Coastal Traditional Living Room


As November settles in and the weather turns colder, people across the country are looking forward to snuggling up in front of the fireplace. It’s the quintessential winter experience: drinking hot cocoa, warming your feet by the flames. And even if you live in a warm-weather climate, the experience of sitting around a fire is no less luxurious.

Traditionally, fireplaces have always been the heart of the home, where the entire family would gather on chilly nights before the invention of modern heating. And now, while we may no longer need a fireplace the way people did one hundred years ago, they still remain a focal point of any room—and of any family gathering.

But how do you decide what type of fireplace is right for you? Read on to learn about the five different options available.


The oldest and most timeless type of fireplace is wood burning, and it functions exactly as you might think: chop up some wood, throw it in the fireplace, and listen to the logs crackling late into the night. In terms of a cozy atmosphere and classic aesthetic, the wood-burning fireplace cannot be beat.

However, it does have a few important drawbacks. Wood-burning fireplaces tend to be more expensive, both in terms of maintenance and efficiency. They will need to be cleaned regularly. They are one of the least efficient methods of actual heating, as much of the heat is lost up the chimney. And, you will need to store a steady supply of logs on the property as fuel.


Nothing can replace the smell and feel of a wood-burning fireplace—but gas fireplaces sure come close!

While gas fireplaces tend to look similar to wood-burning fireplaces, they do not require the actual burning of wood, and are therefore much easier (and less expensive) to manage. Similarly, they allow for a wider range of aesthetic options. Inside the fireplace, you can use artificial logs that have the appearance of real wood, or you can use more modern alternatives, like cannonballs or glass beads.


Electric fireplaces may not have the same cozy feel of gas or wood-burning fireplaces, but modern technology has made these alternatives more popular than ever. Instead of using actual flames, electric fireplaces simulate the look of fire with a screen while also providing heat that does not require venting or connection to a gas line.

Electric fireplaces have many other benefits, too. They are affordable, low maintenance, and inherently safer than other options, as no real flame is required. They often allow you to control both the heat and flame size, too. Additionally, many electric fireplaces now come with timers and automatically turn off, so you don’t have to worry about leaving the electricity running all night long.


Ethanol fireplaces are least effective in terms of providing actual heat, but if you live in a warmer climate, like Southern California or Hawaii, the visual experience of a fireplace may be all you actually desire. Plus, they are easy to install, affordable to maintain, and available in many different styles and sizes. They can even be wall mounted, or sit on a table top.


And if that’s not enough, consider this as an incentive: ethanol fireplaces are the most eco-friendly type of fireplace—besides electric, of course—as ethanol is primarily derived from corn and sugar cane.


Finally, zero clearance fireplaces can run as wood- or gas-burning, but they are a specific type of structure, and therefore deserve a category of their own.

Zero clearance fireplaces are factory-built, self-constrained boxes that do not require any buffer zone—or clearance—between combustible materials (like the home’s wood framing) and the fireplace, allowing them to fit safely in tight spaces that aren’t suitable for traditional hearth fireplaces. Because of their construction, zero clearance fireplaces are notably efficient, and are one of the most affordable options due to low maintenance and installation costs. So if you’re looking to add the cozy aesthetic of a fireplace to a small space, a zero clearance fireplace might be the perfect fit for you!

Now that you’ve decided which type of fireplace best suits your particular needs, it’s time to consider the most important question of all: what do you want your fireplace to look like?

But we’ll save that discussion for our next post! Tune in later this month as we continue our fireplace series by examining the different aesthetic styles of fireplaces. And in the meantime, feel free to contact Smith Brothers Construction for all your custom home building needs.

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