Five tips for choosing the right fireplace for your living room

When it comes to home heating, nothing beats a cosy fireplace

The heart of any home, a fireplace is where the family comes together to relax, chat and enjoy each other’s company.

And it can also make a world of difference to the whole house, giving it a light and warmth something like central heating or a reverse-cycle air conditioner just doesn’t manage, but which fireplace is right for you?

Finding a fireplace is easy, but finding one that suits you, your lifestyle, family and your home is the tricky part.

Advances in fireplace technology and innovation in recent years means they have come a long way since the traditional open fireplace or pot belly stove. Today you’ll find everything from gas, wood and electric fireplaces, to double sided, three-sided and even fires suspended from the ceiling.

Here are our top tips for choosing a fireplace and how to make it work for you:

1. Patience vs Convenience: What’s more important to you?

Lifestyle is one of the most important factors you need to consider when choosing a fireplace.

If you’re looking at wood fires, consider if you’ve got the time, patience and space for wood storage and don’t mind cleaning up the mess. Some people love the process of collecting and chopping wood, others however have a different set of priorities.

Escea Fireplace DF960For those who are looking for a convenient option, the Escea DF960 gas heater can be controlled directly from the Smart Heat app. Design by Paul Tilse Architecture and Vanessa Hawes Design | Photography by Rodrigo Vargas

If you love the process of building a fire and watching it catch, wood is good. For those who would rather switch their fire on from their remote or smartphone, a gas or electric fireplace is probably better suited to you. Some even have apps that allow you to turn your fire on when you’re on your way home from work – what beats that?

2. Fireplace surrounds: Design a look you’ll love

When it comes to choosing a surround for your new fireplace, the first thing you’ll need to decide is the style or look you want.

If your home is traditional, decide if you will you keep the character features, or go with a completely new modern fireplace style instead.

Surround options might, however, be limited depending on what type of fireplace you choose – wood, gas or electric.

Zero clearance fireplace EsceaIf you like the look of a modern fireplace surround, choose a fireplace that has a Zero Clearance rating which means it can be clad in most materials. Design by Product X Architecture. Photography by Mark Scowen.

Wood fires require non-combustible materials like brick masonry surrounds. Some gas and electric fires have Zero Clearance technology which means you can surround your fireplace in almost anything. You also don’t need to worry about using non-combustible materials around the firebox either.

This means you can unleash your creativity when it comes to your fireplace design – let it be the hero of the room with bold wallpaper or tiles, blend it into custom cabinetry or let your imagination go wild and create a curved wall. The only limit is your imagination.

Modern Fireplace, Escea The BlockThis modern landscape fire has been clad in floor-to-ceiling stone which becomes the focus of this living room. Design by Paul Tilse Architecture and Vanessa Hawes Design | Photography by Rodrigo Vargas

For the traditionalist, choose if you want a mantel piece or hearth – there’s no requirement for either, it’s purely a matter of looks. And keep in mind that modern gas fires like these have simple clean lines which mean they are able to fit into any era or style of home.

3. Heat output: How much heat do you really need?

Are you heating just a small closed off living room, a large open plan living area, or do you want to direct heat to other rooms within the home too?

There are lots of different ways heat can be dispersed throughout the home so make sure you ask these questions first. And before you start looking, it’s worthwhile knowing the square meterage of the space so you can match that to the fire’s heat output too. You don’t want to end up with a fire that’s not hot enough, or one that will overheat the room.

Escea DX series fireplace- The BlockIf you want to heat more rooms than one, look for a fireplace that has multi-room heat ducting technology like the Escea DX SeriesDesign by CplusC Architecture | Photography by Michael Lassman

Some fireplaces simply direct heat from vents located on the front of the fire however others have ducting systems which can direct heat from the fire to other rooms in the house too. Double sided fireplaces are also a great option if you want to heat two adjoining rooms, and they look pretty good too!

Other fireplaces are installed purely for looks and ambience with minimal heat output, so make sure you know exactly what you want out of your new fire when it comes to heating your home.

4. Installation & Placement: What’s actually possible?

When it comes to choosing where to put your fireplace, you not only need to think about what looks good and suits the way you live, but also what’s actually possible when it comes to installation.

Wood fires often come with a bunch of restrictions – they require vertical flues, non-combustible surround materials and council consent. If you’re after a fireplace with flexibility and fewer installation restrictions, then a gas heater or electric fireplace might be better suited to you.

Look for flexible flue systems which let your flue run up the ceiling, through the walls or even under the floor. This means you can install a gas fire in most places around the home - in the middle of a room, apartment building and two storey homes. It also makes them perfect for retrofitting too (that’s replacing an existing open wood fire with a new sealed gas fire).

Escea fire place tips - The BlockFireplaces like the Escea DF Series are made for retrofitting into existing open fireplaces, without disrupting the original surround. Design by Madeleine Blanchfield | Photography by Anson Smart

Electric fireplaces don’t have nearly as many restrictions when it comes to installation, however, you will have to compromise on heat output, and the flames won’t look as realistic as a gas or wood fire.

When it comes to positioning a fireplace within a room, you’ve got a few things to consider too – do you want the fireplace to be the focus of the room, or would you rather it blend in? Is it your main source of heat, or is it more for ambience? Will the room be about entertaining or TV watching?

Technology has come a long way in recent years which means you’ve now got plenty of styles and shapes of fireplaces to choose from, even double sided options which are a great way to heat two spaces while still visually connecting them too.

 Double sided fireplaceDouble sided fireplaces are a great option to visually connect two rooms, while also heating them both too.

Depending on what you use the room for will ultimately determine where you place the fire – just make sure you ask yourself these questions first.

To learn more about positioning your fireplace, furniture and TV together, check out Escea’s handy Living Room Layout Guide here.

 5. Fireplace Safety: How to spot a safe fireplace

Perhaps one of the most important things you’ll want to understand is how safe the fire is, and to do this means you’ll need to understand how they work.

If you’re looking at gas fires, make sure you look for a fire that is direct vent, room-air sealed. This means that the room will be completely air-tight to fumes and there is no way these can enter the home. This not only makes them the safest option but means higher efficiency too which is a win-win for you.

Direct vent fireplace For the safest fireplace option, look for one that is direct vent and room-air sealed like the Escea DS Series. Design by Rowson Kitchens & Joinery. Photography by Studio Weir.

Wood fires and open gas fires on the other hand draw in air from the living room – this means the room the fire is located in requires adequate ventilation. This is what creates those annoying cold drafts, and with some open gas fires, there’s some risk that toxic fumes can enter the room too.

If you’re looking for a wood fire, think about purchasing a protective screen if you’ve got small children or pets around the house, or for gas fires, you can purchase a safety mesh screen that goes directly over the glass.

To learn more about flue types and fireplace safety, see this helpful guide here.

Proudly hand-crafted from their busy factory in Dunedin, NZ, Escea makes a wide range of beautiful fireplaces, especially for Aussie homes and lifestyles. Browse their range HERE

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