When the temperatures outside really get you down, nothing can pick you up and thaw you out quite like sitting in front of the fireplace, and keeping it in tip-top operating condition is of the utmost importance. For a lot of people, that fireplace should be nothing less than a wood-burning fireplace. However, other people just want a nice warm fire and have no concern for what the source is. There are pros and cons to both types. For arguments sake here, we’re only going to focus on the advantages and disadvantages of traditional masonry wood-burning fireplaces.
Often referred to by many as typical fireplaces, masonry fireplaces are built from bricks, blocks, or stone and mortar. Masonry fireplaces usually accompany masonry chimneys. The overall look of masonry fireplaces is generally more visually appealing than their pre-fab counterparts. It may be all in our heads, but a wood fire always seems to feel better and warmer than a gas fire, too. Perhaps it’s the crackling of the wood. Maybe it’s the aroma of the wood burning that fills the room with a certain sense of calm. Some of us, for reasons unbeknownst to me, might even get a certain sick enjoyment from cutting the wood to burn in the fireplace. Whatever your reason is, traditional fireplaces have a special place in our hearts that cannot easily be replaced by the cold steel of the more modern pre-fab units that have flooded the market in recent years.
In spite of the wonderful advantages listed above, we cannot deny that there are some disadvantages, too. The first glaring disadvantage has to be the overall space requirement that may or may not mess up the feng shui of your space. Let’s face it, because the fireplace has to have a chimney to vent those harmful gases to the outside, the placement of the fireplace within the room is somewhat limited, potentially upsetting the overall flow of the room. Another key disadvantage is chimney maintenance. Because the chimney serves as the exhaust for the fireplace, it’s bound to get dirty. If not maintained and cleaned properly, harmful creosote deposits can build up inside the chimney and can become a potential fire hazard, a creator of toxic carbon monoxide fumes, or both. Having the chimney cleaned once a year is an absolute must, so plan ahead; budget $10-$20 each month to go towards the cleaning and inspection, and keep it in a safe place.
Choosing the right fireplace can help to enhance the overall aesthetics of your living space. Masonry fireplaces, if properly maintained, will last for the lifetime of your home and can greatly improve the overall heating efficiency of the home as well. Other models may not require as much upkeep to remain in top operating condition. It’s really just a matter of opinion. Regardless of which option you choose, you can’t go wrong with a fireplace.