By Mary Beth Temple
Close your eyes and envision spending quality time in your dream log home. Did you picture yourself in front of a roaring fire? Most of us do.
These days, it’s possible to find the perfect fireplace for any (or every) room in the house. And with all the technological advances in recent years, there’s a whole new crop of choices in both appearance and function.
The fundamental decision you’ll need to make is whether you want a traditional wood-burning fireplace or a gas unit. Some people relish the crackling sounds and woodsy fragrance of burning logs. Others worry about smoke-scented furniture and the effort involved in getting and storing firewood.
If you’re torn between instant gratification and ambiance, note that modern gas fireplaces are light years ahead of their ancestors and look far more realistic. You can even get units with glowing ember beds. Of course, for some folks, natural is the only way to go—and it always will be.
Where It’s At
Options for wood-burning fireplaces are limited by the location of your home’s chimneys, which allow the smoke to escape and provide oxygen to keep the proverbial home fires burning. A gas unit can go most anywhere.
Where your log home is built will also impact this decision. If you live in a remote or rural area, getting natural gas piped directly to your home may be out of the question.
If you live in an area with frequent power outages, skip the electric starter.
Also think about the overall layout of the space you’re designing. Should your fireplace be the room’s focal point, or are you more likely to be playing pool or watching television?
"There’s also a big trend to-ward outdoor fireplaces and fire pits, which add visual interest to exterior spaces, even when they aren’t lit," adds Ferris Robinson, vice president of marketing at Walden Log Homes in Lookout Mountain, Tennessee. "What a great way to set the scene when you’re entertaining outside."
The Heat is On
To save money on your central heating bill, place your fireplace in the room where you spend the most time. Then just turn down the thermostat a few degrees and bask in the warmth of a fire.
"Soapstone is an ideal material for a masonry heater," suggests Ron Pihl, owner of Cornerstone Masonry, a Tulikivi supplier in Pray, Montana. "Soapstone bricks can hold twice as much heat as clay bricks, so they’re better for heat distribution." Many soapstone models also offer fun add-ons like a bake oven or cook stove.
Freestanding stoves are yet another heating option. They come in many materials (steel, stone or cast iron), finishes (porcelain enamel and high temperature paint) and styles, from minimalist modern to colonial country. Most stand on legs or a pedestal. The average size is about the same as an easy chair.
If you prefer a traditional open hearth, you can still maximize your chimney placement by using it twice. "By placing your interior fireplace on an exterior wall, you can use the same flue for an outside fireplace," says Ferris from?store_id=1& Walden Log Homes.
Fireplace units start at about $1,000, but there are styles that cost $30,000 and even more. Before making that investment, check local building codes for regulations about vent specifications or wood-burning emissions.
Most important, leave your fireplace installation to the pros. This is generally not a safe task for even the most ardent DIY enthusiast. But here’s the silver lining: Many contractors can get modern fireplaces (such as direct-vent units) "crackling" in a single afternoon.
To learn more about the latest in fireplace options, check out the November 2005 issue of Log Home Design Ideas.