When you love your home, it's only natural to want to make it even better. Life in the beautiful Pacific Northwest almost demands the comfort only a fireplace can provide, but how do you know it's a good investment for your home? You don't hesitate to make simple changes, like a fresh coat of paint. When it comes to something as significant as adding a fireplace, however, there are several factors to consider before making a final decision.
- Can it be done?
Local building codes are full of restrictions relating to construction. Ceiling height and fireplace emissions will all impact the cost and plausibility of adding a fireplace to an existing structure. Fuel source also needs to be considered. Will you be using natural gas, propane, or wood? Wood must be stored safely away from the exterior wall of the house and must be kept dry. Is the house already equipped for gas or propane? A general contractor can best advise a homeowner on the feasibility of adding a fireplace and provide estimates of both cost and time for execution.
- What are you willing to spend?
Your options run from about $1,400 for a ventless gas unit to a traditional wood-burning fireplace for $20,000 or more. The former requires a unit for about $400 and installation costs of about $1,000. The latter required extensive materials, a mason skilled in the specific work required, and other skilled laborers to complete the changes to the surrounding walls. Wood and natural gas are the most common fuel sources. When determining which is most economically sound, consider not only the cost of wood but also the cost of maintenance. An annual inspection service is not expensive but critical to safe operation. A gas fireplace may be the best decision, financially speaking, if it is an option. It's also much kinder to the environment and requires less maintenance than its wood-burning counterpart.
- What can you expect as a return on investment?
Much depends on other homes in the area. The National Association of REALTORS® tells us that about 46% of homebuyers nationwide are willing to pay extra for a fireplace. But the median amount they are willing to pay is $1,200. That's not good news to a homeowner that spends $10,000 to $20,000 to add a fireplace. Another consideration is the cost of the fireplace relative to the value of the house. In a million-dollar home, a $10,000 feature is a far more acceptable price increase than in a less expensive model.
- Where will you locate the fireplace?
You have a lot of options! Your first thought might be the traditional living room or den, but you may prefer a cozy space in your bedroom where you can curl up with a pillow and a good book. If you have a "dead" zone in your home, far from the central heat source that is uncomfortably cold, a fireplace can be a great solution. The current trend of outdoor living spaces creates a wealth of luxury opportunities. Even though the unit won't provide additional comfort to the house itself, it means extending entertainment options to an exciting new level. You can, however, expect the total installed cost to be comparable to an indoor fireplace.
- Can you expect energy efficiency?
The decisions you make regarding the type and location of the fireplace will affect the level of energy efficiency. The outdoor fireplace will do nothing to heat the home itself, for example. A well-placed unit will allow you to focus the energy to heat the home in the space being used instead of heating the entire house at once. The traditional fireplace sends more of its heat up the chimney than into the room. But a sealed unit uses outside air to heat and transfer warm air into the room. This reduces the energy demands made of the central furnace or heating system. The question would then be whether the decrease in utility bills for the central air system is greater than the cost of managing the fireplace.
While chilly fall and winter nights are quite a ways away, if you plan on adding a fireplace, now is the time to start doing your research.
And if you're looking for a new home with a fireplace or getting your house ready to list, contact us for professional assistance. Our brokers are always ready to help.