A zero clearance fireplace is a built-in type and comes in several varieties. Do you consider installing one in your home? What is it exactly? How does it work? What are the advantages of zero clearance fireplaces and which one is better for you – wood burning models or gas types? Is it safe? Many people are facing these questions when they remodel or build new homes and are looking for an interior fireplace.
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What is a zero clearance fireplace?
Designed for installation in new constructions or when renovating your home, zero clearance fireplaces are pre-fab heating appliances which can be safely placed in proximity to combustible materials, such as a sheetrock wall, wood, or paneling. Installing a zero clearance fireplace means t you will not need a buffer zone between it and the wall and you can install this type of fireplace in tight spaces.
Zero clearance fireplaces come in a variety of designs, sizes and styles and can burn wood, gas, and pellets but one of their major characteristics is the fact that they never get hot enough on the outside to burn the surrounding materials.
Zero clearance fireplace vs masonry and inserts
The fireplace options on the market are numerous and you can easily get lost in the variety of inserts, masonry models, burning options, etc. Let’s see what the differences between the different types of interior fireplaces are.
Masonry fireplaces are built from brick or stone thus creating a solid barrier between the firebox and the construction materials. The firebox does not have (or has very little) metal and it may have doors. A chimney is part of the construction.
A fireplace insert can be installed inside an existing masonry or metal one. It typically comes with insulated glass doors which are designed to increase heat efficiency and radiate heat into the room. There are more fuel options (gas, propane, pellet, coal and wood) and have a thermostatic insert and a remote control to regulate the fire.
Zero clearance fireplaces are pre-fabricated and designed for safe installation near combustible materials like wood, sheetrock or paneling. Zero clearance fireplaces fuel options are wood, pellets or gas and electric can be found as well. You can choose from models with remote control operation or thermostat control. Each of these fireplace types requires different venting options.
What are the advantages of a zero clearance fireplace?
There are lots of features that make a zero clearance fireplace a good option for any home. On the first place it adds value to the home and the property. Due to the fact that a buffer zone is not a must, pre-fab zero clearance fireplaces can be installed almost anywhere and will fit in a smaller place than other units.
Zero clearance fireplaces are cheaper than masonry type as there is no cost for the masonry work which will build the protective area and prevent combustible materials from heat produced by the flame. Further to that the installation is easier and takes less time compared to alternatives. A zero clearance fireplace requires less maintenance than traditional one and the operation is very simple.
Modern zero clearance fireplaces are very effective and provide more heat than traditional ones. A zero clearance fireplace does not require a heart, some models only need air ventilation pipes in the back, others come with a retractable door and can be used with the door open or closed.
You can choose between different zero clearance fireplaces – wood and pellet burning or gas burning and most models are designed to need a system of vents and ducts which provides air circulation in and out.
The visual appeal of a modern zero clearance fireplace is a complement to any home and it will add to the aesthetic appearance and the atmosphere in rooms of every size and shape. You can choose from models designed as a classic masonry fireplace and wood burning or gas burning options (propane or natural gas). Modern zero clearance fireplace designs feature elegant models designed to reduce the amount of heat lost and cone in many styles – from sleek and modern to rustic. You can have a customized gas zero-clearance one so that it suits your home decor and personal taste.
Wood burning zero clearance fireplace – pros and cons
Wood burning zero clearance fireplace designs come in various sizes and models – see-through, three-sided or corner options. Those who prefer the dancing flames, the crackling sounds and the smell of burning wood would enjoy a cozy, warm look and feel in their rooms. Wood burning models have metal vent systems and come at a significantly lower price than masonry fireplaces. You can have a finish which will mimic a it and create the authentic look of a traditional wood burning one.
However, one of the major disadvantages is the obvious fact that you shall need wood. Wood supply could be an easy task for those living in the country but in the city you will have to organize a regular supply which means that you will have to buy the wood for your fireplace on a regular basis and have enough space to store it.
Another disadvantage of wood burning fireplaces is that wet wood does not burn well. Wood needs time to get dry and you need a trustworthy supplier. Keep in mind that softwoods need a period of at least year to be dry while hardwoods need even more and in addition softwoods and hardwoods have different burn properties – you can easily start softer wood species like pine and fir, but hardwood species like hickory, pecan or oak are very dense and start burning much slower.
The maintenance of the fireplace is another factor that you need to keep in mind. Wood burning type need to be cleaned after the fire is out and you have to wait for it to cool.
Gas burning zero clearance fireplace – pros and cons
The popularity of gas fireplaces is growing for a good reason – they are easy to use and there is no need to store wood supply. Many people confuse and use the term: fireplace insert” for both gas and zero clearance. Hopefully, we explained clearly that these are not one and the same thing. You can install a zero clearance fireplace into a wall or framed into a mantel cabinet while inserts can be installed into a pre-existing one.
Gas burning zero clearance fireplaces work without electricity and many models have programmable thermostats which makes them energy efficient. Modern thermostats have the option to be controlled by your smartphone or tablet and will keep the energy costs at a low level. Those are unique, high-quality products and the easy installation makes them very popular among customers.
Those who prefer the crackling of wood logs may feel disappointed but gas fireplaces are very functional and there are many models manufactured with logs which look like real ones. It is only you who decides whether to sacrifice aesthetics for function.
Zero clearance fireplace – buyers’ guide and useful tips
When choosing a zero clearance fireplace you need to keep in mind a number of factors. It is an investment and a chance to add value to your home in addition to the comfort and visual appeal.
Zero clearance fireplaces come in a variety of sizes and configurations – from small and medium to large and see through. The fireplaces may differ in efficiency as well. The size of the room will determine the size of it. Small sized zero clearance fireplaces are a good choice for a small room while large types are suitable for open plan living spaces.
Depending on your needs you can choose a zero clearance fireplace which has more decorative function. Saying that, do not think that it will not produce heat. It will, but such models are designed to add atmosphere and ambiance to the home and enhance the decor.
The fact that zero clearance fireplaces do not require a hearth or brick around them can be both advantage and disadvantage. The lack of hearth takes away the look and to make sure that your fireplace looks good, you have to consider a proper place as well as finish and the layout of the area around it. You know that details matter and doors, screens or mantles significantly add to the overall appearance of the fireplace.
Consult with professionals about the installation of your zero clearance fireplace. All four corners should fit snugly up against the wall and it is better if you hire professionals for the job as they have the expertise to connect the fireplace in the right way.