A beautiful feature for many homes, fireplaces are often a key design element in your space and while they are usually found in main living spaces, they can also be found in bedrooms and master bathrooms as well. They add a cozy atmosphere, are a great focal point, and can also be an important part of heating your home.
We sat down with our design team to get some information, as well as tips and tricks for adding a fireplace, working with an existing fireplace, and more!
Wood Burning vs. Gas Fireplaces
Wood burning fireplaces are known for their ambiance but are becoming increasingly rare for a variety of reasons, including: city by-laws, safety, pollution, heat conductivity, efficiency, ease of use and more.
Most, if not all, local jurisdictions no longer allow wood fireplaces in newly built homes, with recent news indicating that Vancouver will have more fireplace regulations between now and 2025. However, some older homes still have them and they can be an integral part of the structure of a home. If you love your wood burning fireplace and want to keep it when you renovate, then we recommend checking with your city to determine the by-laws surrounding wood burning fireplaces and what you need to do to meet those requirements (ie regular maintenance, cleaning, etc).
Traditional wood burning fireplaces usually have poor heat conductivity and are not very efficient to heat your space as there is a lot of heat loss through the chimney. Often our clients choose to decommission wood fireplaces and add a gas insert. Sometimes this means keeping the existing stonework, but depending on the renovation, may involve removing the fireplace surround and hearth also. You can also add a modern wood burning insert (again, check with your municipality on bylaws), which often include a built in fan or heat exchanger, making them much more efficient and effective.
Our number one tip when it comes to gas fireplaces, is to do your research on the venting and clearance requirements. Each fireplace is different, and these two areas will affect many aspects including the depth and height of the mantel, proximity of built in cabinetry, placement of the fireplace and more.
A zero clearance fireplace means that you will be able to place the fireplace next to combustible materials. This will give you more installation options as the fireplace will require less space, won’t require a hearth or stone and tile around it, and gives more options when it comes to placement.
Designer Tip: If you’re adding a brand new fireplace to your space, you should ask your fireplace and/or HVAC professional if there will be make up air requirements needed to ensure that you won’t have a negative air pressure and carbon monoxide issues.
Features and Accessories
Built in thermostats and remote controls help make using your gas fireplace efficient and easy to use. Ask your sales rep what options are available for the various makes and models you are considering.
Vancouver has a relatively long outdoor season due to our mild climate, but you can expand the time you spend in your outdoor living space (especially if you have a covered patio or deck to stay dry under!) by adding an outdoor fireplace. It creates nice ambiance and the extra heat is welcome in the shoulder months of Spring and Fall. There are some great two-sided indoor/outdoor fireplace options if you don’t want to build a new wall or structure.
You could also choose a natural gas or propane fire table (in Vancouver and most municipalities in the Lower Mainland, outdoor wood burning fires are not permitted). There are many different types available for built in or freestanding tables, with similar choices to indoor fireplaces (different types of media like lava rock, stone or glass) and various styles, sizes and shapes.
Designer Tip: Ensure that the cladding you choose around your outdoor fireplace is both weather and heat resistant.
Our top tip when it comes to fireplaces, is to ensure that you are meeting the appropriate codes for where you live and to hire a professional installer for your fireplace! We work with Dale at Urban Fireplaces and they are up to date on all current regulations, styles and will be a great source of information if you’re shopping for any type of fireplace. A special thank you to Dale and Amy for helping us with the details for this article!