Teach Me About New England Fireplaces

6 Replies

I'm a life long SoCal investor buying property in Vermont. In Cali, fireplaces are a huge plus, in the NorEast they are rarely mentioned. From reading the forums I guess 100 yr old homes the fireplaces are a negative?

I get they may be a negative from a landlord's POV but what about home buyers?

Are they usually so much a heat loss during harsh winters that owners block them up or what?

Please help me understand... TIA

Hey Darrell,

I work in Virginia but grew up in Rutland. Is that where you're investing?

As for the fireplaces, I know a lot of people back home who have capped their fireplaces due to heat loss. That said, I also know agents back home who use fireplaces as a selling point. You can make it work either way. I have friends who bought a house specifically because it had a functional fireplace.

If a fireplace is capped or otherwise non-functional just make sure it looks nice. I've seen lots of capped fireplaces with crumbling brick or chipped mantels. That means a major turn off in the middle of the house. Seems like people kind of forget about the fireplace once they stop using it.

A good option is a gas stove in front of a capped fireplace. That way, you preserve the charm without the heat loss and chimney maintenance.

Go to the forums at hearth.com. All you'll ever need to know about fireplaces is there. A fireplace in the NE is never a negative. Matter of fact, most people need them for supplemental heat. 

@Darrell Lee  

If you plan on renting the apartment, check with your insurance company.  Several company will not write policies on rentals with functional fireplaces or wood stoves.

The general concept of open fireplaces is that they are quite poor at heating homes.  Wood stoves are much, much better. Hearth.com discussion

I grew up with wood stoves in every house that I can remember.  They were awesome for heating.  Especially the ones with catalytic converters.

If you are going to buy a property, make sure the inspector takes a seriously good look at the chimney.  It will run you about $800 to get a new flue installed if there isn't one or the current one is corroded.  If you need to get the Chimney repointed, figure $50/foot for that work.

Open hearths look cool, but are pretty useless for heat.  The gas insert is a MUCH better option if you plan on using it as a heat source.

@Darrell Lee  

I would like to put further emphasis on @Aaron Montague  's recommendation to have the fireplace and chimney(s) thoroughly inspected.  Many of the houses in the north east are old enough that chimneys may not be lined - great source of gases in the house and chimney fires.

Also, while an open hearth fireplace is ornamental, it is a lousy source of heat ... you would need to put an air-tight wood/pellet/gas insert into a fireplace to make it moderately efficient.

I would also add gas inserts are a nice backup in a power failure but know what you are buying,  how many BTU s  does it put out etc.    It needs to be sufficient to heat the space if you want it for something other then decoration.  If you are buying an investment in Vermont then I would check the insurance regarding fireplaces. Could be an issue. If you don't us them cap and close the fireplace up in the house. I do like fireplaces myself so  I like a house that has them. We have 2 in our house but I don't let the tenants use the wood fireplace because you never can tell what the students would consider burning.

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