Written March 26, 2010 by John Hendricks, Architect AIA • Filed Under Energy Efficiency
In the Mountain West, where we do most of our work, the majority of homes have some type of fireplace. Some statistics suggest that more than 75% of home buyers in these areas want a home with a fireplace. We specialize in mountain architecture and I can’t remember a home that didn’t have a fireplace of some type. Having once spent several days without heat during a mid winter storm induced power outage, I can be counted among this majority. Fireplaces (or heating stoves) provide a focal point and gathering place that can be as aesthetic as it is functional.
Lake Quinault Lodge Masonry Fireplace
Fireplaces and heating stoves come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and styles. For those who want some type of fireplace in their home, there are a number of things to consider when making the choice of which is best for you. Factors such as desired function, type of application, space requirements, cost, and willingness to do the work required for burning wood should be considered.
If you are considering wood burning, check local regulations to make sure it is allowed. Some municipalities with air quality problems restrict or don’t allow wood burning, including many resort towns that are located in mountain valleys with winter temperature inversions.
Available options range from traditional open masonry fireplaces to modern high-efficiency airtight wood or gas stoves that are as artistic as they are functional. Following is a broad overview to present some of the choices.
The Lake McDonald Lodge masonry fireplace at Glacier National Park. The opening is about 6'-6" high.
Masonry Fireplaces – The most traditional (and most expensive), this is the choice for those seeking authenticity and a powerful presence. Masonry fireplaces have a high thermal mass, which works well to radiate heat when it is kept warm, but can have the opposite effect when it is cold. Open face fireplaces also lose most of the heat they produce up the chimney, and in some cases they draw warm air out of the room and send it up the chimney as well. A tight fitting damper can help control heat loss when the fireplace is not in use.
Masonry fireplaces require the most space, and are often continuous from the foundation all the way to the top of the chimney. A substantial foundation is required to support the weight of a masonry fireplace, so adding one to an existing home is often not practical.
One type of masonry fireplace, the Rumford style, is designed specifically for heating, and is the most energy efficient open face fireplace for space heating.
A Precast Masonry Rumford Style Fireplace with Custom Surround by Pacific Construction.
A fairly recent advance in masonry fireplace technology is the development of precast firebox and chimney components, which speeds up installation time and offers a UL listed system. Many of these are of the Rumford style. If you aren’t going to burn wood, building a full masonry fireplace is probably not practical, though masonry fireplaces can and often are equipped with a gas supply for possible future conversion or for a gas log lighter.
Prefabricated Fireplaces – One alternative to the traditional masonry fireplace is to use a prefabricated firebox which can be used with a stone or brick veneer surround to resemble a true masonry fireplace. The construction required for these “insert fireplaces” is much less complicated (hence less expensive) than true masonry, and prefabricated units are more airtight and efficient. They can be equipped with fans that circulate air in a confined space around the firebox and blow it into the room (and in some cases throughout the house) to enhance heating. It is possible to in some cases to retrofit an existing fireplace with a new insert to upgrade its efficiency. Prefabricated fireboxes are available in both gas and wood burning versions, with some models able to do both.
Prefabricated Gas Fireplace with Custom Surround.
Wood or Gas Stoves – These are free standing appliances that are typically much more efficient at heating than any type of built-in fireplace. They require less space, less fuel, and come in a wide variety of styles from very traditional to ultra modern. It is possible to use wood or gas stoves as a primary heat source if they are well located and properly sized, but a wood stove would require a backup system for extended absences and for individual control of private spaces. Gas stoves are usually thermostatically controlled and have blowers on them to increase heating effectiveness. Wood stoves are especially effective if they are close to a large thermal mass such as a masonry wall or concrete slab. Some stoves are clad with slabs of soapstone or a similar material that stores and radiates heat over long periods of time.
Avalon Wood Stove
The decision to burn wood or gas is a personal one, unless you live somewhere where the air quality regulators have already made this decision. Gas is more convenient, doesn’t require storage space, is available just about everywhere, and is cleaner. The cost of gas versus wood depends on the prevailing prices in your area and the efficiency of the device you are using.
Nothing beats the ambiance of a real wood fire, but this pleasure isn’t without its costs. Wood requires storage space, it’s messy, contributes to air pollution, and it requires work on the user’s part. Even if you buy wood and have someone stack it, someone needs to move it to the fireplace, start the fire, and keep it burning. If you are equipped and willing to cut your own wood, the cost is minimal but the effort is significant. As the saying goes, firewood heats twice – once when you burn it and once when you produce it.
Tom Russell, LEED AP and John Hendricks, AIA Architect
Hendricks Architecture, mountain architects located in Sandpoint, Idaho. Visit our portfolio for examples of some of our recently completed custom projects.
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Storybook Cabin Plan
Written March 18, 2010 by John Hendricks, Architect AIA • Filed Under Cabin Plans
, Storybook Style
This storybook cabin looks more like storybook cottage meets hobbit house meets Swiss chalet. Nevertheless, this quaint, whimsical cabin could fit in just as easily in a city such as Seattle or Portland as it would in the New Zealand countryside or the Cascade Mountains.
Storybook Cabin Front Elevation
This 834 square foot architect designed cabin (with an optional 159 square feet of two loft spaces) is built for comfort and includes a comparatively large great room with open picturesque trusses and beams set amidst the curved roofs. The home is loosely inspired by the playful Storybook Style from English and French medieval farmhouse design. This style has several style variations, including English Country Cottage, Cotswald Cottage, Hansel and Gretel, Fairy Tale House, Disneyesque, Hobbit House and Storybook House. All were designed to create a cozy, homelike atmosphere.
A little more history, the Storybook Style is a whimsical variant of the Tudor Revival in the 1920′s and 1930′s. The Tudor Revival was based on late medieval styles and the Arts and Crafts movement. Many of the home buyers (as well as architects and builders) were veterans of World War I, and brought back memories of the English and French countryside. In the meantime, Hollywood was creating movies set in historic time periods in faraway lands. In pure Hollywood fashion, liberties were taken with the local styles by enhancing the charm and cuteness of these places.
The Storybook Style surged in popularity after a subdivision of cottage homes, called Hollywoodland, was built in 1923. The theatrically designed homes served as residences in Los Angeles for a number of movie stars and received nationwide media attention as America’s first themed residential community. The themed neighborhood included such places as The Humpty Dumpty Store. The Hollywood sign actually used to say Hollywoodland and was built to promote the neighborhood, which housed such notables as Bela Lugosi and Humphrey Bogart. The developers bowed out in the 1940′s and now the stars build to suit their own tastes. The neighborhood is now referenced as Upper Beachwood Canyon. For more information please see Southern California Storybook Style Architecture: Hollywoodland.
Storybook Cabin Plan
Whereas the historical homes were identified with false, distressed, ornamental half-timbering, this particular home includes fully exposed architectural and structural timbers on the interiors and exterior, which may or may not be distressed. The original Storybook houses had modern interiors resembling the homes of the 20′s, whereas this home has rustic interiors (yet modern in function) to match the exterior.
The home includes a comfortable two person bedroom with a built-in desk. An open loft sleeps two more in twin beds. The quality designed home also includes built-in cabinets, bookshelves and a window seat, as well as wrought iron lighting and hardware. A pantry/storage/laundry room is included, along with a storage attic (which could also be incorporated into a larger loft area) over the back rooms. The home includes an energy efficient stone masonry fireplace while still retaining the Old World look and feel.
The Storybook Cabin is our second stock cabin plan. Prices include:
- Preliminary Sketches – Schematic 8-1/2″ x 11″ drawings showing Floor Plans and the Front & Rear Elevations, for $200
- Study Home Plans – Developed 24″ X 36″ drawings showing Floor Plans & all Exterior Elevations, for $450
- Construction Set – A full set of 24″ X 36″ detailed drawings and specifications including Floor Plans, Foundation and Framing Plans, Exterior Elevations, Building Sections, Wall Sections, Details, Interior Elevations, Reflected Ceiling Plans, Window/Door Schedules, Electrical Plans, Finish Plans, and all Products and Materials Specified per the original design, all for $1550
- Each Additional Construction Set $250
- Construction Set PDF Files $1550
- Modifications available. Please contact us for pricing.
This energy efficient cabin is designed for “rustic elegant” comfort. Plans can be modified to be more unique per individual preferences. Preliminary drawings and Construction Documents are drawn with cad software, and are designed per the latest International Residential Codes. Plans may need to be modified for certain jurisdictions. Please note that with the curved roofs, timbers and other detailing, along with a higher quality of specified materials, that construction prices are higher than the typical home.
For our first stock cabin plan, see cabin plan. While we are beginning to delve into the stock plan arena, I still recommend a custom home design for maximum living and cost efficiency for individual lifestyles. For more information see Good Quality Architecture Adds Value to Your Home. Please visit our portfolio for examples of some of our recently completed custom projects. Sorry but we don’t sell plans of our client’s custom homes.
For more information on our plans please contact us by phone at 208.265.4001, by email, or by filling out your information on our contact page.
John Hendricks, Architect AIA
Hendricks Architecture, listed as one of Mountain Living Magazine’s top mountain architects, is located in Sandpoint, Idaho. Subscribe to Hendricks Architecture’s Blog.