Types Of Fireplaces: Aesthetics, Materials, And Fuel

Fireplaces come in many different shapes and sizes. They offer a cozy getaway in your own home and a way to heat that home efficiently. While fireplaces are historically stone and wood-burning, that isn’t the only type of fireplace in circulation. 

Stone fireplaces are common, but there are dozens of types of fireplaces still used in America, and across the world. While we can’t cover them all, we can review the most common types of fireplaces and why they are used. So, what are these types? 

Fireplaces Build And Positioning 

Types Of Fireplaces
Via Heat N’ Sweep

The main thing to consider when picking a fireplace is the build. Do you want a small fireplace that is placed on your table or a stone one that covers an entire wall? Think about the aesthetics you’re looking for. 

Materials and fuel type are important, but what’s most important is how you want the fireplace to make the room feel. A fireplace can change the dynamics of a room, so it’s important to find the right one. 

A good place to start is to find your design style. If it’s rustic, then a stone fireplace is probably for you. If it’s industrial, then something like metal or brick may be better. Finding your design style can help you find what’s right for you. 

Open-Hearth Fireplace

View in gallery
Via Earthcore Industries

Open-hearth fireplaces are fireplaces where you can see the heat source without doors or glass blocking it. Most open-hearth fireplaces are wood-burning. They are built with an open-hearth option in mind. 

You can have an open-hearth fireplace safely. Just make sure there is an option to close the doors whenever you need to. It isn’t ideal to not at least have a screen that can be placed in front of the flame. 

Freestanding Fireplace 

A freestanding fireplace is placed in the middle of a room. All sides are visible, and the heat source is usually shielded. Most freestanding fireplaces are electric and made of metal rather than stone or brick.

A lot of wood cookstoves and other fireplaces with stovepipes are freestanding. However, you can so get freestanding fireplaces that aren’t even attached to the ceiling. They can be moved around the house freely if electric. 

“Fishtank” Fireplace 

Via Ortal USA

I like to think of this type of fireplace as a fish tank fireplace. It can be seen through like a fish tank and has glass on two or three sides. It is often built in a peninsula shape coming from the wall and is usually gas or electric.  

While this isn’t a technical term, it refers to the fireplaces that can be seen through. They are the type you’d see at restaurants or doctor offices in waiting rooms. It has a very modern feel much like a hotel room with an en suite. 

Mounted Fireplace 

View in gallery
Found on builtbybrett

A mounted fireplace is mounted like a television. It is secured to the wall and is almost always electric. Many people like to mount a fireplace like this on a stone wall to give an authentic feel to their fireplace. 

Some mounted fireplaces mount flat, so they look like they are built-in. This is a great solution to finding a cheap fireplace that looks great! 

Tabletop Fireplace

Tabletop fireplaces are small fireplace heaters that can be put on a table. They are usually quite safe and emit little to no heat. If they have real flames, the flames are covered on all sides to prevent dangerous accidents. 

Fireplace Insert 

View in gallery
Image found on lopistoves

A fireplace insert can go inside of an existing fireplace. This is a way to upgrade your old fireplace or switch to a different fuel type. You can use a wood-burning fireplace and an electric insert for a new and improved combo. 

Most inserts are metal as metal is fireproof and can be transported easily. Metal inserts are cheap and come in all fuel-types. Inserts need to be replaced every few years if damaged. 

Fireplace Materials

View in gallery

You can make a fireplace out of anything. But each material is different and offers different benefits. Some focus on safety, others efficiency, while certain fireplaces exist only due to the affordable cost of materials. 

Stone

Stone fireplaces are very common. They can be made with round stones, stacked stones, and stones curated from your own land. A stone fireplace looks very authentic and is one of the best options for heat-resistance. 

Brick

Brick fireplaces are a lot like stone fireplaces and almost as common. They offer the same authenticity a little industrial twist. Brick is great for those who want a neater stone look with more natural color versatility. 

Clay

Clay fireplaces are one of the oldest types of fireplaces. They are used in pizza ovens and adobe homes. Clay is perfect for cooking in and make adorable outdoor fireplaces. The chiminea-shape is most common. 

Concrete

Via Heat N’ Sweep

Concrete fireplaces aren’t as old or as popular as stone or brick. But they are versatile and efficient. There’s not a safer material to build your fireplace with than concrete. Unlike brick, it’s unlikely to chip and is completely fireproof. 

Wood

This may seem silly, but with electric fireplaces, wood is viable. You can buy wood fireplaces quite easily and they are a lot cheaper than stone ones. They are also sturdy and look hand-crafted whereas materials like vinyl don’t. 

Tile

Tile is becoming more popular as it can be used to cover almost anything. It is the most versatile as far as patterns and colors are concerned. You can even get custom tiles made to lay over your fireplace. 

Metal

Metal may be the number one heat conductor, but it is also fire-resistant. Cookstoves are usually made of steel or iron, giving a farmhouse look to any house. Wood cookstoves are popular and add an adorable flair to a country home. 

Cost Of A Fireplace  

Via Wyckoff Heating Cooling

Fireplaces can be expensive. But they don’t have to be. The price depends largely on the size, materials used, and fuel type. A huge part of what you pay goes to laborers. The more work a fireplace is, the more money it will cost. 

Electric – $400+

Almost anyone can install an electric fireplace. Oftentimes, you can just buy the fireplace, plug it in, and let it go. Any further costs will go on your electricity bill. Expect to pay 10 to 20 cents an hour to run an electric fireplace. 

Gas – $2000+

While $2000 may not seem like a lot for a fireplace, this is the price for the materials alone. In order to get a safe gas fireplace, you’ll need to hire a professional to install it. This can add hundreds or even thousands to the cost, but it is definitely worth it to have the fireplaces done safely. 

Wood-Burning – $5000+

Wood-burning fireplaces require hiring a professional. The materials alone are expensive, but this doesn’t include labor, installation, or inspections. Expect to pay quite a bit more than $5000 for a wood-burning fireplace. 

Fuel Types

Via SINGLEPOINT DESIGN BUILD INC.

When you picture a fireplace, you probably picture a stone fireplace with wood-burning inside. That may be the most common type of fireplace, but there are other types of fuel you can use besides wood. 

Some rare types of fuel include gel or pellets. While these fuels are great options, they aren’t popular. Modern-day fireplaces use three primary types of fuel. All have dangers and benefits. Here is what you need to know. 

Wood-Burning Fireplaces

Wood-burning fireplaces are the most common type of fireplace. They use the readily-available wood for fuel. It even seems like the most natural type of fireplace, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ill effects.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “Smoke may smell good, but it’s not good for you. The biggest health threat from smoke is from fine particles, also called fine particulate matter or PM2.5. These microscopic particles can get into your eyes and respiratory system, where they may cause burning eyes, runny nose, and illnesses, such as bronchitis.”

That said, this shouldn’t mean you shouldn’t use wood-burning fireplaces. After all, when built correctly, you won’t be breathing in much smoke at all from your fireplace. The word of caution is to always have a professional build your fireplace. 

Gas Fireplaces

Gas fireplaces are fairly common. They heat a house well and don’t produce smoke. However, the flames do produce carbon monoxide and nitrogen and sulfur oxides. This means that gas fireplaces need vents. 

If you experience any signs of carbon monoxide poisoning, contact the poison control center. You should also always make sure your fire alarm detects gases and is always up-to-date and up-to-code. 

Related: What is the Best Smoke Detector for Safety, Function, & Price?

Electric Fireplace

Electric fireplaces are probably the safest type of fireplaces. This shouldn’t deter you from getting the type of fireplace that you want, but it is important to note. Electric fireplaces are simply heaters that look like fireplaces. 

Electric fireplaces are the cheapest, safest fireplaces but the least authentic. So before deciding which type of fireplace to get, consider your options and priorities. Every home and family is different.