Giovanni Valle is a licensed architect and LEED-accredited professional and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He is the author and managing editor of various digital publications, including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place.
You have just moved into your new house this year, and so far, it feels great during the spring, summer, and fall. However, once winter hits, you realize a warm and comfy fireplace would be a great addition to your home, but you currently lack the chimney for it. So, what can you do? Can you add a fireplace to your home without making significant building changes to accommodate a chimney? Fortunately, you can!
How do you install a fireplace without including a chimney? Follow these steps to install a fireplace without a chimney:
- Prepare the area according to the fireplace type you choose (wood, gas, electric).
- Place the fireplace in the desired area.
- Connect the fireplace to its respective fuel source (if applicable).
Installing a fireplace without a chimney really is not that difficult. However, depending on the type of fireplace that you want, the steps for preparation, installation, and maintenance will vary. The remainder of this article will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of different chimney-less fireplaces, and how to install each type.
How to Choose a Fireplace
Choosing a fireplace is simple, but one of the most important decisions you’ll need to make before you begin the process of installation.
There are three main types of chimney-less fireplaces: wood, gas, and electric. Each of these fireplaces has its own pros and cons, which will be discussed below.
1. Wood Fireplaces
Wood fireplaces operate just like your standard fireplace with a chimney. They usually feature a metal box where wood is meant to be burned. This box is connected to a large metal pipe – known as the “flue” – that leads to the outside of the home.
Wood fireplaces are “chimney-less” in the sense that they do not require the traditional chimney set up, although they need to be installed with a flue in the walls and/or through the ceiling and roof in order to allow smoke to escape. Otherwise, a buildup of smoke will occur in the home and can lead to fire or the danger of suffocation.
Although these types of fireplaces can be on the more challenging side to install, they still make an excellent alternative to building a traditional brick chimney in the home.
Advantages of Wood Fireplaces
- The main advantage of a wood fireplace is that it is real. It can produce heat without needing to be connected to a gas or power source. You can also interact with it (such as when roasting marshmallows) and move around the burning wood as needed. A wood fireplace also fills the house with the scent of burning wood (which could be a con for some). Both gas and electric designs, on the other hand, only aim to imitate the genuine feeling of heat radiating from a controlled flame.
- Another advantage – depending on the user’s location and time of year – is that wood is relatively cheap and easy to come by compared to gas. You also have the option to collect firewood from nearby areas such as the woods or a forest for free.
Disadvantages of Wood Fireplaces
- A disadvantage of a wood fireplace is that it can be very invasive to install the metal pipe for the smoke to pass through since it requires that you make holes in your wall and/or ceiling.
- Additionally, a wood fireplace can become filled with ash and dust very quickly after burning and require frequent maintenance and cleaning.
- It is also the most likely to cause fires out of the three types of chimney-less fireplaces available because it is the most difficult to control flames with, so you need to be very careful with what you place around it.
2. Gas Fireplaces
Gas fireplaces operate similarly to chimney-less wood fireplaces, in that they produce a fire within a small metal box. However, gas fireplaces require propane or some other type of natural gas to operate, which means that they need to be connected to a gas tank or pipeline to work.
Advantages of Gas Fireplaces
- The most considerable advantage gas fireplaces have is that many models do not require a flue to eliminate smoke from inside the house. This means that they are not as invasive to install compared to wood fireplaces.
- Gas fireplaces are very clean since they leave no residue after burning.
- They are also incredibly easy to operate.
Disadvantages of Gas Fireplaces
- Some models and setups of gas fireplaces may require the installation of an underground gas pipeline (if one does not currently exist), which could be expensive and invasive.
- Additionally, gas fireplaces need to be turned off when not in use to reduce the possibilities of a gas leak, which be incredibly dangerous. They can pose quite the safety hazard when they are not operated or maintained properly.
- As previously mentioned, gas fireplaces lack the real feel or atmosphere that a wood fireplace can provide. Of course, this can be a disadvantage depending on the user’s preference.
3. Electric Fireplaces
Electric fireplaces are technically heaters that have a fireplace display. They consist of a box with a heater in addition to a screen that displays a moving image of wood burning inside of it. Electric fireplaces need to be plugged into an electrical outlet in order to work.
Advantages of Electric Fireplaces
- Electric fireplaces are possibly the safest out of the three types of fireplaces (but this is not to say that they are completely safe).
- They are also perhaps the least expensive to operate out of the three, depending on your location and time of year.
- These fireplaces do not require any maintenance in-between uses.
- Electric fireplaces are very easy to use.
Disadvantages of Electric Fireplaces
- Electric fireplaces have one flaw that makes them dangerous, and it is that they consume a considerable amount of power. If there is a short circuit, a fire can start.
- Speaking of high power, electric fireplaces can demand so much electricity that you might need a new, durable cable to handle the voltage, which could be expensive.
- Additionally, electric fireplaces are nowhere near realistic looking as wood fireplaces or even gas fireplaces. They are just a heater with a screen on them.
- Electric fireplaces are also not as efficient at heating a room or entire house. They are simply not meant to be the primary heat source of the home.
Now that you know what the three types of chimney-less fireplaces are (wood, gas, and electric) and their pros and cons, let us move on to determining what to look for in a fireplace to narrow down your options.
What to Look for in a Chimney-Less Fireplace
When it comes to choosing any individual fireplace, be it wood, gas, or electric, the primary features that you will be looking at are price, style, and size. These elements are straightforward and don’t require much analysis.
- With the price, you are looking for something that is not only affordable but also promises quality and, most importantly, safety in the product. Price is also determined by the type of fuel or source that the fireplace uses (be it gas, electricity, or wood), so keep that in mind too.
- Regarding style, you are not only looking for a fireplace that has a design that you like, but you also want it to match your home. Some fireplaces can be built into your wall, so it is important that the design of the fireplace and the wall match according to your preferences.
- Lastly, size is more for practicality issues. You don’t want to end up with a fireplace that can’t fit anywhere inside your home. To make sure you pick the right size, measure the space where you plan on installing it within the house, and use that number as a reference.
Now that we have defined how to choose a type and individual fireplace for your home it’s time to prepare to install your new addition.
Preparing to Install a Fireplace
Assuming that you have now purchased your new fireplace, it’s time to prepare the area where it will be placed. This process will vary quite a lot between the three different types of fireplaces. However, one step that each fireplace has in common is the first: you will need to clear out the area where the unit will be installed.
Preparations for Wood Fireplaces
If we are talking about a wooden fireplace, then you will need to create a hole in the ceiling about the same diameter as your flue. Naturally, this process becomes more complicated if your home has multiple floors between the fireplace and the roof.
If you would prefer not to have a metal pipe inside your house, then the hole will need to go through the wall. Make sure you have all the components to install your flue before doing so.
Next, create a hole in your wall deep enough for the fireplace to be placed into it. Alternatively, you can build a short wall in the middle of a room and carve a section out for the fireplace. Depending on the model, you could also simply place the fireplace against the wall.
Preparations for Gas and Electric Fireplaces
Gas and electric fireplaces can either be placed on the floor next to a wall, mounted on the wall, or in a hole carved in the wall for the fireplace to go into. Either way, make sure that your gas fireplace will have access to a gas pipeline or tank, and that your electric fireplace has access to an outlet.
The process gets a lot more complicated for a gas fireplace if you do not have a gas pipeline in place on your property, or if you wish to have the gas lines to your fireplace concealed. A pipe must be installed by a professional since it requires the need to dig into the ground. This also ensures that the pipeline is safely in place.
One vital thing to take into consideration, regardless of the type of fireplace you choose, is that you need to place your fireplace in a rather large room to avoid overheating and to clear out all possible flammable objects from the area around the fireplace.
Installing a Fireplace
Installing a fireplace is a relatively simple process (with the notable exception of installing a flue for your wood fireplace, but even that requires relative light work). Again, this process will vary for the three different types of fireplaces.
Installing a Wood Fireplace
Starting with the wood fireplace, make the holes on the wall and or ceiling for the flue if you haven’t already done so, then put the flue pipes through the hole and attach them together.
Then, you will need to fasten the pipe to the ceiling from the outside with a plate called the ‘flashing,’ and add a cap to the very end of your flue. Finally, you will need to make sure your wood fireplace is connected to your flue, and you are good to start warming up the house.
Installing a Gas or Electric Fireplace
Now when it comes to a gas fireplace, if you are going for just placing the fireplace on the floor, then you only need to connect it to your gas tank or pipeline. Likewise, if you are going for a wall mount, place it on the supports and then link it to the fuel source.
If you are going to put your fireplace inside the wall, then all you need is to place it and connect it, that is if you haven’t carved the hole already. In case you haven’t, you need to make a hole the exact same size as your fireplace.
The same method for installing a gas fireplace applies to electric fireplaces, too. Whatever type of placement you are going for, you just need to put the fireplace there, and connect it to a power source, in this case, an electrical outlet.
You have now finished installing your fireplace, but the job is not done if you do not know how to take care of the unit to get the best out of it!
Keeping Your Fireplace in Good Shape
A fireplace can last for years. However, this is only possible if you know how to take care of it adequately. The following are a few tips to keep in mind to ensure your newly installed fireplace continues to function correctly.
- The most basic way to keep your fireplace running is by securing its fire source. Sure, electricity and gas from a pipeline are basically always available. However, when it comes to getting firewood or a gas tank, you have to work proactively.
- If you are purchasing wood, then you don’t have to worry about much other than going to your local gas station or hardware store every now and then. However, if you are chopping your own firewood, then you need to always keep a good stock in reserve. This is so freshly cut wood has enough time to dry (usually, it’s recommended to stock up six months up to a year in advance for this process).
- Likewise, regularly check if you need to replace your gas tank soon and go to the store to get more when necessary. A good rule of thumb is to keep two at your house so you can use one immediately after you must replace the empty one.
- Wood fireplaces require a lot of maintenance. You will have to sweep and clean any accumulated dust and ash regularly, or else it could pose a hazard for your health.
- Gas and electric fireplaces don’t really require any maintenance, but make sure you check your gas fireplace every now and then to make sure that there are no gas leaks.
It is very simple to set up a fireplace without having to build a full-fledged chimney. There are three types of chimney-less fireplaces: wood, gas, and electric.
- Wood fireplaces require the most labor. They need a metal pipe known as the flue to go through your wall and or ceiling to let the smoke escape. They have the advantage of being the most welcoming and realistic fireplaces while having the disadvantage of being the most likely to start fires and accumulate ash and dust.
- Gas fireplaces can be much like a wood fireplace, except that they require natural gas or propane to work, and the fire can be controlled to the user’s delight. They have the advantage of being incredibly easy to use. Yet, they have the disadvantage of possibly requiring a gas pipeline and that a gas leak could be incredibly hazardous.
- Electric fireplaces operate much like gas fireplaces, except that they simply require to be connected to an electrical outlet. They have the advantage of being possibly the safest type of fireplace and being easy to use. Still, they have the disadvantage of not providing a reliable heat source, lacking authenticity, and using too much power.
The three steps to set up your fireplace generally include preparation, placement, and connecting sources. Preparations to set up your fireplace involve clearing the area where you plan on placing it, making any modifications to your wall – if you wish to mount or embed the fireplace to it, making the holes for the flue or adding a gas pipeline – depending on your fireplace, and making sure that there are no flammable objects nearby.
For wood fireplaces, the process of the installation consists of building the flue and attaching it to your fireplace. However, in the case of gas and electricity fireplaces, you simply need to place the fireplace and connect it to its proper gas or electrical source.
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