketable.

Inexpensive Enhancement of Marketability

A home’s marketability is an often-overlooked factor in the sale of a home. This is because most people tend to be fixated on price.

Superior marketability makes one home more desirable than another otherwise identical home. The more desirable home will sell faster than the less desirable home. And for the seller, this translates into less holding cost (mortgage payments), less aggravation, and less anxiety.

The National Association of Realtors issued a 2013 Profile of Buyers’ Home Features Preferences. It stated that 57% of home buyers between 2010 and 2012 purchased a house with a fireplace.

Buyers want homes with fireplaces. There was a fairly recent study by the NAHB (National Association of Home Builders). It indicated that 77% of home buyers would like a fireplace in the family room of their new home. The next most popular space was the living room, where guests would be entertained.

So, all other things being equal, a home with a fireplace is more desirable than a home without a fireplace. And it will sell faster.

Electric and Ethanol Fireplaces

A new permanent fireplace is an easy and inexpensive way to achieve added value.  This is especially where there is no existing fireplace.

An electric or ethanol fireplace is inexpensive to install. This is because they are ventless (no chimney, gas line or existing fireplace required). And in the case of the ethanol fireplace, you don’t need a wall outlet or hard-wired electric circuit.

The fascination of a flame is enduring. The flame of ethanol is real and the simulated flame of an electric fireplace looks amazingly real. It can even be adjusted to mood. Both provide heat.

We’ll first dig into the differences between electric and ethanol fireplaces and the pros and cons of each. Then we’ll explore the different configurations they come in and the ways in which they can be installed.

Why an Electric Fireplace?

The Pros: Here are some great reasons for choosing an electric fireplace. We have listed them in no particular order.

  1. Ventless: Electric fireplaces do not require a flue or venting.
  2. Efficient: Because they are ventless, none of the heat is lost up a chimney. If you have a unit installed in an existing fireplace, close the flue.
  3. Heating capability: They will heat a room that is 400 to 500 square feet. An electric fireplace has a superior heating capability than an ethanol fireplace.
  4. No combustion: They burn no fuel, so produce no pollutants, like smoke. No ash or soot to clean up. No smell either.
  5. Realistic flame simulation:  The technology for creating the illusion of flame is improving all the time. This is especially with the recently introduced water vapor units.
  6. Versatile installation:  Electric fireplaces allow for flexible interior design. This is our favorite feature. You can install an electric fireplace virtually anywhere. You just need an electric power supply. They can be hard-wired or plugged into an existing socket. Electric fireplaces come in a variety of configurations. These facilitate this versatility and accommodate design styles from modern to classic.
  7. Safe: electric fireplaces do not produce a real open flame and therefore no fire hazard. They are cool to the touch. They produce a simulated flame effect.
  8. No oxygen consumption: Since there is no combustion, there is no concern over a fresh air supply.
  9. Easy to understand and use and remotely controllable: They have on/off, heat output. And you can change the appearance of the simulated flame by using the remote. This is supplied with most electric fireplace models.
  10. Inexpensive to operate: Compared to an ethanol fireplace, an electric fireplace is less expensive to operate.
  11. Always ready: So long as the electric power is on, the electric fireplace is good to go. An ethanol fireplace requires a supply of bio-fuel to be on hand. Plus you have to keep the unit’s fuel reservoir filled.

Electric Fireplace Cons

The electric fireplace requires an electric power supply. This makes it less versatile than the ethanol fireplace when it comes to installation. It is also more expensive to install This is because, if it is to be hardwired, you need an electrician. Of course, this is the preferred installation.

The electronic flame effect of the electric fireplace is really quite good, especially from the vapor-type fireplace. But it is just not the same as the real flame of an ethanol fireplace.

Why an Ethanol Fireplace?

There are many great reasons for choosing an ethanol fireplace and we have listed them in no particular order.

  1. Superior aesthetics: The ethanol fireplace produces authentic, actual, real flames. The electric fireplace does not.
  2. No electricity required: The ethanol fireplace does not require an electric power source. This also makes it less expensive to install, when compared to the electric fireplace.
  3. Clean combustion: Bioethanol fuel is a liquid that when burned produces no pollutants, like smoke, ash or soot. No smell either.
  4. Ventless: Ethanol fireplaces do not require venting.
  5. Efficient: Because they are ventless, none of the heat is lost up a chimney. If you have a unit installed in an existing fireplace, just close the flue.
  6. Cost-effective: Around $1 to $3 per hour to operate with minimal maintenance. Plus there is no expiration date on bioethanol fuel.
  7. Safe: Bioethanol is an alcohol product with odorless additives. These make it foul-tasting and undrinkable. For greater safety, choose an ethanol fireplace with safety glass). This keeps hands safe from the flame and prevents the accidental spread of fire. Some manufacturers offer additional safety features, such as timers.
  8. Green: Bioethanol fuel comes from renewable domestic agricultural resources. These include corn, beetroots, and wheat.
  9. Versatile installation: The ethanol fireplace allows for flexible interior design. This is our favorite feature. You can install an ethanol fireplace virtually anywhere. This is because they do not require a chimney, venting, gas supply, or electric circuit.

Ethanol Fireplace Cons

  1. Ethanol fireplaces are not designed to be a primary heat source. They only throw about 2 – 3.5kW. However, an average size ethanol fireplace will warm a decent size room of 200 to 450 sq ft. This makes it about equivalent to a radiator.
  2. An ethanol fireplace provides a decent amount of heat but not as much as an electric fireplace.
  3. Due to the type of fuel it consumes, it is more expensive to operate than the electric fireplace. It is also more hassle since you have to top up its fuel tank every few hours.
  4. While beautiful, they are still fireplaces, generate flame, and should be treated with respect.
  5. They consume oxygen, so make sure there is a supply of fresh air to the room.

Fireplace Installation

Depending on their design, these fireplaces can be installed in three ways. Some of these fireplaces are designed to be either wall-mounted or recessed.:

Wall-Mounted Fireplace Installation

Wall-mounted fireplaces are easy to install by any DIYer and come with all the hardware, brackets, and instructions you need. You can place them on any wall, just like a flat-screen TV or picture. The electric version does require a nearby electric outlet.

The wall-mounted installation is the least preferred way to go, especially if you want to add value to the real estate. This is simply because the wall-mounted installation is temporary and looks it too.

Recessed or Built-In Fireplace Installation

Unlike the wall-mounted application, the built-in or recessed fireplace is a permanent fixture. It offers a more finished and custom look than the wall-mounted fireplace and comes with a variety of frames and styling that will complement any decor.

These stylish fireplaces do not require venting or gas lines. However, the electric version does require an electric supply. Hardwiring is much preferred to the wall outlet because it provides a more finished and permanent look.

The recessed or built-in fireplace is fairly easy to install within the framing of a wall and requires no special insulation. This is definitely within the capability of an advanced DIYer. But we recommend installation by a professional carpenter. He will know how to apply the manufacturer’s safety instructions for installation. And he will have the skill to know how to avoid damage to any nearby electrical or plumbing system, to say nothing of the structure. Plus, in the case of the electric version, you will need an electrician to hardwire the device.

A recessed fireplace is a great and relatively inexpensive way to add permanent value to a home. You can achieve the look, warmth, and ambiance of a regular fireplace at a fraction of the cost.

Multi-Side or Peninsula Fireplace Installation

The multiple (two or three) side feature of this kind of fireplace allows for the enjoyment of a single fireplace from two rooms or from different directions.

A two-sided fireplace can be installed within a partition wall. This can be between the bedroom and bathroom, kitchen and dining room, or dining room and living room. This arrangement provides the effect of enhanced warmth and connectivity between complementary adjoining spaces.

And you can use a three-sided fireplace in a peninsula configuration. This is an elegant way to define separate spaces within a larger space, such as a great room.

As for installation, while no venting, flue, or gas lines are involved, we definitely recommend hiring a professional. Installing a multi-sided fireplace involves the penetration of walls. So you need to avoid existing electrical and plumbing systems and possible structural issues with the framing. In the case of the electric version, it will also require hard wiring.

Fireplaces – The Why of It

All considerations of property value and marketability aside, as humans we just love the warmth, magic, and ambiance of fires in fireplaces. Here is an interesting study of the psychology of fireplaces. It discusses fire in human evolutionary history and its vestigial effect on the human psyche. This is even to the extent that gazing into a fire can measurably ease high blood pressure.

So fire holds perennial allure and fascination and the bottom line reason for installing a fireplace is that as humans we just love them.  Adding value and marketability is just a bonus.

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