Fireplaces can add a great deal of charm and ambiance to a home. While it’s always nice to buy a home that already has a fireplace, that doesn’t mean that you cannot rectify your lack of a fireplace later on. In fact, it’s very possible to build your own fireplace as long as you are willing to put some thought into exactly how comfortable you are with a major DIY project and what you’re expecting out of the fireplace that you choose.
How To Build a Fireplace – Three Options
Choosing to build a fireplace is going to involve a fair bit of research. One of the first things you’re going to have to figure out is exactly what kind of fireplace is going to work for your home. While there are plenty of sub-categories and style options, most fireplaces fall into one of three basic sets – traditional (or masonry), prefabricated, and gas.
Choosing a fireplace isn’t as easy as just picking one of those options at random, though. You’ll need to take some time to think about the pros and cons of each type of fireplace, including how much each one is going to cost and how each will work in your home. If you take some time to look at the differences between each, you should be able to find one that fits your needs.
When most people think about fireplaces, they think about traditional wood-burning fireplaces. These large masonry builds are not only incredibly useful and attractive, but they’re also the most expensive type of fireplace that you can choose to build. Constructed of either brick and stone surrounding a firebox, these fireplaces typically also involve spending the time and money to build a chimney and a mantle.
In truth, it’s never anyone’s first choice to build one of these fireplaces in an existing home. As nice as they look, they’re really meant to be added to new construction while it’s in progress. That doesn’t, however, mean that you can’t put in your own traditional fireplace – it just means that you’re going to need to spend some time looking at the various challenges involved in the process.
If you do choose to build a traditional fireplace, you’re going to start the process by looking at your flooring. No matter where it ends up in your home, you’re going to need reinforced flooring joists to ensure that it can bear the surprisingly massive weight of brick or stone construction. This isn’t just a safety call, by the way – you’ll also need to do this to ensure that your build is up to code.
Your building codes are also going to tell you an awful lot about what you can and cannot do with your fireplace. You’ll need to look at them to figure out how far away you need to keep the fireplace from anything that’s combustible, how big of an opening you’ll need, and even what kind of chimney is going to be necessary. All of these factors need to be carefully double-checked before you start your build.
You’ll also want to take a moment to figure out if you’re planning to use your fireplace to lower your heating bills. If so, you’re either going to need to build a fireplace with a slanted firebox or one that has an air circulation system. Failure to address this is going to force the warm air in your home up to your chimney and send your heating bills through the roof.
Pre-fabricated, or zero-clearance, fireplaces are significantly easier and cheaper to install than their brick counterparts. These lightweight fireplaces really are designed to be installed in homes that have already been built, with fireboxes that stay cool enough that they can actually be installed right over your hardwood floors.
In comparison with masonry fireplaces, zero-clearance fireplaces are much easier and less expensive to install, requiring significantly less construction work.
One of the nicest things about these fireplaces is that you can get them with any type of fuel system. Wood, gas, and electrical models are all available, and they all work well. Honestly, this is one of the easier ways to find a fireplace that’s you can install on your own.
The biggest factor you’ll deal with when choosing a prefabricated unit is size. The most common method of figuring out the perfect prefab size is to add the width and length of your room together, and then buy a fireplace with an opening that is that many inches wide. For example, a perfectly sized fireplace for a ten-by ten-room would have a twenty-inch opening.
When you install one of these fireplaces, you will still have to make sure that you’re able to install the lightweight metal venting tube up through your ceiling. This process is usually fairly straightforward, with each piece locking into the next and the final step involving a quick bit of cutting through a shingle. This is probably the most labor-heavy part of the process, but it’s still much easier than installing a traditional unit.
Gas fireplaces are usually chosen because they are more efficient at providing heat than traditional fireplaces. Sure, they might not give you the crackle of a roaring fire but they do a great job of lighting quickly on a cold winter night. These fireplaces also tend to be a little more environmentally friendly than their traditional counterparts; while they still run on fossil fuels, they do produce less pollution than traditional fireplaces.
Gas fireplaces are above all else efficient. They make use of a thermostat to help you keep your room at a specific heat level, which means less wasted energy from the fireplace. While other types of fireplaces might have a better aesthetic, this is the type that works better to keep you warm.
When it comes to installation, these units also have traditional fireplaces beat. They don’t necessarily need much space available for installation, though they do need access to both a vent and to a gas line. While it’s absolutely possible to have your lines run anywhere that you like in your home, you can make your installation process easier by positioning your fireplace near your gas lines and then running the vent through your ceiling or through a vent that is already in your home.
As a side note, there are now some great unvented gas fireplaces out there that will let you install your fireplace without having to worry about how it will vent out excess gas. There are definitely some safety concerns that have been expressed, though there are no studies yet that have shown there to be any real danger. If you are worried, though, you can always install one of these units near a window.
Regardless of which type of fireplace you choose to install, you will need to know how to clean the units and how to keep them running smoothly. Masonry fireplaces are the easiest to maintain, but even they have their own special challenges. If you can master some basic maintenance skills, though, you really can have a DIY fireplace experience.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you build your own fireplace?
You can absolutely build your own fireplace. Not only are there plenty of instructions out there that will tell you exactly how to do it all from scratch, but there are also many prefabricated units that make it very easily even for those who don’t have much skill in the DIY realm to install their own fireplaces. Though building a fireplace can be a labor-intensive process, it’s still one that almost anyone can do.
How much does it cost to build a real fireplace?
This really depends on a lot of factors. If you are planning on building a traditional masonry fireplace from the ground up and you need to build a chimney at the same time, you could easily be looking at spending between eight and ten thousand dollars, not necessarily including the costs of adding any kind of special finish to either the fireplace or to the chimney’s exterior. Installing a prefabricated unit, on the other hand, will usually cost somewhere around three thousand dollars, not including a chimney.
How is a fireplace constructed?
Most fireplaces are constructed of some kind of outer shell (traditionally masonry or stone, but sometimes other materials) surrounding an inner firebox. This firebox is connected to some kind of venting system, which may take the form of a traditional chimney. The actual installation of one of these units usually involves reinforcing a floor, building the framing for the unit, and then installing the firebox, outer shell, and venting system.