Masonry Fireplace vs Factory-Built Fireplaces

factory-built fireplace

Factory Built Zero Clearance Fireplace

Have you been weighing the heating options for a new home or remodel and decided on a fireplace? Two of your choices for enjoying cozy fires in your home are a masonry fireplace and a factory-built fireplace. Check out the information below for a comparison between the two and help making the decision that’s right for you.
Cost Difference
There is a significant difference between the upfront costs of installing a masonry fireplace as compared to a factory-built fireplace. A masonry fireplace is part of the structure of a home and is far more expensive both to build and repair. If properly maintained and cared for, however, the fireplace should last at least a century.
Factory-built fireplaces are much more economical options than traditional fireplaces. Even with purchase, installation, and needed repairs, the costs are generally very affordable. The durability factor doesn’t measure up, however; on average, they last about 40 years at most. Repairs become necessary as a result of wear and tear. Inevitably, replacement parts are needed but no longer available, which necessitates purchasing an entirely new factory-built fireplace.
As beautiful and substantial as masonry fireplaces are, they are also quite inefficient. All but about 10% of a fire’s energy is lost up the chimney; that 10% is all that enters the home to provide heat. A masonry fireplace actually can have improved efficiency, if the mason is familiar with construction techniques for achieving that goal; but a traditional fireplace should not be depended on to provide a substantial amount of the heat needed in winter
Factory-built fireplaces, on the other hand, are specifically designed to use less firewood and burn cleaner and hotter. The appliances have high efficiency ratings, and some top-of-the-line models have been deemed smoke-free appliances by the Environmental Protection Agency. The increased intensity of heat in these fireplaces results in a larger amount of combustion gas and ash being burned up, which means a cleaner burn.
Structural Differences
The construction of masonry fireplaces is very different from factory-built fireplaces.
As the name implies, factory-built fireplaces are made in a factory. Typically made with metal, glass doors, insulated walls, and air-cooled pipes, some of the appliances are also complete with blowers that help push warmed air into the home. This type of fireplace is regulated by various municipal and engineering codes, but there is a wide range of design types. Some are more insulated than others.
A masonry fireplace is a structure that is integrated into the architecture of the home and is typically built when the home is built, though a remodel can include a fireplace. Masonry fireplaces are usually built with brick or stone and mortar, and they have concrete foundations. There are municipal codes which mandate specific requirements regarding the construction of a fireplace. For example, a flue lining is required in all chimneys, as a safety measure which helps to prevent house fires. Many old homes have fireplaces with no lining. For safety reasons, an unlined chimney should never be used.

Masonry Fireplace

Full Masonry Fireplace

The number one benefit of a masonry fireplace is beauty of the architecture that creates an unmatchable ambiance, but factory-built fireplaces come in many designs so that there is usually a model which fits with any décor.
Both types of fireplaces can be safe to operate, if correctly built or installed and well-maintained. But when it comes to a factory-built fireplace, it’s important to have the appliance professionally installed. One of the potential dangers of installing the fireplace incorrectly is exposing the home to deadly carbon monoxide poisoning.
If you need help deciding what type of heating system to install in your home, give our professionals a call. We can answer all of your questions and help you choose from among the options that are right for you and your home.