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Fireplaces making life a bit warmer

Winter is upon us and when considering ways to heat up your home, one obvious thought would be to add or restore an indoor fireplace. In light of the cost of electricity, homeowners are starting to consider the fireplace as a must have piece of heating furniture which provides a cosy ambience, comfortable gathering place for family and friends and adds value to a home.  

“As with any home improvement, it is a good idea to take a moment to think about exactly what you are trying to achieve with your indoor fireplace.  Consider the structure that you already have, the amount of heating that you want to achieve and, of course, the design of your home” advises Craig Hutchison, CEO of Engel & Völkers Southern Africa.

 South Africa
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According to Hilly Nachman, owner of The Fire Place Studio there is never a bad time to install a fireplace, whether you are building or renovating, upgrading an existing installation or just installing from scratch. “Most people tend to wait till it gets cold and then are in a hurry to get it installed, so there is a fairly long lead time in mid-winter of 3-5 weeks”.

Choosing the right design and product is key to ensuring your fireplace is a positive component rather than an underutilised element in your home. There are various types of indoor fireplaces you can purchase; we compare the pros and the cons of some.

Wood Burning Fireplace

A traditional wood burning hearth typically made of stone or brick, is what most people think of when they picture a fireplace. There are a number of options in this category, and they can differ in terms of how easy they are to install, how much heat they put out and how cost-efficient they will be for you to operate. If you do not already have a fireplace in your home, it will require a fair amount of construction work to put in both the opening itself and the chimney for proper ventilation.


  • Valued for its aesthetic - you can’t beat the look and sound of a wood fire
  • They create a cosy, rustic atmosphere in any space
  • Most people like the smoky scent they give off


  • Expensive to install and to maintain
  • High maintenance 
  • Spit out burning embers, so screens are needed to ensure safe use

Gas Burning Fireplace

A popular alternative to traditional wood burning fireplaces. Opt for a free-standing gas fireplace that utilizes a pipe which enables you to install your fireplace in any room.  Direct-vented models require a chimney for ventilation either a pre-existing chimney or a new chimney can be constructed.


  • Create more heat at a lower cost
  • Require less construction or reconstruction to install
  • Burn natural gas instead of wood and are easy to use


  • Despite burning clear, they still pose the slight risk of emitting contaminants
  • Need a line installed between fireplace and fuel source
  • May not offer the same feel as wood burning versions

Ethanol Burning Fireplace

Fireplaces that burn ethanol have become the current trend for their ease in installation as well as their contemporary design.  Most contain a burner that can be filled with the bioethanol fuel for easy repeated use. 


  • They are more environmentally friendly and odourless
  • Require minimal installation
  • Can adjust the temperature and are easy to turn on and off


  • Provide less heat than gas fireplaces, won’t heat your entire home
  • Require refilling 

Electric Fireplace

Easy to incorporate into a space and are quickly catching on as the most popular fuel type available. They create warmth by heating interior coils with electricity. Most models come with an internal fan to better distribute heat throughout your home. Given that there is no real flame inside an electric fireplace, they employ a “fake” flame to give them a lifelike look and feel.


  • Most cost effective option to install
  • Enable you to turn the heating function on or off while maintaining a fireplace-like ambiance
  • Low maintenance and safest option for a home with kids and pets


  • Less attractive and does not give that authentic fire feel
  • Energy consumption is high and will increase your electricity bill
  • Are not permanent fixtures so they are not likely to add value to your home

Table top Fireplace

These come in different sizes, enabling you to make use of them in a variety of settings.


  • Easily portable, often usable both indoors and outdoors
  • Simple, easy and safe to use
  • Relatively cost-effective


  • Heat output is lacking so should be used only as supplemental heat sources
  •  Last only for a few hours
  • Need to make sure the tin cans are fully intact to prevent a hazard from happening

Wall-Mounted Fireplace

There are two subtypes of wall-mounted fireplaces, those that need to be connected to a chimney and those that don’t. The type you get depends on what type of fuel you use. Many people use a wall-mounted fireplace as the focal point of their room. 


  • Saves space, common option for those with small homes or apartments
  • Self-contained wall-mounted fireplaces can even be moved from room to room as needed.
  • Less mess as they run on either gas or electricity


  • Less heat
  • Often looks faux depending on the manufacturer of the unit
  • No added value - is portable, it will not add value to the home

Wood Stove Fireplace

Modern stoves come in steel as well as cast iron. There are many, many different styles of fireplace to choose from, ranging from traditional style stoves all the way to contemporary double sided fireplaces heat radiates from all surfaces of the fireplace rather than large volumes of air escaping the chimney like with an open fireplace.


  • Very safe, have a glass door that traps the flames inside. This ensures a higher level of safety when the fire is in use.
  • Fuel efficient,  extremely eco-friendly as far as efficiency goes
  • There is little to no maintenance or effort required


  • Need a dry place to store wood
  • The upfront, capital cost of building a sizeable wood energy facility can be high
  • When wood burns it releases hazardous gasses (e.g., nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide) and soot.

Trends for fireplaces for 2018

Dave Tunbridge, Sales Manager at Fireplace Warehouse says that Fireplaces have really evolved over the years with the new products now being more environmentally friendly and efficient. Today’s fireplace design allows you to use less fuel for more heat and emit lower emissions into the atmosphere. Another design trend is that one does not need to have a black fireplace anymore as some units are available in different colours. Most clients are looking for modern or retro design units nowadays with the wall mounted type being one of the most popular selling units at the moment.  

Andrew Balding, Managing Director at Morso agrees that the trend seems to be that fireplaces have a modern “white” finish. White is regularly referred to as the most complementary colour that can be added to any room or decor. It’s simple and clean nature ensures cohesion and synergy with the rest of your furnishings, varying from traditional to contemporary


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Engel & Völkers
Licence Partner South Africa
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