Design Options for Renovating an Old Fireplace

A fireplace is usually a focal point in a home and much like the kitchen, it offers a cozy place to gather. With winter just around the corner, it’s hard to beat sitting in front of a fire on a chilly evening. If you live in an older home that features an unusable fireplace, check out Karen Duke’s idea for a fireplace makeover that includes vented remote-controlled gas logs. Of course, there are other options for fireplace designs, including wood, electric and gas, which we’ll cover in detail here. 

In many old homes being renovated today, sadly the contractor leaves a mantel and just covers over the fireplace. Isn't the fireplace, or the multiple fireplaces, one of the reasons you chose this home? Now what do we do with this fireplace?

It’s hard to replicate the beautiful ambiance, the atmosphere, and the warmth that a Wood Burning fireplace creates. The sound and the smell, in particular, are what people love about natural wood fires. In addition, the variety of materials like stone, marble, brick or wood, provides endless possibilities for renovating in your own style. If your vintage home is kept in a period style, a true Victorian fireplace is bold and dramatic. The dark colors of the era are perfect for a fireplace and are complemented nicely by wrought iron fixtures and gold accents for a pop of color that you can incorporate in your renovation. Whether you’re keeping the mantelpiece or adding a new one, ensure that it’s installed with proper clearances from the fire  Also, as part of your renovation project, cleaning of the hearth, flue, and chimney is essential for safety. In their home maintenance checklist, Marcus details how keeping your chimney clean can prevent creosote buildup and why it is important to clear out any nests so that it can help prevent fires. As such, ensure that you have a professional clean the chimney as well as inspect the damper if you have one, which most old fireplaces do not. A damper will allow you to close off the chimney when the wood fire is not burning, otherwise your home’s warm air will literally go through the roof when the fire isn't burning. Top mount chimney dampers can be retrofitted, and they offer superior performance against heat loss.

While a wood-burning fireplace is the original fire choice, it does require more maintenance than the next two options. The fireplace may be in a location where it's not easy or convenient to tote wood, you may not have a yard for wood log storage, or age and ailments may make it more difficult for some folks. Or perhaps you just don't want to deal with the work and mess involved!

Gas Fires 
Gas inserts are extremely popular and affordable. With today’s styles, they are often mistaken for a wood fireplace, however, they are cleaner, more environmentally friendly and a safer alternative to burning wood. Gas insert renovations are often also easier as they are installed into an already-existing fireplace. Unless you're thinking of a complete makeover project, the existing fireplace is simply retrofit with a gas "stove", and trim panels close off the excess opening. Most gas inserts will also require a new chimney liner - usually included with the appliance - to assure the insert drafts properly and provides the specified amount of heat.  Additionally, you have more flexibility when it comes to the materials that surround the fireplace as gas fireplace surrounds do not heat up like traditional wood fireplaces.There really is a size and style for any fireplace these days. Exterior finishes in black, vintage iron, bronze, copper, chrome, peter, cast iron and more. Traditional or creative ceramic fuel styles can make it appear your fire is burning traditional logs, of course, but there are also options for stones, birch logs, driftwood, glass and more. If your fireplace makeover will include a whole new style or design, however, stone or tile are still favorites of homeowners looking to renovate their fireplace. One of the designs featured by Phase 2 Builders from California is a chic and stylish renovation featuring a porcelain tile surround that resembles reclaimed wood, with an accented wooden slab serving as a mantle. Other designs again evoke Victorian style with a classic mantel featuring black tile for the fireplace surround and pad. 

Electric Fires
Electric fires have become a popular choice, especially for homeowners who don’t necessarily want to deal with messy renovations, and they offer similar benefits to a normal fireplace. In general, you just unbox it, slide it into your fireplace opening, plug it into the wall and you're ready! Like gas fires, the selection of styles and simulated fuel beds is enormous. Karen Duke of Victorian Fireplace Shop says the hearth industry is dedicating much of their product development budgets into new and exciting technologies that will simply amaze you, so look forward to great new things coming in this product category too.


 Author: Valeria Faith