Old House Journal - - Restore -

Sup­pose your old house has lost its orig­i­nal fire­places, or that it’s cost-pro­hib­i­tive to re­store them. Or you’re in­ter­ested in a whole­house heat­ing method that burns a low-cost ma­te­rial.

The an­swer could be a ma­sonry fire­place. With a her­itage that goes back hun­dreds of years to the ear­li­est stoves in Scan­di­navia and Europe, ma­sonry fire­places are mas­sive, en­closed whole­house heaters with heat-ex­change chan­nels that con­serve en­ergy and slowly re­lease it. Ma­sonry stoves use less wood than wood stoves or fire­place in­serts to pro­duce more heat. What’s bet­ter, they pro­duce fewer emis­sions, not least be­cause fu­el­ing one even in the cold­est weather means open­ing the door to reload only twice a day.

Ma­sonry stoves are con­sid­ered ra­di­ant heat sources. While they re­quire a cer­tain amount of mass and sur­face area to heat a given amount of space, they can be em­bel­lished with such fea­tures as warm­ing benches and bake and pizza ovens. And a ma­sonry fire­place burns clean, so that you’ll al­ways see flick­er­ing flames or glow­ing coals through the fire­box open­ing.

While fire­place in­serts typ­i­cally run from $4,000 to $7,000 in­clud­ing in­stal­la­tion, ma­sonry fire­places are a big­ger un­der­tak­ing. They not only weigh be­tween 1 ½ and 3 tons, but are also more ex­pen­sive be­cause they’re usu­ally cus­tom built. M. Teix­eira Soap­stone makes com­pact units fin­ished in soap­stone that be­gin at $5,000 to $6,000. Cus­tom-de­signed ma­sonry fire­places made by 30-year veteran Rod Zan­der of New Eng­land Hearth & Soap­stone range from $20,000 to $25,000 fin­ished in tile or stone.

A cus­tom-de­signed ma­sonry fire­place by New Eng­land Hearth & Soap­stone in­cor­po­rates stove­top burn­ers, stor­age shelves, and niches as part of a rus­tic kitchen.

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