I grew up in a home with a fireplace, so I understand the nostalgia. As a kid, hearing the crackling fire next to a real pine tree with paper-wrapped presents was the best feeling in the world. Was it safe? While one rogue ember could have lit the tree better than string lights, I’m still here.
While I live in an area that’s hot most of the year and, therefore, wouldn’t bother with a fireplace in my living room today, you may be wondering whether you ought to have one in yours. So, taking current trends to heart, whether or not you should have a fireplace in your living room still depends on (surprise!) your preferences more than anything else.
Do I Really Need a Fireplace?
A fireplace inside your home is definitely not necessary, but it may add a focal point to your living room. It can be a convenient place to set up a flat screen TV, or a classic place to hang up Christmas stockings. However, a fireplace is by no means a prerequisite for purchasing a home unless, of course, you fancy having one.
There are still a few pros and cons you’d be wise to consider and can help sway your decision on whether having a fireplace in your living room is right for you. Some things to think about include:
- Home resale value
The fine particles released from burning wood fires can be detrimental to health–especially to those with underlying lung or heart conditions like asthma, bronchitis, or stroke. However, the highest threat to health is from daily exposure to wood fire fumes. And depending on where you live, a fireplace is typically not used for prolonged periods of time, but health concerns ought to be considered nonetheless.
Much of the risk associated with fireplace safety is directly related to your attention to maintaining it. Diligence is necessary to maintain a fireplace and you may decide that the upkeep may not be worth the headache.
Neglecting regular chimney maintenance can lead to the formation of creosote, a highly flammable substance that builds up over time in the flue. Additionally, yearly inspections are usually a good idea to get professional status reports and recommendations about how best to take care of your chimney.
Failure to properly maintain an indoor fireplace can lead to carbon monoxide leaks, fire spread, burns, or inhaling smoke. If your home is poorly ventilated, then a fireplace is surely a safety hazard.
From 2015-2019, the leading cause of house fires was related to cooking, while smoking was the leading cause of house fire related deaths. According to 2021 statistics, the top cause of house fires remained cooking related, followed by heating, electrical and lighting equipment, arson, and finally smoking.
2022 data suggests that while 50% of house fires typically begin in the kitchen, only 6% are chimney related. So, while fire risk is one strike against considering a fireplace for your living room, it remains on the lower end of home-fire risk factors, comparatively. And with proper maintenance and general safety precautions in mind, a fireplace can be a fine addition to a home and may even have benefits.
Home Resale Value
A fireplace may indeed increase the resale value of your home. However, to what amount and to what extent is debatable. Some experts point out that it depends on factors like how well the fireplace aligns with the overall design of the home.
Moreover, if you spend a lot of money installing a fireplace, you might see an increase in your home’s value, but what you get in return may not be worth the amount of money you had put in.
However, home resale value doesn’t inspire toasty feelings during cold nights unless perhaps you’re a realtor who’s passionate about real estate. Typically, it’s imagining future evenings nestled by a fire that nudges homebuyers or homeowners to opt for a fireplace in the living room in the first place. Therefore, you don’t have to let resale value dictate your decision completely.
Rather, think about how long you plan to stay in the home and what having a fireplace in your living room means to you. Then, weigh that against the potential financial sacrifice you may need to make.
Why Do Some Houses Not Have Fireplaces?
You may have noticed that fireplaces aren’t as common in many newer homes, but it’s not because fireplaces are a dying trend. Rather, it’s due to the efficiency and advancement in modern housing structures. Space heaters have replaced many fireplaces, contributing to a more efficient way to heat the home.
Also, newer homes are designed to a higher standard than ones built decades ago in terms of things like insulation. For instance, foam has taken the place of potentially hazardous materials like fiberglass and asbestos.
Modern homes are often better insulated than older homes and are frequently built without chimneys. Because of the tighter insulation, these homes don’t allow for as much draft to circulate throughout the interior and a wood fireplace requires a bit of draft to stay lit.
However, if your home doesn’t already include a chimney, you might want to consider some home building options. The cost of adding a fireplace to your living room may be anywhere from $8,700 to $12,000 or more, depending on your location.
Additionally, the price of installing the fireplace and the ventilation system will depend on the type of fireplace you want, with the least expensive option being electric and the most expensive option being masonry.
What Can I Use Instead of a Fireplace?
If you’re keen on the idea of having a cozy fireplace in your living room, but not so much on the upkeep or risk to health, safety, and risk of losing property value, you might consider some fireplace alternatives. Instead of a wood burning fireplace, you can look into getting an LED fireplace, electric fireplace, water vapor fireplace, or a gel fireplace. All are great options to consider and may ultimately provide what you want from a wood burning fireplace, a warm and cozy ambience.