Tips for Buying a New House with a Fireplace

A girl stares into a fireplace with a crackling fire. There’s nothing like the warm, cozy feel of a house with a fireplace.

When you’re buying a new house there are few things that can give the promise of warmth, peace and even romance like a fireplace can. When you walk into a room with a fireplace it’s hard not to envision curling up on a cool evening next to a crackling fire. Whether it’s large wood-burning fireplace with an ornate mantle, a sleek, modern gas fireplace or something in between, there’s just something that draws you in when you find a house with a fireplace.

Find Out About Its Usage

So you’ve found your new dream home and it comes complete with a fireplace. As attractive as they are, when you decide to buy a new house with a fireplace, there are certain steps to take to ensure the safety of you and your family. Learning about the previous homeowner’s fireplace usage is the first step.

When you know how the previous homeowner cared for their fireplace you will be able to make informed decisions about any maintenance that may need to be handled immediately. You’ll also know what can be scheduled for the following year.

If the homeowner used the fireplace often there is a much higher chance that creosote has built up in the flue. This is especially true if the previous homeowner didn’t take good care of it. A fireplace that’s regularly used but neglected when it comes to cleaning and maintenance is a prime candidate for not only creosote build-up, but masonry damage as well.

However, the reverse is also true and an unused fireplace is often a neglected fireplace that can be riddled with critters who’ve taken up residency. Many homeowners simply don’t understand that a chimney needs to be inspected and cleaned regularly even if you don’t use it. If you’re purchasing a house with a fireplace that hasn’t been used since FDR’s fireside chats, it’s high time for an inspection! This goes for gas fireplaces as well - just to make sure they are in working order and there aren’t parts in need of replacement.

Know What Type of Fireplace It Is

Just like there are different types of cars with different fuel requirements, there are also several different types of fireplaces with different fuel requirements. Just like you’d weigh the options before selecting a diesel vehicle to see if it is the right choice for you, determining the type of fireplace and the unique functions of each prior to purchasing a home with a fireplace is important.

  • Wood Burning – Most people associate the word fireplace with a wood burning fireplace. It is the most traditional type of fireplace. This is the type of fireplace that the term, “Throw another log on the fire,” can be associated with. In this type of fireplace you’ll burn stacks of properly seasoned firewood and keep your home safe as well as warm by preventing sparks with a screen or doors.
  • Gas – Gas fireplaces are a much more modern type of fireplace. They have come a long way from their rudimentary beginnings over 100 years ago, the gas fireplaces of today no longer have the unmistakably “fake” look but boast fires that are very realistic-looking. These modern mock-flames add a touch of authenticity to gas fireplaces that was not available just a few short decades ago. Keep in mind that the maintenance requirements are different for each type of gas fireplace such as the ventless gas fireplaces which have strict usage instructions to ensure safety.
  • Electric – The electric fireplace which became popular in the 1950s produces no fumes and is generally low maintenance. While they don’t look as real or produce as much heat as other types of fireplaces, the “first truly realistic 'wood burning' flame effect" electric fireplace was patented in 1995. These fireplaces are great options for homes without existing fireplaces and can be a great addition to bring warmth and a focal point to any room.

Ultimately, you want to be sure to know the details before you buy! If your heart is set on a wood-burning fireplace and you buy a new house with a fireplace that is gas or electric, you may end up being disappointed in the long run. Conversely, if the thought of chopping (or buying) and storing wood sounds like a nightmare, a wood-burning fireplace may not be as fitting a choice for you as a home with a gas fireplace.

Understand Maintenance Requirements

There are maintenance requirements that fireplace owners need to understand. This is especially true if this is your first new house with a fireplace. Even if you don’t plan to use the fireplace, or use it much, keeping your home safe is directly affected by proper maintenance of your fireplace. These safety and maintenance steps will vary depending on the type of fireplace you have, but the commitment to the safety of your fireplace and your home remains the same.

Get an Inspection

When buying any new home one of the most important steps is an inspection. When you’re buying a new house with a fireplace, investing in an inspection by a specialist during the buying process is well worth it.  While obvious signs of fireplace issues would be caught by your general home inspector, a CSIA-certified chimney sweep will take a closer look at the entire fireplace and chimney which can reduce the risk of critical safety problems or needed repairs being missed.

If a chimney has been neglected for a significant amount of time, the possible chimney repairs required for safe use of your fireplace can add up. Any new homeowner wants to know exactly what they are getting into with their purchase; and a small investment for an inspection by a chimney specialist before you buy can ensure you know what you’re getting when you buy a new house with a fireplace.

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