H&G: Fireside Chats

Written by Radina Gigova in the December 2010 Issue

On a cold winter day, nothing brings more warmth and comfort to a home than a fireplace. While sipping from a cup of hot cocoa and gazing into the roaring fire, you might get distracted by the imperfections of your current mantle or hearth. But don’t worry, experts in the field say there are endless ways to upgrade or renovate your fireplace.

The facade of the fireplace is often the first thing people notice, so consider a fresh, new look by upgrading the finish to stone, brick, tile, marble, limestone or granite.

Heritage Renovations owner Leslie Peake says Edmond residents often opt for a more traditional look, rather than metal stove fireplaces or brightly-colored modern styles or shapes. “They usually choose brick or stone; they want them to be a little “old world,” warm and inviting, and also functional,” she said.

Peake provides a number of ideas to give a facelift to a fireplace, such as custom mantles, columns on both sides of the opening, or even custom shelves surrounding the focal point. Windowed doors with trim painted in a color that complements the home’s interior can spice up your fireplace, or an ornate cast-iron hearth insert can add the unique look you’re seeking, she says. 

One accessory that is both decorative and functional seems to be dominating the market – a television. “We have been installing a lot of flat screen TVs above fireplaces,” Peake says. “The fireplace is the focal point of the room and if you don’t have a lot of extra wall space, you can put the flat screen over the top of the fire place, as long as it’s not too close to the opening so that it doesn’t get too hot.”

Peake also sees a trend toward larger fireplace openings, beyond the traditional size of 48 inches wide by 36 inches high. “Sometimes we will double or even triple that size,” she said. The larger fireplaces are usually made of brick or stone to radiate a lot of heat within larger rooms.

For those who decide to go with gas logs, the market offers various sizes and shapes. One extravagant twist to the gas log concept is a newer product called FireBalls, offering a contemporary alternative. Found at Bachles Fireplace Furnishings and Outdoor Living at 9422 N. May Avenue, FireBalls come in different colors; they are round in shape; and they can be stacked in a number of ways inside the hearth.

But for those who like the traditional sound and aroma of burning wood, harder seasoned logs like black jack, pecan, red and white oak or walnut would be an excellent choice. They burn for a long time, producing more heat.

However, often the glamour of a fireplace becomes dimmed when it’s time for the routine cleaning. Don Wilson, owner of the Hearth Shop in Edmond, says a new generation of pre-engineered fireplaces use airtight burning technology to basically clean themselves. They are considered the upper end of the line, reaching up
to $35,000.

Airtight systems create more efficient combustion and less residue, Wilson explains. The inside pipe in this type of unit is made of stainless steel that heats up very quickly and almost nothing sticks to it. There is an insert that works as a second chamber where gas and residue are burned before they go up into the chimney, keeping it clean. “With the airtight systems, it could be even 4, 5 to 6 years before you need to clean your chimney,” he said. The insert can also be installed to retrofit an older fireplace.

Sooner Fireplace owner Galen Sparkes recommends Isokern Fireplace Systems for durability. Constructed of volcanic ash, which has a high insulation value, this type of fireplace is very reliable and efficient. “People are usually looking for something that is going to be there for a long time so that they don’t have to replace it,” he said.

Sparkes also suggests a chimney cap to protect the system from the rain, bird’s nests and all the animals drawn to a chimney’s warmth and cover. If rain goes down the chimney, it can absorb into the brick, causing damage.

Fireplaces are permanent fixtures in many Edmond homes, so the selection of each element should be carefully thought out. While deciding on the upgrades, keep in mind that the hard work spent on every detail will make the look and feel of your home more personal to your taste, and also add resale value for the future.

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