WHOLE HOUSE FIREPLACES
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.