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Should You Add a Fireplace?


How to add a fireplace

What's the one thing that a majority of homes don’t have, but that many homeowners wish their home included? If your answer was “a fireplace”, you're right! According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), out of the 40 million homes constructed in the U.S. since 1973, at least half were built without a fireplace. However, surveys today show that a majority of homebuyers want one – and will even pay extra for one.

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So is it worth your while to add one?

Luckily, construction can be done in less than a week. In that regard, it seems like a no-brainer! Unluckily, though, costs can add up. When you factor in the price of the unit itself and your contractor’s labor fees, you may end up paying as much as $15,000 or $20,000! However, the most popular type of fireplace these days is a factory built gas/propane one that runs about $2,000 for the materials, and will cost you roughly another $5,000 for labor.

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Why is the labor so expensive?

Because this is a labor-intensive job! To install the fireplace, a contractor is going to have to cut a hole in the wall of your home, frame and build a chimney, mount the unit, and then build a surround and mantle. Besides cost and labor, there are some other things to consider – like style. There are many types of fireplaces available today, including traditional wood-burning masonry to wall-mounted ventless units. In addition to style, you need to make sure your fireplace stays within local building codes and enforcements. Certain cities and towns have requirements that dictate chimney height, minimum clearance of vent pipes, limits on fireplace emissions, and rules regarding the construction of the firebox and flue. That's why it's a good idea to check with your local code enforcement office before deciding on which fireplace you want to install in your home. Then there's your source of fuel. If you go the wood-burning route, you'll need stacks of firewood, but firefighters say it's never a good idea to lean your wood pile up against your home. Instead, keep it near the home, but far enough away so that it won't spread a fire, if one accidentally occurs at your home. If you decide on a natural gas or propane fireplace, contact your local utility company to see if they would prefer to install the gas line, or if they say it's okay to hire a contractor to do it.

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What about energy costs? Will a fireplace help you cut down on your heating bills?

Depending which type of fireplace you choose to install, it can save you money on your utility bills, or end up costing you more. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, natural gas is typically the cheapest utility-supplied heating fuel, so if that's the route you go, it can save you money. However, traditional wood-burning fireplaces can actually increase your bills. That’s because they continually suck in the air conditioned indoor air into the flame. If you want the most energy-efficient unit, consider installing a direct-vent fireplace that vents horizontally through the wall of the room it’s installed in. That way, it will only heat one specific room, keeping your warm, but prevents the temperature from increasing in the rest of the home. One of the most important factors to consider when contemplating installing a fireplace is the return on your investment. Any return you get, though, will depend on the size of your home. Realtors from the National Association of Realtors warn that although fireplaces are an expected amenity in an upscale home, they aren't always necessary in a lower price range home. In other words, if you spend $15,000 to install a fireplace in a $100,000 home, you probably won't recoup your costs. But, since most upscale homes already have a fireplace, if you install the same $15,000 one in a $1 million home, you’ll likely get your money back.

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