Bathroom Fireplaces: What You Need To Know
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A bathroom fireplace may be just what you need at the end of a long day. Installing one is less expensive and less trouble than you might think.
What could be more relaxing on a winter’s day than a long soak in the bathtub, accompanied by the flicker of flames from a bathroom fireplace?
In the past, this level of luxury would have necessitated an extensive bathroom remodel. That’s no longer true according to Michael Clarke, founder of the app Pulled, dedicated to design and construction resources for homeowners. Many newer prefab fireplaces are basically plug-and-play, and even those that are not still only require minimal installation.
Data from Home Stratosphere indicates bathroom fireplaces are relatively rare. But for a design-conscious homeowner who wants to make a statement, that can actually be an incentive. Though fireplaces designed for the bathroom aren’t necessarily a thing, you can definitely find bathroom-approved ones sized so the heat output won’t overwhelm you.
Types of Bathroom Fireplaces
The bathroom is a small space, so the fireplaces that fit there also need to be small. A heat output of 5,000 to 6,000 Btus is usually sufficient.
Fireplaces small enough for the bathroom may be rectangular or have a more complex shape, such as the Heat & Glo Crescent II Gas Fireplace. These generate heat by gas or electricity. No logs or stovepipes are needed, and there’s no wood ash to clean up.
A vented fireplace is usually installed adjacent to an exterior wall to simplify venting, but it doesn’t have to be. The vent pipes can be routed through the roof, just like any other fireplace. Most models come with framing and venting instructions that make DIY installation possible, although running gas pipes and hooking up the gas should always be done by a licensed pro.
Units cost from $1,000 to $10,000 depending on features. They can be mounted on a flat wall, in a corner or in a peninsula for a 3D view of the flames. Besides supplying a vent pipe and cutting holes for it, the installer also has to run a gas pipe, adding to the installation cost. All in all, the average pro installation costs between $3,500 and $7,500.
- Most authentic-looking fireplace.
- Available in wide variety of designs.
- Most expensive type of fireplace.
- The need for external venting may limit placement options.
A vent-free gas fireplace takes in air through a grid, usually in the bottom, and exhausts air back into the room after combustion by-products have been removed by catalytic conversion or a similar process. Units are tested to ensure they meet federal safety regulations. Many have in-built carbon monoxide detectors and oxygen sensors to monitor air quality.
Vent-free fireplaces produce as much heat as vented ones — perhaps even more, because none of the heat is lost through external vents. Some models are freestanding, but many are built-in and indistinguishable from vented fireplaces while in use. They’re less expensive. Some cost as little as $600, although high-quality ones run from $2,000 to $4,000 or more. Installation boosts the average cost to between $2,000 and $3,500.
- Installation requires only a gas line and wall framing for built-in models.
- Compact design allows for installation in tight spaces.
- May emit odors. Vent-free fireplaces are prohibited in California because of air quality concerns.
- Emits moisture as a by-product and may increase humidity in the bathroom.
Electric bathroom fireplaces are the easiest to install, requiring little more than placing the unit and plugging it into an electrical outlet. Like vent-free units, electric fireplaces can be freestanding, but built-in models save valuable bathroom floor space.
Electric fireplaces are the least expensive option for the bathroom, with models costing from $300 to $1,000. You also save on installation because little is required. You’ll need an available electrical outlet, or pay to install one.
- Clean heat with a typical electricity usage from 600 to 1,250 watts.
- Simple installation.
- Least realistic flames.
- Won’t work during a power outage.
Remote Control Is a Handy Feature
One of the most desirable features of modern bathroom fireplaces, according to Clarke, is remote operation. You can start the fire from the tub or from another room in the house. Many advanced models also come with wall-mounted thermostats and timers that can be programmed to make the bathroom nice and toasty before you step in.
Installing a Bathroom Fireplace
An electric bathroom fireplace installation can be a DIY project that costs a few hundred dollars and be accomplished in a weekend. But because they usually need new supply pipes, gas units often require professional installation. That ups the cost to $2,000 to $3,000.
A built-in unit calls for some drywall and framing work, plus vent holes if necessary. DIYers should only need interior wall modification tools like saws, drills and measuring tools. If you have to reroute pipes or wires inside the wall, you’ll need plumbing and electrical tools. But you can always pay the $75 to $125 per hour to have a plumber or electrician do this.
If you opt for professional installation, check a local fireplace dealer to find contractors. Most dealers have their own installation staff. If you’re a DIY installer, any local plumber licensed as a gas fitter can install your gas lines.