The comfort of a fireplace
Like virtually everyone else, I’ve been isolated at home for a while now.
And one of the surprising elements that has provided the most relief during this time — for warmth (both in terms of ambience and actual temperature), practicality (bread baking, d’oh, or should I say dough), and even entertainment — is the wood-burning fireplace.
(Side note: Not all wood-burning fireplaces are banned in Montreal. The regulation that went into effect Oct. 1, 2018, bans the use of solid-fuel-burning devices — such as wood, pellets and coal — with an emission rate equal to or greater than 2.5 grams per hour.)
“There’s something very emotional about having a beautiful fireplace in your living room, so it’s hard to say how much value it actually adds to a house. I believe it’s 50 per cent of the value of the fireplace, but it’s a hard thing to attribute a number to,” said Marc Quirion, the owner of Noréa Foyers l’attisée, when I asked.
“We’re a northern country and people love their fireplaces. They add warmth; winter is easier when there’s a fireplace; it’s cosier; and they reduce electricity bills.”
According to Quirion, the cost of a fireplace starts around $5,000 and can go all the way up to $100,000, for a 20-foot-long, four-sided, custom-made one.
“We installed a similar unit in a condo downtown, in Griffintown. In that case, the client didn’t want it to produce any heat; he wanted something he could run 365 days a year,” Quirion said of that particular Davinci gas custom fireplace.
“We also installed fireplaces in some of the condos at the Tour des Canadiens 3.” And if a fireplace can be installed in a 700-square-foot condo, then “anything is possible,” he said.
The first step in the installation process is deciding what type of fireplace you want, and where you want it.
“We think that it’s important, at the beginning, to start with the needs of our clients and ask questions about their habits: Why do they want a fireplace? Where in the house do they like to spend time and relax? Do they spend a lot of time with family or receive a lot? Where? Is it for a second house or a principal house? Do they like the smell of wood or do they prefer an easy-start fire (i.e. gas or electric)?” said Esther Leduc, an interior designer at Appareil Architecture.
“The fireplace is usually the highlight of a room. You don’t want to put it in a corner where no one can see it. You have to place it in a strategic place and think about how you’re going to organize the room around it. If it’s in a living room, is there enough place to sit around it? You also have to think about the proportions of the space you have, so the fireplace doesn’t look too small or too big. Most of the time, it’s a question of point of view and general composition.”
Marc Quirion adds that there are technical aspects to consider as well. “To install a gas fireplace or stove, all you need is some space to build upwards, and exit through a flat outside wall. There are restrictions when you’re installing one closer to a window, or installing a wood fireplace, or stove, because with wood, the chimney needs to go up through the roof,” he explained.
“Ideally, the chimney runs through a wardrobe or closet, or the corner of a bedroom. We need to find the ideal location to run the chimney through the house.”
Generally speaking, the ideal height of a fireplace is 16 to 18 inches above floor level, so that when you’re sitting, it’s slightly below eye level. As to whether or not you should mount your TV over that — which is the great debate — it’s a matter of personal preference: the double-glass heat barrier on most new fireplaces makes it possible, along with protective mantels and fireplace hoods.
A fireplace can be included in the design of any room, although living rooms are a popular choice. “We think that it’s good to break the stereotype. Yes, it’s true that we’re used to seeing the fireplace in the living room, but why not put it in the bedroom if that’s where you like to read before going to sleep,” Leduc said.
“Maybe in the kitchen or dining room, if that’s where everyone likes to spend most of their time together. It has to fit with the way
(The fireplace) has to fit with the way people use their space, and the way they live . ... (It) is the heart of a home.
people use their space, and the way they live. Wherever that is, a fireplace is the heart of a home.”