How Much Does Repairing a Fireplace Cost?

House With Fireplace

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Few experiences are more comforting than hunkering down in front of a crackling fireplace on a cool fall or winter day. Fireplaces convey the idea and feeling of home more than almost anything else around the house.

But because fireplaces do a lot of work, they bear more than their share of maintenance issues. Heat and smoke deal out a great burden of abuse to fireplaces, so occasional repairs are an expected component of owning a fireplace. Fireplace repair costs can vary because the types of fireplaces can vary greatly—gas fireplaces, traditional wood-burning fireplaces, or gel fuel fireplaces.

  Gas Wood Gel
Fuel Municipal natural gas line  Firewood Alcohol-based gel in canisters
Venting Vented or ventless Always vented Vented or ventless, but usually ventless
Heat Output Medium High Low
Cleaning Minimal Great Minimal

Gas Fireplaces

Gas fireplaces have supplanted wood-burning fireplaces as the fireplace of choice in most homes built or remodeled today. These fireplaces draw natural gas that may already be used in other parts of the home for the water heater or kitchen stove. Gas pipes run into a firebox with an insert of flame-proof artificial logs. Flames curl around the logs in a designed shape and spread. There is no need to strike a match since most gas fireplaces ignite with a switch. Since the fireplace produces no ashes, clean-up is minimal.

Yet some users find gas fireplaces' flames to be too tame and predictable. The gas line hookup requires a licensed plumber, and gas fireplaces' venting should be handled by a skilled technician, as well.

Gas Fireplace Repair Cost

Natural gas pipes are the lifeline for gas fireplaces. If there is a problem with the gas line, a plumber can fix it, at an hourly cost of $50 to $200. The most expensive part of a gas fireplace is its insert. Insert plus installation and venting can range from $1,500 to $4,500. Since the cost of installing a new gas fireplace to an existing gas line runs from $6,000 to $8,000, this can be considered the top range for repairing the units, as well.

Pros
  • Burns clean, no smoke

  • Minimal cleaning

  • No need to replenish fuel

Cons
  • Requires gas line hookup

  • Flames may not be realistic enough for some users

  • Natural gas hazard

Wood-Burning Fireplace

For the most authentic fireplace look, sound, and scent, nothing can compare to a wood-burning fireplace. Natural burning wood has a mystique that gas and gel fuel fireplaces cannot match. As long as you have a steady source of quality firewood, you can keep your fireplace burning all throughout the winter.

Yet wood-burning fireplaces' romance is balanced out by hassles that many homeowner are not willing to take on. The dreaded task of cleaning out the firebox is never a clean one. No matter how well they draw, wood-burning fireplaces always seem to leave an odor in the house. And all of the benefits and drawbacks of wood-burning fireplaces are moot points if local ordinances and regulations ban wood-based heating appliances altogether.

Wood-Burning Fireplace Repair Cost

Wood-burning fireplaces may require the services of an experienced mason for firebox repointing and rebuilding. Any loose bricks or mortar should be addressed immediately as they can lead to fires. Chimneys above the roofline that are eroding, too, should be repaired by a mason. Masons charge between $70 and $110 per hour. Should the chimney need to be entirely rebuilt, this project can cost you $2,000 to $5,000.

Pros
  • High flames

  • Substantial heat

  • Low fuel cost

Cons
  • Dirty burning

  • Banned in some communities

  • Wood deliveries required

Gel Fuel Fireplaces

If you want to get your fireplace up and running fast, and for little money, a gel fuel fireplace is a good choice. Ethanol or alcohol gel fuel fireplaces are clean-burning and apartment-friendly. Gel fuel fireplaces' condensed flames dance in a low, orderly fashion—the direct opposite of the raging, chaotic flames of wood fireplaces.

Gel fuel fireplaces come in the form of either portable or permanent units. Portable, tabletop gel fuel fireplaces are ideal for renters since they can be transported from house to house. But the portable versions are smaller and may lack the sense of stability that one might expect from a fireplace. Permanent units may be wall-mounted or zero-clearance, in-wall fireplaces. Some gel fuel fireplaces can mimic the look of traditional fireplaces, often with artificial brick or stones.

Gel Fuel Fireplace Repair Cost

Tabletop gel fuel fireplaces have no moving parts to break and usually cost so little that repairs are unnecessary. Beyond making minor cosmetic fixes, repairing a tabletop unit essentially means purchasing a new unit. Tabletop units range from $40 to $300. If your unit ignites electrically and the lack of power is the cause behind the problem, you may need to hire an electrician at $50 to $100 per hour.

Pros
  • Venting sometimes not required

  • Low cost for installation

  • Easy to extinguish

Cons
  • Gel canisters must be replenished

  • Small flames

  • Low heat