Home Sweet Home – Part 3 – Fireplaces

The evolution of homes over the past several decades has been impressive. Part 3 of our series takes a look at the fireplace. Traditional wood-burning fireplaces have been around forever and in many settings make total sense. However, today’s homeowners have several intriguing options that serve both functional and aesthetic purposes. And they aren’t located in just the family room today-bedrooms, kitchens, and outdoor patios also boast this charming feature…

I’m going to skip over wood-burning fireplaces since that technology has been around since cavemen roamed the earth. So, what is the most popular fireplace used by builders today? According to Hearth & Home Technologies, it is direct vent gas fireplaces. It is not just popular because it is clean burning and low maintenance (no ashes to clean up or popping embers), but because of how technology has stepped in and made them even better.

With the new technology available with direct vent gas fireplaces, you can manage the heat coming from your fireplace. This can be done passively with an internal duct or by adding power and a blower to better distribute the heat.


With the ability to manage the heat from the fireplace, you can safely place a TV or painting above a direct vent gas fireplace without the need for a mantel. This is a game-changer for the décor of the home. As many designers, builders and buyers are looking for more clean lines in their home’s interior, the mantel can be eliminated. Some buyers still yearn for the nostalgia of a more traditional look, but it’s nice to know that the possibilities have been expanded dramatically – and not just in the luxury market!

Also changing is the shape of the firebox. With buyers wanting their TV above the fireplace, a linear, rectangular fireplace has distinct advantages over the traditional square box fireplace. Let’s do the math: Start with an 18″ tall fireplace, placed 18” off the floor. If you mount your TV at 12” above the firebox, your TV sits at a natural viewing angle – as opposed to ones 4.5 or 5 feet above the floor. My neck already hurts just thinking about watching a TV mounted that high – even if tilted down. I’m told that these gas fireplaces can be up to 8′ long – assuming you have a wall long enough for that.
Electric Fireplace

But for just pennies, you can also have an electric fireplace. Not only can you skip the fuel, but it also is considerably less deep, taking up considerably less space. But the real advantage of an electric fireplace is you can use them with or without heat. Why would anyone want that, you ask? If you live in a warmer climate but still want ambiance, an electric fireplace with the heating element turned off is perfect. Even in colder climates, you can have your electric fireplace on 365 days of the year.

A word of caution for electric fireplaces: They don’t put out the same heat or BTUs as gas fireplaces. This is especially important if you’re looking for the heat needed for an outdoor fireplace.Outdoor Fireplace

Adapted from Housing Design Matters December 7, 2020 Blog