One of the factors that made our house on 85th street so appealing was the presence of a double sided fireplace that greeted you right as you entered the house and again in the kitchen/living room area. The idea of snuggling up in front of a fireplace with a good book and glass of wine is hard to resist - even in LA where we are blessed with perpetual sunshine.
Sadly, upon inspection we learned that the fluke of the 1940’s fireplace was cracked and would require significant maintenance to ever function properly again. The estimated cost of such a fix ran upwards of $10,000. Such a fix would also render us married to it’s rather awkward placement. The inspector recommended that the smartest move would be to scrap the old one completely and install a new one, citing a loose estimate of around $10,000.
Our awesome contractor Bob suggested the much cheaper alternative of installing a gas-powered firebox instead. While it felt like we would be cheated out of the smell and crackle of a traditional wood-burning fireplace, here is why we opted for a gas powered firebox instead.
Cost: The cost of installing a firebox was probably the most convincing argument to triumph over the romance of an old school fireplace. For the supply and install of a Superior direct vent fireplace, our contractor provided an allowance of $1,695. While this didn’t include the fireplace mantel, it’s a far cry from $10,000. Moreover, compared to the install of a fireplace that requires a fluke and proper chimney, the contained firebox is far easier to place anywhere that might tickle your fancy. It was this low price and flexibility that enabled us to upgrade the size and style of our fireplace and invest in one for both our formal living and family room.
Convenience: A flick of the wrist and boom, your fire is on- our ancestors would have screamed with delight. The convenience of a gas powered firebox is that you don’t need to spend hours scourging in the forest for wood - or fighting your way through the packed aisles of home depot for kipling on your way home from a long work day. Plus, once it’s on its on - no continual maintenance required so you can focus all your energy on your Netflix binging. And while it may admittedly add a little to the overall gas bill (still a rather negligible amount unless you are a pyromaniac), the convenience of a fire that takes virtually no brainpower or time to operate is pretty unbeatable.
Couple this with the fact that it’s far easier to clean and the embers are contained in the box rather than trailing black soot throughout your beautiful home. Other things to note: traditional fireplaces are less efficient at heating a space than gas-powered ones as the heat disappears into the chimney (they only get around a 15% efficiency heating). And finally, while it might smell heavenly, wood-burning fire-places create particle pollution indoors and out. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency it’s estimated that wood-burning fireplaces are 100 times more polluting than gas.
For us, the choice was pretty obvious.
Peruse the images below to get some inspiration on how to design a beautiful gas firebox (Courtesy of Pinterest).