With cooler weather and the holiday season upon us, Montgomery County homeowners want to know the ins, outs, and what’s smoking hot for fireplaces this year. To get all the insider info, we turned to Mr. Jim Maginnis — fireplace expert and associate sales manager at Salter’s Fireplace & Outdoor Living, our go-to partner whenever a fireplace is involved in a remodel. Here’s what he had to say about types, trends, and tips for all things fireplace.
Which type of fireplace is right for you? That’s a burning question. To answer it, let’s explore the advantages and challenges of each:
There’s nothing like the sounds, smells, and look of a wood-burning fireplace on a chilly winter evening. Sitting by the fireplace with a mug of hot chocolate, listening to the pops and crackles, and feeling the warmth of real flames is such a treat. Additionally, soaring fuel prices mean wood-burning fireplaces are more cost-efficient than ever, which may be a big reason they’re trending this year.
Of course, all this ambiance comes with a bit of hard work — wood-burning fireplaces are known to be high maintenance. Jim recommends having your chimney professionally cleaned after every two-to-three cords of firewood, and the ashes should be swept out regularly.
Gas fireplaces might not have the sensory experience of wood-burning fireplaces, but they make up for it in ease of use. Homeowners can enjoy a fire almost instantly, with no regular cleaning. Once the fire is going, it needs no tending and will continue for as long as you’d like. Best of all, gas fireplaces can be installed almost anywhere — from the bedroom to the basement or even outside.
Even though they’re low maintenance, Jim stresses the importance of yearly servicing for your gas fireplace. There are a number of parts that need to work together, and keeping up with maintenance ensures any issues will be addressed before they become bigger problems.
Can’t decide between ambiance or efficient heating? With a wood stove, you can have both. Wood stoves are energy efficient, with longer burn times and forced air warming up your room. As a bonus, they require about 1/3 as much wood as a traditional wood-burning fireplace, meaning fewer wood-gathering trips for homeowners.
Wood stoves still come with maintenance. Like other fireplaces, they must be inspected yearly to stay in good working order and be cleaned out weekly or bi-weekly, depending on how much they’re used.
Working with a small space or looking for something different? Our very own Mike Foering recommends an electric fireplace. With no chimney needed, electric fireplaces can go anywhere in the room. Electricity is the only requirement, making these heaters a maintenance-free, safe option for homeowners looking for a simple way to add a little extra warmth and ambiance to their space.
Fireplaces tend to take center stage in the look of your room, so updating the surround will make a dramatic difference.
Once the standard in fireplaces, brick surrounds provide a classic, traditional look. While they’re still found in many homes, few homeowners will request them for their new fireplaces. Those looking for a more modern feel are opting to cover or even remove their brick surrounds and reface them with stone.
Stone surrounds are without question the most popular choice today. Homeowners have several options to customize the look of their stone fireplaces, including:
- Panel — small sections of stone assembled in unique patterns
- Quarry — larger stones for a more rustic look
- Marble — the modern, luxurious option
A traditional mantel includes both the shelf and legs and is meant to be a grand centerpiece in your home. Following overarching trends toward clean, modern, and minimalistic designs, current homeowners are forgoing large mantels for stand-alone shelves.
Full Fireplace Wall
As a backdrop to their mantel shelf, some homeowners are expanding their stone surrounds floor-to-ceiling. Depending on the location, this could also allow for a return on both sides of the wall, so more people can enjoy the fire no matter where they’re sitting.
The Well-Accessorized Fireplace
Fireplace fashion is more than the mantel. Here are some other accessories to go in, above, or around the hearth:
TVs & Artwork
Homeowners often ask to have a tv or artwork mounted above the fireplace. While this is a convenient use of space, it’s important to have something protecting these valuable items from damaging heat. There are a few ways to protect them, but Jim particularly likes the CoolSmart TV system, which redirects 60% of the heat away from the space just above the fireplace. It can even displace the heat into another room.
The doors on your fireplace are another way to personalize the look of your space. Doors can be glass, metal, or textured black mesh — the popular choice in 2022. Doors also vary in how they open; homeowners can choose a swinging cabinet style or a versatile bifold door, either on a track or trackless.
Like a stove without the legs, inserts are metal boxes placed inside a fireplace to make them more efficient and generate more heat. An electric blower on the insert directs heat throughout the room instead of up the chimney. Inserts can be used to convert any open-hearth fireplace to gas, wood, or pellet burning, so you can choose the option that works best without getting a whole new fireplace.
Now that you’ve learned all you need to know to craft or update your ideal fireplace, here are some insider tips from Jim:
Define your purpose
No matter what’s trending, the best decisions for you depend on your wants and your environment. What do you want to achieve most with your fireplace? A cozy winter gathering space or an alternate way to heat your home? Thinking about your purpose will help you decide which type is the best fit.
Putting in a brand-new fireplace? Consider the size of your room before deciding on a style. A large, open concept first floor could benefit from the heating efficiency of a gas or stove model, while a cozy sitting room might be the perfect spot for a wood-burning fireplace.
Routine maintenance is key
Don’t wait till it’s too late to find out something isn’t working on your fireplace. Keeping up with routine maintenance will ensure you never get left in the cold. Just remember, fireplace professionals are harder to come by in the winter months, so scheduling your cleaning and tune-ups in the summer is ideal.
Have more questions about updating or crafting a new fireplace in your home? Jim and the Salter team are great resources on all things fireplace. Or contact us! We’re experts at making Montgomery County homes more beautiful, functional, and efficient.