In the last 25 years, prefab fireplaces, also known as manufactured or zero clearance fireplaces, have gained increasing popularity, becoming a durable and economical alternative to the traditional stone masonry fireplaces. What gives prefab fireplaces an edge over their masonry counterparts is that they are much easier and cheaper to install, can be safely mounted near flammable objects (e.g. wood flooring), facilitate maintenance procedures, and offer a greater variety in styles and decorative elements. This article examines the 2 main types of prefab fireplaces: the wood-burning fireplace and the gas-only fireplace.
Prefab Wood-Burning Fireplace
The Down Side of Wood-Burning Fireplaces
This type of prefab fireplaces resembles traditional heating units in that it provides heat to the house by burning wood logs. Therefore, if you plan to install a prefab fireplace, you should stock a considerable supply of wood material that will last you through the desired period of fireplace usage.
In general, prefabricated wood-burning fireplaces are more expensive to install than the gas-only since they require the construction of an additional venting unit. This unit allows the fireplace to use outdoors air-rather than indoors air-for combustion and ventilation and thus increases the efficiency of the fireplace during the wood-burning. At the same time, the venting unit will add to the overall cost of the fireplace
Benefits of Having a Wood-Burning Fireplace
Despite its higher installation price, a wood fireplace will be a huge advantage to any house as it not only fills the room with pleasant, relaxing warmth, but will also add an extra touch of coziness and romance with its soft fire light.
Word of Advice on Installation
When installing a wood-burning fireplace, follow closely the manufacturer's instructions. Pay particular attention to the requirements for a clearance between the fireplace (both firebox and chimney) and the house wall in order to avoid any unintentional life-endangering combustion.
Prefab Gas-Only Fireplaces: the Neater Choice
Typically, manufactured gas burning fireplaces do not require the installation of a venting unit. They use, instead, a simple gas line installed near the fireplace which allows the burnt gas to leave the house. The fireboxes of gas fireplaces are usually decorated with artificial logs made of ceramic or some other fireproof material, which, of course, do not burn. The only element that burns is the gas fuel. You can control its supply, the ignition process and the intensity of the produced heat via an automatic switch which is positioned on the front side of the fireplace.
The material that coats the outside of the fireplace will not affect its efficiency. Depending on your personal preferences, the fireplace façade may be decorated with ceramic tiles or, for a more natural effect, with stone or brick masonry.
Of the two types of prefab fireplaces, the gas-burning ones are usually neater, less expensive and have a longer operational life.