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The Stockings Were Hung By The Fire With Care....

This time of year, there tends to be a lot of focus on fireplaces. Covered with garland and lights, we dress them up beautifully, but the fireplace serves more than a place to hang our stockings. Fireplaces and mantels have become a focal point in today’s custom homes and can also serve as a major source of heat.

With so many styles available, we set out to contrast and compare them so that you can get the most out of these warm and toasty companions.

Wood Burning Fireplace. A beautiful and practical addition to any custom home, this type of fireplace can be designed to accentuate your unique style. With fireplace surrounds available in so many colors, textures and materials, your choices are endless. Choices range from traditional to ultra-contemporary with solutions to compliment the look and feel of any home.

Gas Burning Fireplace. A popular choice, the gas-burning fireplace provides the same ambiance of its wood burning counterpart but is easier to use and maintain. These units can be installed in the traditional built-in hearth or can be purchased in a prebuilt model that can be used in almost any area of the home with proper ventilation.

Electric Fireplaces. If you’re choosing to go electric, you’ll find that you have a lot of options to choose from. These fireplaces are available in traditional stone varieties but can also be found in a variety of contemporary wall mounted models which often unexpectedly add a pop of warmth to a room.

Ethanol Fireplaces. Less typical than your traditional fireplace, these can be found in wall mounted sconces or table top models. They are generally added to spaces to create an aesthetic rather than to produce heat.

Here’s what we have found:

Most Ambiance: Wood Burning Fireplace.

If you love curling up to a fire with a good book or a cup of tea, the experience you get from the crackling and popping of a wood burning is second to none. Angie’s list states that this is the number one preference among homeowners and buyers. If you’re looking for the negatives to wood burning, it would simply be the clean-up and necessary chimney care that needs to be done on a regular basis for safety and efficiency.

Budget Friendly: Electric Fireplaces

Units powered by electricity are really good options and can be found for as low as $100 — an easy fit for almost any budget. Installation can vary but can be as easy as plugging it into the wall. You’ll forgo the cleaning and maintenance that comes with a wood burning unit so if you’d rather not mess with the soot, this may be a good choice. The single downfall that weighed heavily on our purchasing decision was the amount of heat that is produce. These units simply don’t compare to a wood burning fireplaces and are probably better choices for the visual impact they add to a room.

Most Easily Used: Gas Fireplaces

We love the ease of flipping a switch and creating an instant fire and this is often what you get with a gas fireplace. Annual inspections of the operating system are still requested but you for-go the constant cleaning and refueling that comes with a wood unit. Without a gas line to your home, these can be a little tricky to install but if you still opt for this choice, there are many styles with a variety of venting options available.

Most Portable: Ethanol fueled fireplaces come in many sizes which make them and easy choice for smaller spaces or if you can’t build a unit in. We have found that these fireplaces lack the same heating power that you get from a traditional fireplace and make better choices if you’re only looking to add visual impact to a space. A downfall to Ethanol is that the fuel is a bit costly if you are planning to burn your fireplace for extended periods. For three quarts alone, you will spend upwards of $30.00 and can really add up for larger fireplaces.

Best Overall: Gas Burning Fireplace.

While each of these options has great advantages, we found that the gas burning fireplace offers simplicity of use; option for style and installation; and available in a variety of styles and finishes. These units are relatively inexpensive to operate for extended periods of time and provide warmth and aesthetic value to any home.

Paquin Design/Build is a custom home builder headquartered in Grasonville, MD and building in Anne Arundel County, throughout Stevensville and Kent Island and into Talbot County and the St. Michaels area. We also renovate and remodel existing structures. For information on our services, visit our website at or call our offices at 410 643-7811.

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