A great fireplace design can
be the focal point of any room.

Good fireplace design is an important part of any house plan and can be found in many different fireplace styles, forms and sizes. It doesn't matter if its a masonry fireplace or an insert unit, it can have a dramatic effect on those who see it.

Corner fireplaces have been very popular for decades and also make good use of space in most rooms. A stone or brick fireplace extending up to the ceiling in the corner of a room can be an eye-catcher. Another popular style is a free standing fireplace in the center of a large room - one which you can walk around (perhaps even a see-through design).

It is hard to beat a classic used brick fireplace. This
particular one features some diagonal brick patterns.

For years, most of our plans featured one or more masonry fireplace designs. A masonry fireplace can be a thing of beauty, but it is also very expensive to build - and is not very efficient. You must have a large foundation footing underneath it along with lots of steel reinforcing bars mixed with concrete right up to the chimney. Although beautiful to look at, they are not always the most practical way to go and they frequently produce less heat than a pre-fabricated fireplace insert unit does. Due to its cost, fewer people today are building masonry fireplaces.

You can still have an excellent fireplace design utilizing a fireplace insert unit - and save lots of money besides. In fact, if built properly, it can be almost impossible to distinguish an insert fireplace from the real thing. They also have an advantage in tight spaces since they can be built very close to wood framing members (this is known as a zero clearance fireplace). You can still use brick or stone, or any other type of facing or veneer on the fireplace exterior. You can also incorporate an attractive fireplace mantel or surround into the design. And you will save money by not needing any special footings underneath or any steel in its framing structure. As a bonus, an insert fireplace is much more efficient at throwing heat into a room which can lead to energy savings.

Current building codes in California require all fireplaces (whether masonry or insert types) to have glass doors installed at the firebox opening. This is because of energy saving laws which went into effect some time ago. Many people hate to see glass doors on a masonry fireplace (so do we!). Some even remove the doors after receiving final inspection on their new house (after all, this is still America ....... isn't it? Well, maybe not.). However, on the working plans, glass doors must be shown.

Many people today are installing direct vent gas fireplace units. They are turned on and off by a wall switch. They create a gas flame and do put out the heat. However, you cannot burn wood in them (they have a fixed glass panel on the front instead of openable
glass doors).

A fireplace design can be greatly enhanced by the use of a fireplace mantel. More rugged designs might feature a piece of heavy rough-sawn timber as a mantel. A formal fireplace design would likely have some type of pre-cast surround piece which is an extension of the mantel itself and is made of stone or marble (or something similar). And some fireplaces look better having no mantel at all (such as a corner Pueblo-style fireplace).

In recent years, gas fireplace inserts (which are not wood burning fireplaces) have become very popular. These units do not burn wood at all, but instead are turned on and off with a simple wall switch. The gas flames produce quite a bit of heat and there is no mess to clean up afterwards. Many of these units vent through an outside wall behind the fireplace - so no chimney is required either. Some of our clients like the idea of having a gas fireplace inside the house, but also want a second wood burning unit somewhere as well. Others will put the wood burning fireplace outside as part of a patio area. Good fireplace design can be accomplished no matter what your tastes or preferences are.

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