A fireplace or wood stove can add beauty, ambiance and warmth to your home or outdoor area. Before choosing which to install, there are a few things to consider in terms of cost and heating efficiency. Here are some factors that might influence which type you decide to install and what you are willing to pay.
The national average for gas fireplace installation is $1,951. A wood-burning fireplace installation costs between $838 and $3,102, on average. However, these figures vary greatly based on the fireplace type and installation considerations. For example, a large hearth with intricate masonry work that requires ventilation and gas line installation will come with a higher price tag than a basic gas unit that involves minimal labor costs.
Aside from the cost of the fireplace materials, homeowners must also consider the factors that can impact labor costs. In fact, labor expenses for more complicated jobs are usually greater than the cost of the unit, itself. For instance, a vent-free gas fireplace costs $400, on average, but the installation bill can run as high as $1,000 to build a propane tank connection. Below are the most common installation considerations homeowners should keep in mind.
Gas Line Installation
Assembly & Customization
$600-varies by customization
$150-$300 and up
Gas Line Installation: If you already have a gas line in your home, you may need to install an additional line that leads to your new gas fireplace. The amount of line that needs to be installed as well as the location of the line determines the overall cost. On average, homeowners can expect to pay a minimum of $200, and another $100 to install a propane tank. Connecting your house gas line to the street line or main supply can cost between $500 and $2,000.
Assembly & Customization: Most fireplace units require at least some assembly. While a freestanding fireplace may cost $500, you will also have to pay a professional installer to assemble the fireplace before he can begin the installation process. This cost is usually included in his estimate, and varies greatly based on the complexity of the job. Customization is also another consideration, as the professional must use the proper tools and materials to add on features.
Ventilation: Local ventilation regulations and the location of the vent system determine the cost of ventilation installation. While a more basic installation may only cost $200, more involved jobs can cost significantly more. The type of fireplace you choose also has an impact on the cost of installing a vent system. For example, installing a basic wood-burning fireplace that requires a ventilation system can cost up to $3,000.
Wiring: Some fireplaces, such as electric units, require additional wiring. This usually costs between $150 and $300, but can be significantly more if the electrical outlet or junction box is further away from the fireplace. If so, a professional electrician will need to install another wall switch or junction box that is closer to the unit.
Is your fireplace brick? Stone? Concrete? What type of fireplace you choose to install is the single largest factor in determining price. If you choose to build a new fireplace and want it to be stone or brick, that will require the work of a mason to do the stone and bricklaying in addition to the contractor doing the fireplace installation. You may not want a wood-burning fireplace, but a gas or electric fireplace insert placed inside a more classic-looking facade. Here are the some of the pros and cons for each fireplace type.
Uses logs (lower utility expenses)
Frequent cleaning required
Less hassle to light Less maintenance involved
Gas line installation and monthly utility costs
Easiest to operate and maintain
Wiring installation and monthly utility costs
Wood-burning: A wood-burning fireplace uses logs as its main fuel source. Though you will not have to worry about installing a gas line or running up your electric bill, purchasing wood on a regular basis can become quite costly. You must also clean the fireplace and chimney frequently to remove soot and debris. It can drastically lower your utility expenses, however, as it can take the place of your heating unit.
Gas: Gas fireplaces use natural gas to heat your home. A vented unit operates much like a traditional wood-burning fireplace, save for the fact that it ignites by simply pushing a button. There is no need to purchase wood or go through the trouble of lighting the fire. Thus, there is no soot to clean up or charred wood to remove. Higher-end gas fireplaces even feature realistic ceramic logs that mimic the appearance of wooden units. The downside to this option is that it does require gas, which involves gas line installation and monthly utility costs.
Electric: An electric fireplace is powered purely by electricity, which makes it one of the easiest to operate. Simply flip a switch or push a button to ignite the fire and enjoy the warmth. The drawback to an electric unit is that you may have to cover the cost of wiring installation and may see a spike in your monthly electric bills. Keep in mind, however, that they are typically more cost effective and energy efficient than central heating units.
Outdoor fireplaces are much like indoor fireplaces except they are located on a patio or in the yard. They will still need a chimney or piping if they are powered by natural gas. Homeowners will need to measure the square footage area to determine the fireplace size, whether it is near a dining area or an independent space away from the patio for cool nights. There are different fuel types from which to choose, including wood, gas, propane and electricity. For any of these, you will need to consider the added pieces for installation. With wood, you will need a chimney, whereas with other types of fuel you might need to dig up the lawn a little. Gas can hook into a town line, and propane can be independently fueled with a tank. The hardest one to install is potentially the electrical fireplace, depending on where the fireplace is to be located outside.
However, outdoor fireplaces are a great amenity gaining popularity. They cost less – a fraction of the $200 per square foot required for indoor fireplaces–according to fireplace contractors. Also these fireplaces allow homeowners to enjoy their backyards longer into the fall season by keeping them warm as opposed to huddling inside and looking at the yard through a window.
Another option for homeowners is an indoor/outdoor fireplace, which provides heat on the inside and outside of the home. Homeowners can either have one installed into the wall of their home–which involves going through drywall–or they can have a portable one. They are easy to mount to the wall, movable, affordable and use clean fuel for energy efficiency. While they aren't as ambient as a real fireplace and do not last as long as a bigger fireplace, they are good options for homeowners who might not want to build an entire outdoor fireplace.
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Are Wood-Burning Fireplaces Permitted in Your Area?
Before you make your final decision, it is wise to check with your local HOA, fire department and local building code office to ensure that they allow new constructions. In some cases, regulations dictate that no new wood-burning fireplace constructions are allowed, only remodels. You must also verify if fireplace permits are required, as some counties now limit the number of new constructions they allow each year. It’s better to double check now rather than having to pay fines and penalties later on.
According to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, a high-quality wood stove can cost between $3,000 and $4,000. This includes the cost of the stovepipe, assembly and other basic installation expenses. Here are some of the most common installation expenses that you may want to factor into your budget.
If you wish to install a wood stove you have many of the same decisions in terms of wood-burning, pellet or gas as you would for a fireplace. While a wood-burning stove would not require the same extensive masonry work as a stone or brick fireplace, it does require a fire-resistant base of some type to rest on. This may come in the form of a brick, tile, stone or cement foundation that as a heat barrier. Which material you choose and how elaborately you want to embellish or style it will add to the cost of installation. Here are the most common factors to consider when purchasing a wood stove for your home.
$28-$86 plus labor
Non-combustible Wall Covering
$9 plus labor
Material costs vary, plus labor
Chimney/Stovepipe Installation: Wood stoves require a chimney that is approved by the Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL). The most common material used is insulated stainless steel. Many vendors offer kits that come with all of the chimney essentials you need, but these items can also be purchased separately. For example, a 1-foot double-wall chimney pipe typically sells for between $28 and $45, while a 3-foot stainless steel pipe costs $86, on average. Aside from the materials, you will also have to pay for the installation. The total cost depends on the amount of time will take, the tools required and the location of the chimney.
Non-combustible Wall Covering: As a general rule, stovepipes must be at least 18 inches away from any walls or ceilings. If the pipe must be in close proximity to a surface, the installation professional may recommend a non-combustible wall covering. This safeguards the walls from heat damage and reduces the risk of a fire hazard. A 3-foot by 5-foot sheet of wall covering costs an average of $9, but the contractor will usually charge extra for labor.
Base Installation: All wood stoves must sit on a heat-resistant base that is non-combustible. This is due to the inevitable fact that stoves release sparks that can damage surfaces, such as carpets and hardwood floors. The cost of base installation varies greatly, based on the materials used and the size of the hearth pad. Regardless of the type of base you choose, it must extend 8 inches beyond all sides of the stove.
Homeowners have two different types of wood stoves from which to choose: standalone and inserts. Both models will either be made of cast iron, steel or stone. They are similar to pellet stoves, except for the fact that pellet stoves burn fuel that's renewable whereas wood-burning stoves use wood or wood pellets. Standalone stoves are divided into two distinct categories, with each offering their own unique benefits and drawbacks.
Wood Stove Type
Higher efficiency Less debris
More difficult to operate Frequent replacement
Easy to use Less maintenance
More debris/cleaning required
Catalytic Combustion: Circulates the smoke exhaust so that it can be burnt again to increase the efficiency of the unit. This also reduces the amount of debris that must be cleaned up after the fact. The downside to a catalytic combustion wood stove is that it must be replaced more frequently, every 2 or 3 years. Overall, this option tends to be cleaner burning but more difficult to operate.
Non-catalytic Combustion: This easy to use option involves fewer maintenance expenses. These wood stoves have a single operational control, which makes it less likely that the unit will misfire. It does produce more by-product than a catalytic combustion system, however, due to the fact that the unit does not burn up the smoke exhaust.
Non-catalytic and catalytic standalone wood stoves can vent through a chimney made for wood-burning fireplaces, if they can match the height and position of the previous fireplace. It might be best to have a fireplace installer come out to help with the square footage measurements and safety regulations before picking out a wood stove. Standalone stoves must be certified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and their BTU rating will tell you how much heat they create, in case you need one for a particularly cold room.
When installing a wood stove insert in a fireplace, it must be smaller and the flue must be bigger. Having a bigger flue means the vent can push out the debris from smoke more easily and avoid chimney fires. This is also known as creosote, which is brown or black debris left behind from chimney smoke.
Installing a wood stove or hearth stove, as it is also called, into the fireplace is best done with a stainless steel liner from the stove to the chimney. It is efficient and makes it easier for homeowners to sweep away debris from wood and inspect for any problems. Wood stove inserts come in a wide variety of types–same as their standalone counterparts–and should match the fireplace itself for the best results.
With every fireplace or wood stove installation you need to choose whether your unit will be vented or unvented. Adding vents and ductwork can add a great deal to your fireplace or wood stove installation, but not every home or every unit needs venting. There are also a number of different types of vents ranging from direct venting where the fireplace vents directly through the wall, to the need for more elaborate ductwork to be installed. Below is a brief explanation of the three most common types of venting systems.
Natural Vents: This is the most traditional method. The air is taken in through the chimney or duct and then expelled via the same ventilation system. The drawback is that some of the heat also escapes through the vents, which decreases the efficiency of the unit.
Direct Vents: Direct vents take in air from the outside of the home, and then release the contaminated air back to the outside via a dual vent system. There is no chimney or stovepipe involved, which reduces heat loss. However, the unit must have a glass door to ensure adequate combustion and maintain suitable air quality within the home.
Vent-Free (Ventless): As its name suggests, a vent-free unit does not require any ducts or chimneys. Instead, the fireplace uses a catalytic converter to clean the air as it is expelled from the combustion chamber. These units are typically more expensive, but the installation process may be less costly because no venting system is necessary.
Even though you could spend a lot of money on a top-of-the-line fireplace or wood stove, it is good to keep in mind that, especially for the more modern stoves on the market, the higher cost usually represents more power required to heat your home. Luckily recent innovations in heating technology have allowed for new wood stoves and fireplaces that don't require as much fuel for a lot of heat, which could cut down on how much you spend on heating every month. Energy savings, rebates and resale value increases can also offset the costs of fireplace or wood stove installations.
Upkeep Costs: Wood-burning fireplace owners can expect to pay about $100 to $200 per year for chimney cleaning. Homeowners with gas fireplaces typically spend $100 to $150 for an annual chimney inspection. This usually includes burner, fan, venting, pilot light and thermostat inspection. Electric fireplaces do not require any regular maintenance, but may need to enlist the aid of a professional if there are any wiring issues.
Energy Savings: Wood stoves can reduce your electric bills by an average of $64 to $255 per year. A gas fireplace typically has a 58 to 85 percent efficiency rating. It also produces minimal smoke and creosote pollution, making it a more eco-friendly option. A 40,000 BTU unit that is working at 50 percent capacity, (which is still enough to heat a small home), costs under $1 per hour to operate. Generally, wood-burning fireplaces are the most energy efficient, as they require absolutely no power to generate heat. However, you do have to factor in the cost of logs.
Resale Value: Installing a fireplace in your home can actually improve its resale value. According to a 2013 survey conducted by The National Association of REALTORS, 40 percent of homebuyers stated that they were willing to pay $1,400 more, on average, for a home that had at least one fireplace. In some areas, a fireplace can raise the house value by several thousand dollars, especially in colder climates.
Rebates: Many energy utility providers also offer rebates for customers who install energy-efficient fireplaces. For example, they may offer $200 to $300 rebates for those who install a gas fireplace that reduces their annual energy consumption. Check with your utility service to see if it has any active rebate promotions and to verify the qualification requirements. There may also be federal tax credits in place for homeowners who opt for energy-saving fireplaces or wood stoves.
Installing a fireplace or wood stove in your home can cut energy costs, improve the home’s resale value and keep your family comfy and cozy all winter long. This guide can help to ensure that you choose the right type of fireplace for your home and create an accurate budget that accounts for all eventualities.