When you build a new home, you want the perfect marriage of aesthetic value and functionality. That balance is critical with your chimney. From many angles outside, the chimney exterior will be a prominent feature. Inside the home, it could add to (or detract from) the appearance of your living space. Choosing the perfect chimney material when designing the fireplace and chimney for your new home can help ensure your chimney is both attractive and safely functional.
There are many things to consider when deciding what materials make more sense for your home’s design. How often will you use the fireplace and chimney? How much maintenance are you willing to commit to? What is your overall design style, and how do you imagine the chimney contributes to it? By exploring both what you want it to do and how you want it to look, you can easily determine what kind of material is right for your new home’s chimney.
The Traditional Look: Masonry and Clay Tile Chimneys
Most people imagine masonry and clay tile chimneys when they picture a chimney. These chimneys are only approved for low-heat uses (under 1800ºF) and are typically only used in residential construction. Popular materials that fall into this category include bricks, masonry blocks, concrete blocks, cinder blocks, concrete and stone. If you’re looking for a vintage, classic, or rustic feel for your home’s exterior, masonry and clay tile chimneys are the best choice. Of course, you can also make masonry look modern, bold and cutting-edge. It’s all about the details, like color and layout.
Tiles, colored bricks, and intricate designs can turn a brick fireplace and chimney into an artistic masterpiece. Few design aspects have the inherent romance and eye-catching appeal that masonry chimneys and fireplaces offer. You can use muted tones to blend into the interior walls and exterior of the home, or you can boldly draw the eye with color, shape and design. Keep in mind that use of the chimney and fireplace could affect its overall appearance. Ease of cleaning and the ability to maintain the appearance of the chimney should be considered when choosing colors and styles.
When attached directly to a masonry fireplace, these chimneys and fireplaces can be a visual focal point for a room or your whole home. The thickness can be varied as well, to increase insulation around the fireplace. Clay tile is prone to breakage from rapid thermal expansion. That could mean that you have to regularly replace tiles in your fireplace or chimney when you use it. Thankfully, clay tiles are inexpensive, which makes their regular need for repair less of a cause for concern.
Sleek and Modern: Metal Chimneys and Pre-Fabricated Chimneys
When people talk about pre-fabricated chimneys, they are talking about metal chimneys made in factories. These chimneys are cost effective, simple to install, and create fewer design constrictions when compared with large, elaborate masonry options. Pre-fabricated chimneys are easy to install and use, and their design can make them very efficient for helping heat your home. They are durable and affordable, which can make them very attractive choices for those who don’t plan on using the fireplace much or treating the chimney like a design focal point.
Metal chimneys take up little space and need less clearance between them and combustible materials when compared with masonry chimneys. Typically made of stainless steel or other non-corrosive metals and air-insulated, metal chimneys may not provide space for Santa to slide down, but they do the job of removing smoke safely. Metal chimneys last longer and can be encased in an attractive facade to mimic the look of masonry chimneys.
In some cases, older fireplaces and chimneys can be bypassed by installing the smaller metal chimney. Of course, the downside to metal chimneys is that they may not last as long as masonry chimneys and they still require regular maintenance and cleaning. Many people believe that the metal options free them up from needing professional maintenance, but that mistake could result in a house fire!
Old School: The Wood-Burning Stove
If you’re looking for something dramatic that allows for the enjoyment of open flame without the mess associated with a fireplace, a wood-burning stove could be the perfect solution. You can have an attractive and warm fire in a central space in your house without an actual fireplace. These stoves can be connected to either kind of chimney, though the metal stovepipe is the more traditional look for a wood-burning stove.
While attractive and unique, wood-burning stoves do have some downsides. They require proper care and maintenance, or warping of the unit could result. Additionally, the stove will have to be connected to an outside air supply, since your new home will be built solidly and won’t provide any drafts or breezes. If you can work with those constraints and are willing to invest in maintenance and regular cleaning for your wood-burning stove, however, it could provide a centerpiece to a space and a conversation starter for your social gatherings for years to come.
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