A fireplace is a structure designed to safely contain a fire, which can be freestanding or built into the architecture of a dwelling. From nostalgia to a source of heat, there are many reasons homeowners may want to install a fireplace in their homes. Historically, fireplaces were the home’s focal point of the living room which residents gathered around for warmth and comfort. \n\nContemporary homeowners still desire the aesthetic and functional benefits of a fireplace without the hassle and risk posed by traditional wood-burning options. Luckily, modern technology advancements present more choices than ever to safely bring a fireplace into the home, including flameless, electric fireplaces and energy-efficient gas options.\n\nWhile modern advances in fireplace technology improve upon their efficiency and safety, there are generally still a few basic components that have been around for centuries. \n\n- __Firebox__: Fundamentally, a fireplace is where various fuels, including wood, coal, or gas, are burned to produce light and heat. The fuel source is burned in a firebox: the fireproof, innermost chamber connected to the chimney flue (the duct inside the chimney through which gas or smoke passes), and the hearth (the floor of the fireplace.) \n- __Chimney and related parts__: The flue and chimney create an airflow that feeds the fire while allowing smoke and toxins to escape. A damper at the base of the chimney can be opened and closed to prevent cold air from entering the house from the flue when the fireplace is not in use. A chimney cap on top of the chimney protects it from weather damage. Heat and light fill the house through a stone or brick hearth, which may be crowned with a decorative brick or wood mantle for aesthetic appeal. \n- __Screens, doors, and tools__: Another common component of a fireplace is a fireproof screen or glass door, which helps prevent sparks and soot from entering the home. Fireplace tools, including a poker, tongs, shovel, and brush, are useful for building a fire and cleaning it up afterward. \nChoosing your fuel type is the first step in determining the right fireplace for you. Each kind of fuel presents an array of aesthetic, functional, and safety trade-offs to consider: \n\n1. __Wood__: Classic wood-burning fireplaces provide heat, cozy ambiance, and nostalgia. These traditional fireplaces burn wood to create the irreplaceable multi-sensory experience of a crackling fire with that distinct, smoky aroma. Wood fireplace owners may need to hire a professional chimney sweep to clean the flammable creosote buildup, a residue from burnt wood, so that it doesn't catch fire. This option is also the least efficient of the fuel choices and releases the most pollutants into the house and atmosphere. Housefires are always a risk with this type, even if you follow all the fireplace safety tips, so it's imperative to install smoke alarms and keep an extinguisher on hand.\n2. __Gas__: Gas fireplaces are inexpensive, energy-efficient alternatives to wood-burning fireplaces. Like wood-burning fireplaces, many gas options use a firebox and chimney to burn and ventilate natural gas. You can usually insert this easy-to-install alternative into an existing fireplace or purchase a freestanding model. Gas fireplaces don’t have as many environmental hazards as their wood-burning counterparts and can heat a house more efficiently while providing the ambiance of a real flame. One drawback is you need a gas line for this fireplace. There is also a small risk that this fuel source releases too much carbon monoxide, which is why it requires special safety sensors and carbon monoxide detectors. \n3. __Electric__: Flameless electric fireplaces are a cost-effective option that you can plug into the wall. This type uses coils and a fan to distribute heat and usually includes a flickering fake flame to replicate the look of a traditional fireplace. With a flip of a switch, the flame ignites—no kindling required. Since they are ventless, this fireplace option can be affordable to install—and some models are even portable. An electric fireplace produces the least amount of heat of all options, making these models popular in warm climates where people might want the ambiance of a fireplace without the heat. \n4. __Ethanol__: This environmentally-friendly alternative burns ethanol in a container to create a real flame. Since ethanol burning does not produce any smoke, ventilation is not required. This fuel source is distinct because it is the only style that allows you to pour the ethanol fuel directly into it. This feature makes this fuel source optimal for creative designs or modern fireplaces, such as table-top fireplaces. Ethanol fireplaces, however, don’t produce much heat.\n\nOnce you decide on their desired fuel type, there are many fireplace design styles from which to choose. Whether you want a farmhouse fireplace as the centerpiece of your living room or a minimalist corner fireplace to create a warm accent, there is a fireplace for your room design. \n\n1. __Built-in insert__: Inserts are a popular option for homeowners who want to keep the traditional design of their classic hearth fireplace while enjoying the cost and safety benefits of a gas fireplace. Some municipalities offer tax incentives to encourage people to adapt their fireplace from a wood-burning to a gas fireplace insert. \n2. __Free-standing__: A freestanding, vent-free fireplace is more portable than other kinds of vent fireplaces, giving homeowners the option to pack it up and store it in the summer months to save space. \n3. __Open hearth__: The open-hearth fireplace is built directly into the wall and constructed out of stone or brick. This traditional fireplace design uses a flue and chimney for direct ventilation. Some options feature a fireplace mantel (shelving or beam) on top of the fireplace for decoration. This design is classic and inviting but can be expensive to build.\n4. __Outdoor__: Outdoor fireplaces can take many shapes and forms, including traditional open hearth, wall-mounted, or fire pits. An outdoor fireplace may be a good option for homeowners who want a real fire without the expense of installing an indoor hearth fireplace. \n5. __Wall-mounted__: This minimalist, contemporary fireplace is hung on or built partially into a wall. With its compact design and easy fireplace installation, this typically electric style is a straightforward and accessible way to bring warm elegance into a modern home.\n6. __Wood-burning stove__: This compact fireplace burns wood in a semi-detached stove. Today, wood stoves are built out of various materials, like cast iron, sheet metal, or tile, thus adaptable to your style preference. This model is especially popular in cold-weather climates because they are so efficient at heating an entire house. This fireplace is traditionally installed in the kitchen or living room and fed with pieces of wood around the clock. As is the case with wood-burning and gas stoves, it’s important to have carbon monoxide and smoke detectors installed and a fire extinguisher on hand to maintain safety requirements. \n\nWhen choosing a fireplace, it’s important to consider a combination of factors, including budget, functionality, and safety: \n\n1. __Cost__: Your budget will play a large role in determining the best options for your needs. Traditional wood-burning fireplaces are the most expensive option, whereas electric ones can be the most cost-efficient. Wood fireplaces are expensive to build and maintain, with the upfront costs of skilled masonry and construction required to install the hearth and chimney and the ongoing cost of wood and annual inspections to prevent chimney fires.\n2. __Existing architecture__: Your existing architecture is another deciding factor when selecting a fireplace. Can your home accommodate a chimney and open-hearth design? If you have enough space and a large budget, then having a contractor install a hearth and chimney may be the best option for you, especially if you want to add value to your home. Portable options may be a better fit for homeowners with limited budgets.\n3. __Style preferences__: Aesthetic preferences can often influence which fireplace you choose. A more traditional style might pair better with a wood-burning, brick fireplace, whereas a modern design might suit the simplicity of an electric linear fireplace. \n4. __Heat__: Whether you want your fireplace to serve as a significant heat source can also impact your decision. If you live in a warmer climate where you crave the ambiance of a fireplace without the heat, an electric or outdoor fireplace might be the best option for you. On the other hand, consider that gas options can more efficiently heat an entire house in a cold climate than ethanol options. \n5. __Personal taste__: Some homeowners prefer the traditional wood-burning fireplace. From the crackling of the wood to wafting smoky aroma to the art of building a fire to the waning light of dying embers, a wood-burning fireplace is an experience that is tough to replicate with an alternative. If you’re in search of a sleek, environmentally friendly option, the ethanol fireplace may be an ideal choice.\n6. __Health conditions__: The preexisting health conditions of the people living in your home may warrant consideration when selecting a fireplace. For instance, if you live with someone with respiratory issues, it may be better to forego a wood-burning fireplace in favor of a gas or electric alternative.\n\nMaster everything from color theory to pattern mixing with the [MasterClass Annual Membership](https://www.masterclass.com) and exclusive lessons from award-winning interior designers like Kelly Wearstler and Corey Damen Jenkins. From shopping for statement furniture to designing a lighting scheme to choosing the newest member of your plant family, the skills you’ll pick up are sure to make your house, apartment, or condo feel even more like a home. \nHomeowners have a range of fireplace options to choose from to bring warmth and coziness into their living space.