More custom builders are giving the nod to gas-fueled and propane fireplaces (in rural settings) over masonry, wood-burning fireplaces. The fireplaces' popularity comes from greater consumer demand and lower installation costs, among other factors. Here's a recap of what's new in the industry!Gas is King
For more than a decade, gas fireplaces have outsold cordwood fireplaces, says Don Johnson, director of market research for the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA). In 2005, 1.4 million gas-fueled hearth fireplaces were sold in the United States versus fewer than 562,000 cordwood units.
Johnson says direct-vent, vent-free or natural vent (Class B vent) gas fireplaces are dictated by design and construction elements of the home, climate and the amount of heat required. He says direct-vent models, which vent to an outside wall or through the roof, are overwhelmingly the biggest sellers; building codes don't allow vent-free units in all areas in the United States. Natural-vent models, which require a traditional chimney flue, are more expensive to build.
Johnson notes these recent advances in gas fireplaces:
In the custom builder market, Kent Roeder, the national sales and marketing manager for Mendota Hearth Products in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has watched the popularity of deluxe, clean-face fireplaces complete with thermostats and remote controls grow. "We're seeing a fireplace designed for almost every room, and customers will spend extra to get the high-end product."Where There's Fire...
More homeowners are requesting and builders are designing fireplaces for luxury bathrooms, seasonal rooms and outdoor patios.
"We know through research that many consumers view the fireplace as a place to recharge and find balance" says Roger Oxford, senior vice president of the new construction channel at Hearth & Home Technologies in Lakeville, Minn. One fireplace can hit all the marks: it can be used indoors and outdoors, which would work for a family room that has an adjacent patio.
Steve Williams, president of Williams Custom Art Builders in Fishers, Ind., notes he's installing far fewer fireplaces in basements, a once-popular location. Instead, he's placing fireplaces on the main level in scaled-down great rooms and intimate hearth room settings. Fireplaces are also sharing the limelight with flat-panel televisions, often mounted above. "I'd say about 90 percent of these are direct-vent models with remote controls, often with TVs above them."Finishing details
From mantels to surrounds, finishing elements are getting more elaborate. "The fireplace surrounds and fronts are mirroring furniture and hardware design in terms of styles and materials to more closely match the décor of the home," Oxford says, noting pewter and bronze as two of the most popular metal fireplace fronts with surrounds of natural stone, gypsum and luxury woods like maple and walnut.
Rick DeBeradinis, partner with Olson-DeBeradinis Development, a custom home builder in Greenwich, Conn., recalls a fireplace design in a dining area of a kitchen in a contemporary home in Rowayton, Conn. The unit is propane-fired with custom stainless steel vents and surrounded by beige sandstone and a long, sleek hearth stone. Frosted glass doors hide a plasma TV.