Selecting the right fireplace or stove isn’t just about personal preference
Everyone loves sitting in front of a fireplace or stove. Despite the draw of that warm glow, with so many options to choose from, picking the right fireplace to match a space can be a difficult prospect. Fortunately, there’s some science behind the selection process.
The decision should be based on more than just personal preference. It should be a series of choices around what device can best heat a room, how the esthetic matches a space and how safety factors into the design.
Few people can help homeowners make those decisions better than Tim Jacob, sales manager at ARK@Home, which has sold and installed wood and gas stoves and fireplaces in Victoria since 1978. Spruce recently spoke with the fireplace expert about how to make the best pick when it comes to bringing new warmth and ambience to your home. Here is his advice.
Why would someone opt for a fireplace or stove when they already have a heating system?
It’s supplemental. A lot of people come in for a gas system because their heat pump doesn’t keep them warm on really cold days. It’s also a backup system. If you have a heat pump, boiler or furnace, you need electricity. There are power outages here, and a lot of the gas fireplaces we sell run without electricity.
How do you help people pick the perfect fireplace or stove?
Why do they want a fireplace or stove? For esthetics, main heating, supplemental heating? We start with a series of questions on what their need is.
If we’re in a client’s house, we can see what their idea of décor is, whether their house is modern, mid-century modern or vintage. We have a database of photos of projects we’ve done over the years, and we’ll show them some images and pay attention to which ones they gravitate towards. Then we can start narrowing it down.
A lot of people come in who’ve gone to restaurants or a ski lodge with an oversized fireplace, and they want that look but would have to run the flame really low because otherwise their place would get too hot. So, a lot of what we do is find the proper sizing for heat.
What is possible with design?
For the most part, every stove is customizable. You can change log sets, surrounds, colours. You can go with different trims — brushed nickel, polished chrome, vintage iron. Most of the customization we do is trying to find the best place to frame a fireplace or stove in a wall.
We start asking questions like: What do you want to see? Do you want the fireplace as the focal point? Do you want to put a TV over it? Are you going to put built-in bookshelves
What do you recommend to a client who lives in a minimalist, new-build home?
A more linear fireplace: sleek, short, long and narrow. Think glass instead of logs, with reflective glass panels in the back.
What about for people who live in a more traditional home?
If they live in a more traditional home, you can put in traditional logs or even a birch set with a brick liner, rather than reflective glass. These units are usually more square than linear.
What are some of the most common misconceptions about fireplaces and stoves?
People are scared of natural gas. People hear about a gas explosion somewhere on the other side of the world and think it’s going to happen here. There’s also a big misconception that open-hearth fireplaces heat entire homes. You won’t feel the heat unless you’re sitting right in front of it.
What’s the main difference between gas and wood fireplaces and stoves?
A lot of people come in with a romantic notion of a wood fire. Usually, by the time they leave the store, they want a gas unit because they didn’t know what was involved with wood.
Gas fireplaces are a lifestyle thing. Push a button, 30 seconds later you’re feeling the heat. With a wood fireplace, you have to get the kindling, build the fire, stoke it up, get the air flow right. Within 30 minutes, you can start feeling the heat.
Why would people opt for a wood stove or fireplace, then?
Some people say, “What if gas goes out? What if there’s an earthquake on the Island and we can’t have gas?” They want a wood backup.
They also like the feel of it. If you rent a place up at Tofino and it has a wood stove and you’re sitting by the fire with a glass of wine and watching a movie — it’s a nice feeling.