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What is a Prefab Fireplace?

By Lori Kilchermann
Updated May 16, 2024
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A prefab fireplace is a one that has been manufactured and assembled in a factory before being transported and installed at a job site. Many of these are ventless. This allows the user to burn a gas fire without the need to vent any fumes to the outside of the home. These fireplaces are typically installed inside of an existing fireplace, while the majority of units are built for new construction or remodeled rooms.

Most prefab fireplaces work with manufactured gas burning logs. These logs resemble a natural log, but they are ceramic and equipped with gas lines running through them. These logs also feature tiny gas holes that simulate flames running along the length of the log. Vented fireplaces uses different logs than ventless versions.

Installing a prefab fireplace requires the construction of a surround. The opening of a surround is designed to allow the metal fireplace to slide into place and attach through the flange on the fireplace. Screws that are run through the metal flange of the fireplace and into the wood of the surround efficiently mount the unit in place. Gas and electric lines run to the fireplace inside of the surround.

Many of these fireplaces are designed with blowers. This type of unit can be used to actually heat a room. By installing small electric blowers inside the fireplace, the heat generated from burning the gas logs can be blown into a room. This creates not only the peaceful visual pleasure of a fireplace, but the warming qualities as well.

On the vented prefab fireplace models, the gas fumes are directed out of the home with a chimney. The chimney is often a facade of wood construction surrounding galvanized stove pipe. The galvanized pipe is typically multi-layered and is run through the false chimney along the exterior wall of the home and vented near the peak of the roof line. In homes with an actual working chimney, the fireplace is routed to the chimney with the multi-layer pipe.

Prefab fireplace designs offer the best of both worlds to homeowners — the safety and convenience of a gas fireplace that is complete with safety features along with the romance and atmosphere of a wood burning fireplace. Cleaning of ashes and soot are replaced with dusting and polishing the metal construction. A multitude of mantle designs are available to maximize the visual impact of the fireplace inside of a home.

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Discussion Comments

By honeybees — On Nov 05, 2011

After years of having a wood burning fireplace, we moved into a new home that has a prefab fireplace already installed.

At first I didn't know if I would like it very well, and thought I would really miss the atmosphere of a real wood burning fireplace.

There are several advantages to a prefab fireplace though. The biggest one is that you don't have to worry about where you are getting your wood. My husband had a log splitter and did most of the work himself, but that is a lot of work.

Another advantage is that they are much less messy. It seems like I spent a lot of time vacuuming my floor from pieces of wood that were dropped along the way.

My wood burning fireplace had glass doors, and I was constantly cleaning the soot that would build up on them.

I do miss the smell of the real wood burning, but have found that the prefab fireplace does make it cozy and warm, and I think the advantages are well worth it.

By blackDagger — On Nov 04, 2011

Prefab fireplaces are nice, but make sure that you know what you’re buying before you get one. Do your homework and you should be fine.

My parents had heard time and again about how they were throwing money out the window by not having one of these babies to help supplement their other heat source. They finally decided that they wanted to get on the prefab fireplace bandwagon and bought one.

They had gone to their local gas company and asked what would be good for their home…major mistake on their part.

Sure, you should be able to do that and come away with what you need…in a perfect world. But then, this is not a perfect world and they were taken advantage of.

They ended up buying a piece of equipment that not only doesn’t heat the square footage they wanted, you can’t even tell the thing is on unless you are literally standing on top of it.

I would suggest looking around yourself, if you want to buy one, and then check with several professionals for their opinions. That way, you will know if someone is giving you the run around.

By JessiC — On Nov 03, 2011

My sister actually has one of these prefab fireplaces, with the gas logs in it, and she uses it to heat her whole home in the winter. Granted, her home is fairly small, but it saves her tons of money on her electric bill through the whole season.

However, I did hear her complaining this past year that she might not be coming out to the good so much anymore because the price of natural gas had skyrocketed so much. She said that it cost her almost twice as much to heat her home last year as it had in previous years.

By drtroubles — On Nov 03, 2011

Has anyone ever tried to install a prefab fireplace by themselves? Did you find it was an easy DIY project or is it something better left to the professionals?

My wife and I have been thinking about adding a fireplace to our backyard deck and have seen some really nice outdoor prefab fireplaces on the market. A lot of them look like complicated masonry work, but I guess that is all an illusion, as the prefab fireplace mantels can look like pretty much anything you want. We really want something cost effective that doesn't require us to actually go chop wood for atmosphere.

By popcorn — On Nov 02, 2011

@Sara007 - A prefab fireplace insert is a really good idea to add to your living room if you already have a mantle you can work with. I would suggest taking some pictures of your mantle and doing some measurements of the interior of it, so you will have something to show when you go into the fireplace store.

It might also be fun to add a prefab fireplace grate to the mantle you have for a more authentic look. The prefab fireplace I have is very plain and modern looking, so I purchased a gate and it really made it look more custom, as well as more stylish.

By backdraft — On Nov 02, 2011

My parents have a gas log fireplace in their home. Its nice enough to look at and it produces a small amount of heat, but really it is nothing compared to a real fire.

I can understand why they got it though. As nice as real fires are they are a big pain in the neck. You have to find or buy wood, deal with smoke, deal with ashes and of course worry about your house burning down. Lots of houses are just not cut out for having that kind of fireplace.

A gas log prefab fireplace is a nice compromise. My parents really only turn it on at special occasions, but it always adds a little something to the atmosphere.

By Sara007 — On Nov 02, 2011

My family and I are currently working on renovating our living room and we are wondering if adding a decorative fireplace would add some value to our property? Right now we have a mantel that has been closed up and is merely of architectural interest rather than being a functional asset.

We are thinking that if we can install a prefab wood burning fireplace into the preexisting mantel that our entire living room will look a lot better. I personally love relaxing by a fire, and fake or not, as long as it looks pretty and gives off enough light I imagine that other people would love it too.

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