Install or Facelift a Fireplace to Add Value and Warmth

There’s no denying it – winter is almost upon us, and the fireplace is one of those must-have amenities for today’s homeowner. Not only does a fireplace provide warmth, it also serves as the focal point of a room, is a symbol of family togetherness, and adds value to your home.

Karen Feeney-Parker of Parker Quinn Appraisal Services, a long time Indianapolis licensed residential real estate appraiser, states “fireplaces can really draw someone to your home when it’s time to sell. Gas inserts are definitely desirable as people do not want the expense, mess or work anymore of a wood burning fireplace. Even a vent free gas fireplace insert installed in a home can add upwards to $1500 against a comparable home without a fireplace. The more detailed the hearth, mantle and surround, the more it will appraise. Obviously a true masonry fireplace adds more value.”

The Firestarter

Move over living rooms! There is virtually no limit as to where you can now install a new fireplace in your home. Interior designers are adding small units to the master bathroom for a spa-like effect, above counters in backsplashes of kitchens, large fire pits to outdoor spaces for spring and fall entertaining and certainly in bedrooms for that romantic atmosphere.

Installing a new masonry wood-burning fireplace has many considerations including proper structural support and fire code compliance. It is always wise to consult a licensed architect if a new masonry fireplace is in your plans. Certain areas of the country even have tough new Environmental Protection Agency emissions standards already in place which must also be addressed. Many general building codes must be met to ensure the safety of your new masonry fireplace.

New gas fireplace inserts are much simpler to specify and install. Local contractors are certainly capable of helping the average homeowner decide upon a new gas box and plumbing the LP or natural gas lines that typically fuel these units.

The real challenge is to design a beautiful fireplace façade that compliments your home and lifestyle. One must consider safety, placement, scale and style when creating the ultimate fireplace.

Think Outside the Box

When most people think about fireplace facades, they see the traditional look with lots of red brick and a stained wooden mantle which we have seen for decades. It’s time to think outside the box when creating a new fireplace to enjoy in your home.

A hard-installed fireplace façade consists of six major elements: the firebox itself, the floor hearth, the surround (defined as the area around the firebox), the mantle, the columns or legs that support the mantle and the overmantle area (defined as the wall space above the primary mantle but below the ceiling). The firebox is the only element required to create a fireplace, as you can install or renovate the firebox simply with proper wall board as a surround. If you choose this option, you will have a very clean and modern look without the added costs of the other elements. I have often floated a firebox above the floor line and used a great color of paint on the surrounding wall to define this simple fireplace for a cost effective approach.

Another inexpensive design option for renovations of the traditional brick fireplace façade is to coat the existing brick with paint. I have successfully specified Ralph Lauren’s River Rock textured paint. Available in 40 colors, the paint is designed to appear like worn rock and retains a gritty texture like brick. It has a very flat sheen and looks very sophisticated on fireplace brick. Granted once brick is painted, there is no going back easily.

Other simple face lifting techniques include adding a cementitious backer board over an old brick fireplace façade and installing new glass or metal tiles, natural stone, porcelain or ceramic tiles around your firebox. There are also firms who will come in and float your fireplace with an interesting cement stucco-like product, which can be tinted as well. Removing your old mantle and replacing it with a floating style, asymmetrical mantle or new wainscot surround are other options. The floor hearth can also be added or resurfaced and remains a vital component to wood burning fireplaces.

A very modern option for new or retrofitted fireplaces is alternative fuel fireplaces. There are unique designs in the market today that burn denatured ethanol as their fuel, which is readily available at hardware and home improvement stores. These fireboxes burn very cleanly in a sleek, 100% stainless steel container for a creative and very contemporary approach. Ecosmart Fire based in Australia is a leader in this technology and has had tremendous success with their products. Easy installations with no fuel lines, ducting or ventilation required provide wonderful design possibilities.

Over and Above

An often overlooked design element is the area above the fireplace mantle called the overmantle. This usable space can become a striking design element. With tall ceilings, a second mantle can be added to create height and drama over the first mantle, surround materials can be taken to the ceiling, plus hard installed wainscot panel or mirrors can be leveraged all to add magic to your fireplace wall. Of course the wall space over the mantle can also be preserved for great artwork or other decorative materials with proper accent lighting to create ambiance at night.

It remains extremely important to consider the architectural style of your home and make sure to keep the fireplace in harmony with the other design elements in your space. A very traditional home will struggle trying to support a fireplace which is strikingly modern but there are certainly design elements to streamline your fireplace towards a more transitional look and feel. However you choose to create or update your new fireplace focal point, a properly designed fireplace will add value and warmth for you and your family to enjoy for years to come.

Please feel free to contact us via telephone at (317) 357-0155 with any questions about this material or to request more information about our services. Visit the It’s YouTM section on our website at to learn more about the Jeff Sheats Designs, Inc. interior design process. We are your partners in interior design.