7 Essential Tips for Buying a Fireplace

There is something peaceful about listening to the crackle of a fireplace in the background. With a bit of planning and research, you could soon be snuggling up in front of your new fireplace, watching the flames. There are options for houses, apartments, simplexes and duplexes to have a fireplace installed. You’ll also find a variety of styles to match your personality and home. 

There are some beautiful designs out there just asking to be installed in your space. Below, we take a look at fireplace options and styles, as well as the practical side of what you need to consider when choosing a fireplace. 

Keywords and Terms to Know About Fireplaces

Every industry comes with its terms and jargon. Here are some standard terms you might come across when chatting with a professional or doing research into fireplaces:

  • Firebox: The firebox is the inner section of the fireplace that is open to the room. It’s where you light and place the fire. 
  • Mantel: The mantel is the decorative ledge above the fireplace. Stockings and tinsel often decorate it during the festive season. The rest of the year, it houses decorative accents such as photos of loved ones, artwork and candles. 
  • Chimney: Often, people only think of the chimney as they see it on the roof. But the chimney refers to the whole channel, from the firebox all the way up to the exit point. 
  • Hearth: The hearth refers to the floor area of the fireplace. It is often a brick or concrete section where the fire burns. The term also extends to the base of the fireplace in front of the firebox.
  • Insert: A fireplace insert fits into your firebox. It is usually made of steel or cast iron and can have a front option made of glass. The idea is that it insulates the fire and prevents drafts from affecting the flames. 
  • Direct vent: This type of fireplace uses features like a screen and glass panel to keep byproducts from your fire out of your home.
  • Vent free: Ventless fireplaces don’t have a chimney or duct system, so they require a lot of testing to make sure they’re safe.

Tips for Choosing a Fireplace

With those terms in mind, you can begin your search for the perfect fireplace with these suggestions:

1. Consider Your Space

The space you would like your fireplace to be in often determines what kind of style you can have. A large, wooden fireplace with a big, wooden mantelpiece will need a lot of space and support. A smaller option might be better suited. Consider the size of the area you have and whether that is the best place. 

The Ideal Spot

Usually, the fireplace is a focal point in the room, but you might prefer to have something small and quirky. If you have a modern, contemporary style, then something created right in the middle of the room might be an idea. It also depends on how much of a star attraction you want the fireplace to be.

Grand or Discreet

Consider the size of the area. If you design correctly, you can have something breathtaking and grand in a small space. You can also have something modern or classic. If the fireplace is purely for functional purposes of heat, you can chat with a professional about optimal but discreet fireplaces.

2. Evaluate Your Style

The finished design is going to tie the whole room together. There are many fireplace styles to choose from, each with its own look, design and finishes. 

Traditional Fireplace

Traditional is a solid design to go for in fireplace styles. There are plenty of old-world designs to look at and imagine in your home. How you decorate the fireplace will also add to the visual, including mini wood stacks and vintage pokers. 

Often, the area from the fireplace all the way up to the ceiling is done in rough, red bricks or at least accented a different color. A few picture frames and something traditional like an old vase or globe will finish off the look. Built-in fireplaces tend to lean traditional. 

Classical Fireplace Styles

Like traditional, you can’t go wrong with a classic! They are usually similar to the conventional style, but where traditional fireplaces have textured, earth-tone bricks, classical tends to have a white finish. You can have columns on either side for a real sense of the classical Rome or Greek era. Or perhaps just keep the lines clean with a simple plaster mold finish.

Modern Fireplace Designs

Modern and contemporary are often very similar. The fireplace is also usually gas or electric to suit the design style. The actual firebox might not be the typical square but instead an eye-catching rectangle. The outside area is clean and simple and can have wood, granite or slate accents. These fireplaces tend to be custom — speak with a professional about what would suit your space in this design.

Bohemian or Quirky Fireplace

You are not limited to just bricks, wood and plaster in neutral tones — you can go colorful, quirky and wild with your fireplace. Some paints are heat-resistant, which you can use to add some cheer to the room with bright colors. You can also think about doing a mosaic or tile work to add some patterns and design around the firebox. Let your ideas run free!


A great option for a beach house or library is to use the theme of the space in your fireplace. Consider shell shapes in the plaster molds or in a mosaic design for a beach house. What about incorporating your favorite book in the design or even book genre? Some fun ideas are incorporating dragons, gargoyles and quotes into your fireplace area through unique tiles or carvings in the mantel. 

Bring the Outside In

Pot plants and creepers — with safety considerations in mind, of course — can be used to as design elements for your fireplace. Driftwood makes a gorgeous mantelpiece, and a large vase with dried branches can work at a safe distance off to the side. Or, be adventurous and use river pebbles in your design. Some stones are even heat-proof and can be used close to the firebox. Ask a professional about what natural materials are advised. 

3. Think About How to Fuel Your Fire

Some designs do lean toward certain fireplace fuel types. Space and location will also have an impact on your options. It is still good to look at all fuel types to see what is available and understand the pros and cons of each. 

When you are looking at fireplaces, check out the British Thermal Unit or BTUs provided. The higher the number, the more warmth the fireplace offers. Direct vent fireplaces are a great option if keeping warm is a goal, and from there, you can consider the fuel type.

All Natural Gas

Natural gas is a clean-burning fossil fuel. The significant benefit is that it is clean and low-maintenance. You could also have a thermostat allowing you to adjust the fireplace’s heat via a remote. This is a perfect option for contemporary or modern fireplace styles.  

If your space doesn’t have access to a natural gas line, you can consider a gas fireplace that has a propane conversion kit. 


Propane is an excellent alternative to natural gas. The one difference between natural and propane is that the latter is denser than air. Chat with a professional about maintaining the fireplace and ensuring you get it serviced as required. 


Wood fuel offers the crackle and ambiance we imagine goes with a fireplace. This option is now trending due to technological changes and sustainable wood harvesting. Wooden fireplaces do require higher maintenance. Be sure to ask a professional how to care for it during and between uses to keep it in working condition.

If you have the space, consider buying wood in bulk in the off-season and storing it in a dry area. You could save on fuel costs while keeping an ample supply of wood on hand so you can use your fireplace whenever you like.


Another option with possible rebate programs is the pellet fuel fireplace. Pellets are small pieces of compressed organic material. They have the convenience of a gas fireplace but with better carbon-neutral fuel.


If you want the look but not the heat, electricity might be a good option. Electric fireplaces provide a gorgeous ambiance. They’re also low-maintenance and energy-efficient.

4. Decide on an Outside Finish

We often only think about the warm hues and design of the fireplace inside our lounge or living space and forget about the chimney. There are many benefits to finishing off your chimney with either a cap or pot.

Chimney caps sit on top of the chimney and can come in many different designs and materials. These can be chosen to fit your home’s look. A few advantages of investing in a chimney cap are:

Make sure you get a professional in to do your measurements before investing in a chimney cap. All fireplaces are unique and require different sizes. Caps are available for both single and multi-flue chimneys. 

You might consider a chimney pot instead if the chimney cap isn’t your style. These are often traditional and come in chess styles such as king, queen, knight and pawn shapes. You could also find sleeker options in rectangles or cylinders to suit a more modern home.

Another alternative to the standard clay chimney pot is a European copper variation. They come in a wide variety of styles and are very durable and lightweight.

5. Keep Fireplace Safety in Mind

A top tip for anyone considering a fireplace is to ensure it is safe. Always get a professional to come in for advice and installation. 

Your fireplace will need to be serviced and maintained. Make sure you have instructions on how to clean your fireplace correctly. Keep items that might burn away from the open flames, and don’t put any furniture or decorations too close. 

Ensure there is enough ventilation and a smoke alarm nearby, but not right above the fireplace, as that might set it off by accident. You should also install a carbon monoxide detector.

If you have kids, keep fire safety in mind. Use this as an opportunity to teach them about fire safety. Always keep a fire extinguisher on hand as good practice.

6. Choose Accessories and Decorations

There are wonderful ways to add to your fireplace to finish it off. Keep in mind that nothing should be placed near the open flames are too close. Here are some great ideas for finishing off that space in your unique style:

  • Wood logs: Even if you have a gas or electric-powered fireplace, keeping a few wooden logs stored nearby is a great accessory. 
  • Raised grate: Chat with a professional about getting a raised grate for your wooden fireplace. It allows airflow around the logs to feed the fire and create better warmth. They are also useful for cleaning. 
  • Toolset: If you are going to be sitting around a fire, you may want to go and poke in it, too. Look into getting a fireplace tool set with pokers and brooms to maintain and clean the space. 
  • Ash disposal cans: Natural wood will create ash. To help with the cleanup, consider a heat-safe container. 

7. Chat With a Professional

Speaking with a professional about installing a fireplace in your home is always a good idea. They can help you with options and let you know what will work best in your space. You can also chat with them about what your priorities are, whether that be fireplace size, style or heating needs.

A professional will be able to take the correct measurements and help you get a fireplace that will fit in with your needs. They can install it correctly and follow all the correct fireplace codes, such as ones set by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), as well as local chimney and fireplace codes.

Let Atlanta Chimney Doctor Help You With Your New Fireplace

With your new fireplace installed, remember to keep your chimney clean. That’s where we can help. Atlanta Chimney Doctor is certified with the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) and works to complete jobs per NFPA 211 standards, whether you want a fireplace remodel or need chimney cleaning services. Chuck Conner, the owner, has over 30 years of experience and is always present at the job site. His staff is all trained and certified to support you in keeping your chimney clean. 

Send us a message to find out more!