When (Fireplace) Plans Change

It’s been over a month since any family room renovation updates. I wish I could tell you that in that time, we completed the entire project and are ready for the big reveal. But, I can’t. This past month has consisted of drawing up specific blueprints for the fireplace and bookcase wall, making some tile decisions, trying to decide on flooring, and figuring out what to do with our fireplace. Lots of smaller decisions, but no real changes to document here.

I promise – I’ll get to telling you all about those items, but today, I wanted to share our fireplace saga.

Our fireplace is a standard masonry fireplace. It’s basically a hole in the wall that connects to the chimney. There’s no gas hook up, fireplace doors, or anything fancy.

IMG_6029 (640x439)

With that basic fireplace came some issues:

  1. Starting fires is quite a process. With gas fireplaces, you can literally flip a switch and have your fireplace running. With ours, you have to get kindling going, then constantly feed the fire or it will go out.
  2. You have to leave the flue open until the fire is completely out, or you’ll have a room full of smoke. The biggest issue this creates is that we have to leave the flue open overnight, to ensure all the embers have burned out. When we do that, it allows the cold winter air to come down the flue and reside in our family room. As you can imagine, it is pretty chilly the next morning.
  3. The fire provides some heat, but only if you’re sitting in the family room with it. The rest of the house doesn’t really benefit from having the fireplace going.

Dan proposed that a fireplace insert would solve most of our problems. An insert is basically a big metal box that you put inside the existing fireplace. Basically, the fire would be in the insert and fans in the box efficiently push heat out into the room. The insert would allow the fireplace to be a main source of heat not just for the family room, but for the whole first floor of the house. Pretty crazy, right? An insert would also allow us to prevent having a crazy cold room the next morning, because the cold air would be trapped in the insert itself.

Sounds good right? It did to us. So, we visited a fireplace store. We met with a super helpful employee there, and she priced everything out for us. Any guesses as to what our estimate came to, including the price of the insert itself and installation? Friends, when a price tag of over $6,000 came out of her mouth, I didn’t believe it. How could it be so expensive? We thanked her and left to talk through our options.

After the sticker shock we experienced, Dan and I talked about our options. We both agreed the benefits of the insert were great, but they didn’t solve one of the three main issues we had – the work required to start up a fire. The insert would be wonderful for out heating bill and the coziness of the room, assuming we built a fire regularly. Since we’ve lived in our home, we’ve had exactly two fires going. As the first one home most nights, if we did try to have nightly fires, I knew I would be the one to get it started. I also knew this wasn’t super likely to happen in the rush of getting home, letting the dog out, and getting dinner started. Plus, I didn’t love the look of inserts, as they do affect the overall look of the fireplace due to their large metal fronts. After weighing all of this, we decided against the insert.

We still agreed that of all the issues, the biggest one was the cold room in the morning. We refocused on trying to solve that problem, and came to the idea of installing doors on the fireplace. With some research, we discovered that having doors will lower the cold air coming into the house by around 90%, which surprised us in a good way. It seemed like that would make the difference we were looking for, so we started pricing out doors. Our favorite, which coincidentally was the least expensive, are these simple nickel doors from Menards. And at around $270, this door option is definitely more budget friendly than an insert, and will give us the solution to our biggest gripe about our current fireplace. We will being installing the doors ourselves with the materials that come with them, so here’s to hoping it’s as easy as the product description says it is.

We’re on to step 5 of 1,038,206 in planning and executing this renovation. Yay!

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