Why Do New Homes Not Have Fireplaces? (Explained)6 min read

There’s nothing quite like a fireplace to add an elegant aesthetic to your house while providing cozy warmth during cold months.

Sadly, you may have started to notice that not many homes nowadays have fireplaces. Between 2005 and 2017, the number of new single-family houses built with fireplaces in the United States dropped from 818,00 to 320,000!

So what happened? Why do new homes not have fireplaces? 

As time progressed, heating options went through major advancements. In the 1970s, central heating systems -also known as radiators- became more available to the public, and so, more people started to let go of conventional open fireplaces.

Additionally, not building a chimney meant reducing the cost of construction and making new homes more affordable. Not to mention, the need to have new houses with as efficient designs as possible caused recent building regulations to require minimum airtightness levels, which isn’t possible with drafty traditional chimneys.

What’s more, residential open fires release a lot of gases that can cause air pollution, leading to public health problems. Consequently, new homes must meet particular eco-standards that don’t encourage burning solid fuel.

Keep reading as we dive deeper into this topic and answer more related questions.

Do any new homes have fireplaces?

When you look at the basic statistics of the topic, the decline is obvious to spot in the number of new homes built with a fireplace. To help you get a better perspective, here are a few examples pulled from the United States Census Bureau:

YearNumber of new single-family homes constructed with at least one fireplace
1978876,000
1995671,000
2000741,000
2005901,000
2010242,000
2015318,000
2017358,000

From these numbers, it’s evident there’s a significant drop in the number of homes built with fireplaces. However, it’s also clear that new homes are still being constructed with fireplaces.

Why, though? Well, the main reason is to cut down on energy expenses as the cost of electricity continues to go up. Fireplaces offer an alternative heating source that’s more affordable since it costs a lot less to buy firewood than to use utilities that rely on expensive fossil fuels.

Are fireplaces going out of style?

Fireplaces offer a unique aesthetic element that’s impossible to deny. There was certainly a period of time back in the 1990s up until the early 2000s when fireplaces were the rave in the world of interior decor.

Nowadays, however, fireplaces are going out of style due to several reasons, which aren’t entirely related to their looks. So it’s not that more people are starting to dislike the appearance of fireplaces, it’s just that more important and compelling factors come into play such as:

●       The increased costs of installation and/or maintenance.

●       The rising prices of houses with fireplaces.

●       The wide availability of alternative heating solutions nowadays compared to the past.

●       The growth in warmer areas that’s accompanied by the slowdown or steadiness of the numbers of new homes in the Northeast.

●       The increased loss of heat on account of open chimney designs.

●       The presence of regulations against constructing houses with a fireplace in areas or states of high fire risks.

●       Potential house insurance liability.

●       Advancements in heating/cooking solutions led to a significant reduction in the need for open fire, which deemed fireplaces a luxury instead of a necessity.

Fireplace

Do houses still have chimneys?

While fireplaces remain to be a common feature in homes nowadays -even in regions of warmer climates- actual chimneys are nowhere as popular. In fact, chimneys are becoming some sort of an old house-building relic.

There are many reasons for this:

●       Not all types of fireplaces require a chimney. Modern fireplaces in newer households, such as gas and electric models, will often vent efficiently without a chimney installed. Electric fireplaces, especially, burn very clean and generate no emissions.

●       Installing a chimney raises the cost of a new home. As such, many people choose to turn their backs on building a chimney to keep things more affordable.

●       A lot of new builds nowadays are designed to provide maximum efficiency. This is why current building regulations in many states require houses to have minimum levels of airtightness, which isn’t possible with a drafty traditional chimney.

Is there a regulation on fireplaces in new homes?

When it comes to airtight wood fireplaces, what’s commonly known as a regulation under the United States EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is the NSPS (New Source Performance Standard).

The EPA has set a limit for the number of particulates that a single wood fireplace is allowed to produce up through the corresponding chimney.

Before the 15th of May in 2020, the Step 1 limit was 4.5 grams per hour. Since the 15th of May in 2020, the current Step 2 limit has been reduced to a range of 2 to 2.5 grams per hour depending on the manufacturer’s testing protocol.

As for decorative and Mansory wood fireplaces, the EPA has no set limit for any of the emissions of open wood-burning fireplaces. Many manufacturers nowadays have their fireplaces tested through a voluntary program under ASTM. keep in mind, however, that such fireplaces will show EPA Qualified certifications, as opposed to being EPA Certified.

How are new homes heated?

Nowadays, the market has a lot of options to offer when it comes to heating solutions in new homes. It’s not very easy to decide which is the best option for your specific needs, so you should carefully think about it while considering the associated hot water and ventilation systems with each option.

To help you browse through heating solutions, we’ve divided heating options into 3 categories as follows:

●       Wet heating systems — these could include radiators and UFH (underfloor heating) systems, which require different types of fuel such as oil, gas, LPG (liquified petroleum gas), electricity (when a heat pump is involved), as well as solid fuel.

●       Direct electrical systems — these could include convectors, old storage heaters, UFH systems, and blown air or radiant (fan-assisted radiators).

●       Solid fuel systems — these are easier to use/install and could include an open fire or a stove.

Can you build a fireplace in a new home?

Yes, it’s possible for you to build a fireplace in a new home. The average cost to build a fireplace is $2415, but the cost depends on whether the fireplace is gas, electric, or wood-burning. 

You just need to figure out which type is best suited for your situation after familiarizing yourself with building codes and regulations in your area.

Check out this cool time-lapse of a fireplace being made!

Should you buy a house without a fireplace?

Since fireplaces generally belong to one of 3 categories: wood-burning, gas, and electric, here’s a simple list of pros and cons for each class to help you make a decision:

Wood fireplaces

Pros

●       They create a unique aesthetic with a cozy atmosphere.

●       They continue to work even in case of power outages.

●       They can serve as a source of light and a cooking solution when the power goes out.

Cons

●       As the majority of the heat generated by burning wood is lost via the chimney, these fireplaces aren’t very energy efficient.

●       If the damper on the fireplace doesn’t sufficiently close and the house has air drafts, this could lead to high utility bills.

●       It’s possible that embers from a fire can disperse and land on nearby objects, causing a fire.

●       If you have children and/or pets, they can get seriously injured if they got too near to the fire. This means you’ll have to always stay in the room with the fireplace to prevent accidents.

●       The smoke generated from the burning of wood can emit pollutants into the air. There’s also a risk of releasing carbon monoxide and other hazardous gases inside the house.

●       High costs of cleaning and maintenance. Not to mention, these tasks can be very tedious.

●       High costs of wood, especially if you use your fireplace often.

●       You may not want to use the fireplace that often because of the associated risks and expenses.

Gas fireplaces

Pros

●       They’re easier to maintain than wood models because you don’t have to deal with cleaning ash or soot very frequently.

●       You can turn it on with a simple press of a button.

●       They’ll continue to work in case of power outages.

Cons

●       They don’t produce the aroma and crackling you’d expect from a wood-burning fireplace.

●       There’s a risk of potential gas leaks.

Electric fireplaces

Pros

●       They can deliver clean heat and light.

●       They don’t produce hazardous emissions.

●       They’re suitable to install in small spaces.

Cons

●       They can be expensive to use due to costly utility bills.

●       They won’t run if there’s a power outage.

●       They don’t look realistic.

Does no fireplace affect the resale value?

No, having no fireplace won’t negatively affect your ability to sell your house. Although some people still like homes with fireplaces, few will actually want to pay more money for them.

While you shouldn’t expect that a fireplace will increase your home’s resale value, you also shouldn’t go through the hassle and expense of knocking it down.

Wrap Up

There you have it, a complete guide on fireplaces in new houses. So, why do new homes not have fireplaces? Well, there are many factors that led to the drop in their popularity such as having more heating options, which offered cleaner and more affordable alternatives.

The absence of fireplaces also helps cut down the cost of construction for new buyers. Additionally, the recent building regulations that require minimum airtightness levels can’t be achieved with drafty traditional chimneys.

Not to mention, all the potential public health problems that could arise due to air pollution resulting from the emitted gases from fireplaces.

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