The hearth can sell the home

03/22/2014 8:41 AM

03/22/2014 11:23 AM

Vikki Ruisch had a fireplace in her house, but it was in a room her family barely used. So during a remodeling project last year, she had a fireplace built in her living room, where everyone could enjoy it.

Ruisch figured it would add value to her house in Woodcliff Lake, N.J., but that wasn’t really an incentive. She grew up having a fireplace in her home and just wanted one, or two. She also had one put in the master bedroom.

“I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like a fireplace,” she said. “We use ours, especially this winter. My husband puts the one on in the bedroom when he gets up about an hour before me, and then it’s nice and toasty by the time I get up.”

Ruisch is one of many home and business owners installing fireplaces to add ambiance, warmth and financial value to the places they live and work. A fireplace can increase a home’s value by 6 to 12 percent, according to the National Center for Real Estate Research of Littleton, Colo.

Nationwide, 13 percent of buyers of single-family homes had a fireplace on their list of particular features they were seeking.

Sealed vent fireplaces, which use gas and air from the outside, are becoming more popular. They are highly efficient at heating rooms and, with a sharp decorative door, don’t look much different from a typical fireplace, industry experts say.

“Years ago, these weren’t the greatest looking things, but they’ve come a long way,” Conklin said. “Now they air-brush the logs to make them look real, and many times you can’t tell the difference.”

Ron Gaglione, owner of RDG Construction in Franklin Lakes, N.J., is still partial to the standard stone-and-mortar style. Natural stone, installed by an experienced craftsman, makes a fireplace a true asset to a home but is less popular because of the expense, Gaglione said.

“The cost is 25 percent to 30 percent more for one of these, so the demand is limited,” Gaglione said. “But I have a passion for real construction – they are beautiful.”

Typical wood-burning fireplaces offer a slew of choices, including brick, wood, marble, stone or a combination, said Conklin.

“Years ago, wood-burning fireplaces were about 70 percent of our business. Now they’re about 40 percent,” Conklin said. “People want the convenience of gas where they can just push a button rather than having to haul wood into their house and work to keep the fire going. And though electric fireplaces are gaining in popularity, they’re only about 4 percent to 5 percent of our business.”

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