Adding a woodburning fireplace (and chimney) to an existing structure

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New Member
Mar 12, 2012
Northern Virginia
Hi Everyone-

New here (first post), but happy to find a message board that has experts, I did a cursory search but couldn't find any information on what I'm looking for, so here it goes:

We're looking at purchasing a 1932 bungalow and a deal-breaker for us is having a fireplace, which the house we're looking at doesn't have - but has the perfect place for it and similar houses/bungalows in the neighborhood have fireplaces (probably original) so we wanted to get an estimate on what it would cost to add a fireplace.

For a little bit of background on the house:

-1932 bungalow
-One story (so don't need a high chimney)
-Would like a "real" wood burning fireplace with a masonry chimney
-Most likely will have to have a foundation put in to support the chinmey
-Wouldn't want anything ornate on the interior (just simple bring fireplace surround)

Any estimates on what one could pay to have this done? I realize it all varies based on area, demand, etc., but ballparks are much appreciated!

Thanks in advance.
It all depends on how you want the thing built (inside as much or more than outside). I s'pose you could spend anywhere between $10,000 and $30,000. You need (I think) to do some homework/searching for pictures of what you think you're after, and then bring in some local professionals to give you some estimates (we, collectively, are not generally masonry professionals/experts here). No matter how you slice it, though, a traditional open fireplace is an energy waster...lots of $$$ and lots of work for lots of heat up the flue to daylight. Personally, I'd consider a freestanding wood stove with a simple straight up and out flue. Much more affordable, and much more effective at heating your home. There are models available that are attractive to folks of many different esthetic tastes, and most modern stoves provide a wonderful view of the fire for that "ambience" you seek. There are a few that come with fire screens that can be put in place if you want to burn with the doors open...but then again, you'll be wasting some heat because you'll have no control over the flow of combustion air. Look around the site...there's a great picture gallery here: that might give you some ideas/change your paradigm. Welcome to the forums! Rick
Thanks for the quick response, Rick!

Unfortunately, both myself and the significant other don't like the look of freestanding wood stoves and while we know that the fireplace isn't the most efficient at heating, we're really doing it for the look, etc. I'll try to get some photos to display what we're looking for.
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You are posing this question to a bunch of wood burning nuts who shun traditional fireplaces. They are generally regarded as big time heat wasters, as more heat goes up the chimney than into the living space. The air that goes up the chimney has to be replaced by air from somewhere, which is usually cold air from outside. So in effect, negative btu's. I actually just demo'd the masonry fireplace out of my living room, and built a hearth and installed a freestanding wood stove in its place.

A much less expensive, more efficient option that can actually heat your home would be a high efficiency, zero clearance fireplace. They can be built into a surround to look like a traditional fireplace, or however you would like it to look. Lots of them out there.
Attached are photos of a general idea of what we're looking for. The chimney would be similar to the one pictured and the fireplace/fireplace surround would be similar in look, with standard brick in place of the ornate tiles in the photo.

Thanks for anyone that can give some estimates!


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Those are exactly the kinds of photos you need to have with when you begin conversations with local masonry contractors/craftsmen in your area. I'm not aware of any member(s) of our forums who fit that description, although certainly some have some expertise/experience. Beyond that fact, there are oftentimes significant regional variations in the costs of both materials and labor, so if what you're looking for is some realistic estimate as to what it might cost you to retrofit a traditional open masonry wood burning fireplace into a 1932 bungalow in Northern Virginia, I really think you need to start talking with folks who do that sort of work where you live. I doubt that anyone here can offer anything better than a wild swag, or perhaps personal experience from where they live. In either case, it's (IMO) most likely to be marginally useful information, at best. Rick
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