Fireplaces In & Out

By November 23, 2014 Energy, HVAC, Understanding your home

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 59 seconds


Ah Fire.

Fire is one of the primitive holdovers from the Stone Age, like shelter and clothing that we still hold sacred.

Everyone enjoys a good campfire. Humans have improved upon it, we have accessorized it and no longer use it as our primary cooking tool, unless you are living off the grid. A good fireplace in the home is not too far removed from the ones of old. A traditional firebox in the home adds value and brings out your “One match” inner Boy Scout too.

A fire in the fireplace is calming, and provides ambiance and soothing warmth to snuggle up to when it’s cold outside. The light, warmth, and sound of a crackling fire satisfies almost every sense we have.

Safety concerns

It goes without saying, that preventative maintenance and regular cleaning of the flue, proper handling of ashes, and verification that the components are working well. A good screen can keep the embers from coming out and causing chaos. Remembering to open the damper seasonally has tripped up even the best of us.

I discourage wood burning fireplaces in rentals. The number of house fires caused by fireplace related issues is staggering. Everything from chimney fires to ashes in the garbage can, we just have to be extremely careful about open flames in our homes.

We puteth fireplaces in, and we taketh them out.

Old wood burner

Old brick wood burner

No one seems to want the old standby brick wood burning inefficient units anymore. There are restrictive codes to limit emissions and Boise at least has mandated burning bans as a result of poor air quality from time to time. We are primarily installing gas fireplaces, some that burn wood with a gas log lighter, others with a gas log set are pretty popular too.

Removed brick fireplace with new stereo cubicle

Removed brick fireplace with new potential stereo cubicle

We have been eliminating the big bulky brick ones recently, in favor of the zero clearance natural gas units that can be put in any exterior wall and exhaust straight out the back.

They are efficient in that more heat goes into the home and less out the flue. A thermostatically controlled circulating fan can often be added as an option for recovering even more heat.

I like my gas log burner assisted old style wood-fired unit but I have good access to wood scraps. We have installed some cool fireplaces for folks and have trimmed them out with a variety of shelving units and mantel arrangements that range from simple to ornate.

Where do fireplaces come from and what makes them different?

There are several quality suppliers in town; it is just a matter of selecting the company you want to work with. Levco has working relationships with them all. What used to be an unregulated industry is now closely monitored with regulations for safety and efficiency that continue to evolve.

Although most fireplaces look similar, they are not. There are all sorts of options and a fairly wide price range too. In general, the more expensive units have lots of frills, fancy bells, and whistles. They also extract more energy from the fire and give it back in the form of heat.

Where is the best place to install a fireplace?

Fireplaces used to be relegated to the living room.  Recently we put one in in a kitchen. We call it The Bun Warmer because it sits 3 feet off the ground, “Having it up off the ground lets you see it easier and there is no need to bend over to get the full effect”. The traditional living room location is still popular but bedrooms, dens, and kitchens are gaining in popularity.

Pop out for flush installation.

Unfinished pop out for flush installation.

Adding natural gas or extending a gas line to a fireplace is a common necessity that does not frighten us. In some cases, we like to mount the fireplace flush against an outside wall and create the space for the unit on the outside of the home.

We have building codes to follow and always get a permit for fireplace installations. We have occasionally been asked to modify an existing fireplace, turns out if it is a UL Listed unit then it cannot be altered.

Ultimately, a fireplace is a very personal thing. How it harmonizes with the decor, what you place on the mantel, and how you dress it up is what personalizes a fireplace into a seriously satisfying focal component to be proud of.

If you are considering adding, subtracting, or altering the look of your fireplace. Let Levco help work with your imagination and create what is right for you.

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