HACKENSACK, N.J. — Vikki Ruisch had a fireplace in her house, but it was in a room her family barely used. So during a remodeling project last year, she had a fireplace built in her heavily trafficked living room, where everyone could enjoy it.
Ruisch figured it would add value to her Woodcliff Lake, N.J., house, but that wasn’t really an incentive. She grew up having a fireplace in her home and just wanted one, or two. She also had one put in the master bedroom.
“I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like a fireplace,” she said. “We use ours, especially this winter. My husband puts the one on in the bedroom when he gets up about an hour before me, and then it’s nice and toasty by the time I get up.”
Ruisch is one of many home and business owners installing fireplaces to add ambience, warmth and financial value to where they live and work. A fireplace can increase a home’s value by 6 to 12 percent, according to the National Center for Real Estate Research of Littleton, Colo.
In addition to the standard stone or brick fireplaces found in typical settings like single-family homes and ski lodges, temporary hearths can be installed in the tiniest of apartments and the most intimate of restaurants.
Ventless fireplaces are a swiftly growing segment of the market, targeted for apartments or other buildings where permanent changes can’t be made. Those that run on electricity can, with the flip of a switch, heat a space up to about 400 square feet, or, in hot weather operate with no warming element.
One manufacturer, HearthCabinet Ventless Fireplaces in New York City, offers products that use alcohol gel cartridges instead of electricity, said Sara Check, marketing and sales manager for the company.
“Lots of people wanted a fireplace and didn’t have a chimney, gas line or vent,” Check said. “So we are filling a void in a niche market. The cartridges work like a sterno canister works. You can replace the top and then use it again.”
One of the drawbacks to ventless fireplaces, specifically because there is no way to send gases outside the building, is that they often emit an odor, similar to the smell from an oven when it is on. But Check said HearthCabinet throws off little, if any odor, because of the gel cartridges it uses.
“Since our cartridges use isopropyl alcohol, our emissions don’t really have an odor,” she said.
Variety of options
Ventless fireplaces offer a variety of decorative options including ceramic logs, glass tips or river stones. They can range in size from about 24 to 42 inches wide and stand about 24 inches high.
Direct vent fireplaces also are growing in popularity, after starting in restaurants and other commercial businesses, like hotels, and are now becoming more common in homes, said Jason Conklin, manager of KJB Fireplaces in Ramsey, N.J.
“Usually they are linear fireplaces, only about 20 inches tall but stretch 5 or 6 feet wide,” Conklin said.
For single-family homes, sealed vent fireplaces, which use gas and burn air from the outside, are more popular. They are highly efficient at heating rooms and with a sharp decorative door, don’t look much different from a typical fireplace, industry experts said.
Ron Gaglione, owner of RDG Construction in Franklin Lakes, N.J., is still partial to the standard stone-and-mortar style. Natural stone, installed by an experienced craftsman, makes a fireplace a true asset to a home but is less popular because of the expense, Gaglione said. “The cost is 25 percent to 30 percent more for one of these, so the demand is limited. ... But I have a passion for real construction — they are beautiful.”
Typical wood-burning fireplaces offer a slew of choices, including brick, wood, marble, stone or a combination, Conklin said.
“Years ago, wood-burning fireplaces were about 70 percent of our business. Now they’re about 40 percent,” Conklin said. “People want the convenience of gas where they can just push a button rather than having to haul wood into their house and work to keep the fire going. And though electric fireplaces are gaining in popularity, they’re only about 4 percent to 5 percent of our business.”
On buyers’ lists
Nationwide, 13 percent of buyers of single-family homes had a fireplace on their list of particular features they were seeking.
Ruisch, who chose a marble fireplace for her bedroom and a two-story stone facade for the living room, didn’t really consider any resale value. “We went with gas because it’s cleaner and my daughter has asthma. ... It also lights and heats up the room so much quicker than a wood-burning one. Fireplaces add value to my home, but even if they didn’t, I just love having them.”