Buyers in general are more attracted to houses with fireplaces. They give a warm and cozy feel. They usually become the centerpiece of a room. Fireplaces add to the aesthetic appeal of a house.
They also keep houses warm during cold times. Even though there are already other possible sources for heat, it can still come in handy when there is no power during storms.
There are other states like California where a house a house needs to have a fireplace in order to be sold. But Gopal Ahluwalia, director of research for the National Association of Home Builders, says, "you probably don't need one more than three days a year." He says, "lifestyle is guided by the conditions of the economy. When you have money left over, you want to spend it on things you don't need."
Now that houses have become expensive and people are looking for ways to be cost-effective, are houses with fireplaces still popular? Is it worth the investment? According to experts, a fireplace can be paid for over time in a 30-year mortgage. And there are lower interest rates available.
Kira McCarron, marketing director of Toll Bros, which builds luxury houses in almost 20 states says, "The concept of fireplaces has changed. The shift from masonry to prefab designer boxes has put fireplaces in bathrooms, dining rooms and bedrooms, as well as living rooms and family rooms." You can even find fireplaces on walls of entertainment rooms, below big-screen televisions, "so that you have your choice of what you want to see," she says.
This is all made possible by technology. Now we have gas fireplaces because it is already possible to vent gas outside through a wall without a traditional chimney. Flexible pipes allow gas to go to the units. Usually houses have both - a wood fireplace in the living room and gas on the other rooms.
Burning wood can cause health and environmental problems. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, wood-burning appliances and fireplaces can release large quantities of air pollutants like nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, organic gases, and particulate matter. They can cause serious health problems particularly to children, pregnant women and those with respiratory problems. These chemicals have properties similar to cigarette smoking that are associated with cancer. Many areas consider smoke from wood burning as one of the major cause of air pollution.
Because of the availability of vent-free fireplaces, homes can now enjoy having several units instead of just one. However, vent-free appliances also come with safety concerns. In fact some states ban the use of vent-free fireplaces. And even in states where it can be used, some county government prohibit its use.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services the key to reducing health risks linked to vented and unvented heating appliances is proper maintenance.
Contractor John Burke puts a priority on safety when he installed a vent-free fireplace in his house. "There had to be a constant supply of fresh air in that house to guarantee safe operation," Burke says. "Fortunately, the house was old and drafty, and there was never an issue." The unit he bought came with a carbon monoxide monitor and an oxygen-depletion sensor. Once the level of oxygen in the room reaches a dangerous level, the fire turns off immediately."Never leave a gas fireplace running when you aren't in the room," Burke says. "And make certain that you shut it off when you go to sleep for the night."
Usually a gas fireplace costs between $600 to $3,000, excluding installation. Electric fireplaces usually cost between $1,200 to $1,500, but you can expect it to generate enough heat to take the edge off one or two rooms.
When you have an older house, you'll have a problem with chimney lining, says developer Mark Wade. He rehabs older city homes. Home inspectors suggest that stainless-steel liners be installed in old chimneys. However, it will cost a lot. A stainless steel installed from fourth floor to the basement typically cost $3,000 for about 1 1/2 hours' work.