Fireplace Buying Tips

It's easy to become bewildered by all the fireplace options that are out there. And no one but you can decide what designs and colors you find attractive or homey. But here are some down to earth considerations that may help you narrow the field and zero in on the right fireplace for you.

Safety and Security

You want a fireplace that is safe and secure. The stains and lacquers used on it should be heat-resistant. You don't want them to bubble or melt, destroying the look and potentially releasing toxic fumes. Make sure that the mantel clearances are safe as well, so that things placed on the mantel will not become overheated.

The easiest way to do this is by insisting on products certified by Underwriters Laboratories (UL). UL certified fireplaces have been examined and tested according to exacting safety standards. The UL seal is a sign that everything you can think of (and a lot of things you might not) has been examined and approved as safe and secure.

Health

You want a fireplace that isn't going to contribute to indoor air pollution, and that won't result in mold or mildew. That means that if you're presented with a choice between an unvented fireplace and a direct vent model, you should go with the direct vented. Unvented fireplaces consume oxygen in your home and emit carbon monoxide, soot, and other pollutants right back in. They also raise the in-home moisture level, promoting mold and mildew. Direct vent models, by contrast, consume outside air and vent their pollutants and moisture back outside. Your home environment will be healthier as a result.

Reputation

You want a fireplace that has a good reputation. This usually means picking a brand name ... but not just any brand name. Find out what brands are available. Spend some time speaking with neighbors or surfing the web to see what sort of comments people make about these brands. Are they satisfied? Do they feel they got their money's worth? Do they mention any difficulties or drawbacks?

Lifestyle

You want a fireplaces that fits in with your lifestyle. A traditional fireplace may not be the right choice. A woodburning fireplace might evoke more of a feeling of nostalgia with its unique look and smell. Or perhaps you're quite busy and want a minimum of fuss. In that case, an electric fireplace may be appropriate. It's easy to install. There's no chimney, venting, gas, or wood to worry about. Just flick a switch, and there's your fire.

Maintenance

You may want to consider a maintenance plan to go with your fireplace. Unlike the extended warranty on a DVD player, fireplace maintenance plans are often worth the money. Fireplaces need regular tuneups, just like other appliances. A maintenance plan can relieve you of the burden of checking for venting and drafting problems and gas leaks, vacuuming the firebox and burner, and cleaning the pilot assembly and glass. They can also touch up the painted surfaces.