Installing a fireplace with a brick-lined hearth and a custom mantel can easily cost $10,000 or more. It’s also possible to get a similar look for thousands of dollars less. Just shop for a ready-made unit and watch what you spend on the fireplace surround.
If your budget is really tight, a free-standing gel-fuel or electric fireplace eliminates installation costs. But be aware that some bare-bones alternatives don’t completely succeed in mimicking a real wood fire.
Check local building codes for possible restrictions on the types of fireplaces that can be installed in your area.
#1 It's the Stonework That Makes Wood-Burning Fireplaces Pricey
An open-hearth, wood-burning fireplace — like the ones you see in mountain resort hotels — requires the help of a skilled, professional mason and a budget approaching (and often exceeding) $10,000.
For an existing home, considerable renovation work is required, including a foundation to carry the weight of the firebox and chimney, and the cost of the chimney itself.
Expect to pay $7,000 to $10,000 or more.
Cost saver tip: Go for a drywall surround and a simple, wall-mounted mantle to stay closer to the $7,000 number.
#2 Installation Doubles the Cost of a Gas Fireplace
A fireplace unit that burns natural gas or propane runs about $2,000 for the basic materials package. Installation and finishing typically add $2,500.
Cost saver tip: Switch to a simpler surround and mantle, and get a direct-vent fireplace so you don’t need a chimney. Hiring a professional to install a gas line or a connection to a propane tank adds about $1,000.
#3 Electric Is Your Least-Expensive Option
A gel-fuel fireplace or an electric fireplace starts under $400. With a portable unit, that’s the total cost since the fireplace is ready to use once you remove the packaging.
Because there’s no flue or chimney, it’s easy to install TVs or other electronic gear directly above an electric fireplace. If you include a mantel package, expect to pay $800 to $1,600. One perk available: sound effects that mimic the crackle and pop of a real fire.
#4 Operating Expenses Vary Widely
Estimate your energy costs by using a fuel cost comparison calculator. Gel fuel, not included in the calculator, costs $3 per 13-ounce can, enough for three hours.
For a wood-burning fireplace, figure on $100 to $200 a year for chimney cleaning. Gas fireplaces need an annual service check ($100 to $150) plus a chimney inspection. Gel-fuel and electric fireplaces don’t need regular maintenance.