Do you want to update your existing gas or wood fireplace in your condo? Do you want to add a new fireplace to your condo? You are in luck. This guide will outline the common solutions for updating or adding a new fireplace to a condo, as well as suggest some of the best products to achieve your goals.
Challenges of Adding a Fireplace to a Condo/Townhome
Unlike freestanding homes, Condo's and Townhomes are part of a larger structure that is typically managed and maintained by a strata or Homeowners Association (HOA). Part of the job of the strata is to protect the investment and integrity of the building for all residents and future residents. Therefore, exterior modifications or changes to the building's envelope are generally not approved by strata as they are deemed too risky.
This means that adding any new venting for fireplaces is likely not an option. If a fireplace already exists, then the venting that is already there will need to be used with any new fireplace inside the condo. However, venting is very specific to each unit, and the venting from one unit to another may not line up properly, or other physical limitations could arise when connecting one unit to older venting.
Also, many older gas fireplaces, known as B-vent (or natural vent) fireplaces, use interior air for combustion and utilize a single exterior venting pipe. Most modern gas fireplaces are called direct vent fireplaces, which utilize outside air for combustion and require either two exterior venting pipes or a specialized nested pipe and ventilation cap. If the venting of the existing fireplace cannot be updated or changed, this limits the type of fireplaces that a condo owner can use to upgrade their fireplace.
Adding a new Fireplace to a Condo
Most modern and high-end condo buildings no longer have existing fireplaces and do not allow the required modifications to be made to the building envelope to run venting. With ventless gas fireplaces being illegal in Canada, the only real option for condo owners is electric.
Sensing a need for a modern fireplace suitable to an increasing number of high-end condos, Regency has brought the latest in electric fireplace technology to the Canadian market with the Skope series of linear electric fireplaces.
With modern & contemporary designs, straightforward wood framing, and no need for exterior modifications or venting, the Regency Skope is the perfect, condo-friendly fireplace.
With Skope, you get a fusion of high-quality craftsmanship with elegant styling. Experience enhanced dancing flame effects and an extra-deep bed of realistic logs or crystals offering unmatched realism & depth. An advanced Chromalight LED system with over 39 different lighting combinations provides inspiring visuals, 3-dimensional depth, and flames so realistic; you won't believe it's electric!
Enjoy the warmth of a 5,000 BTU electric heater, a modern, clean aesthetic, and easy installation with one, two, or three-sided options available. The Regency Skope series of modern electric fireplaces quickly becomes a no-brainer for any condo owner looking to add the warmth, style, comfort, and ambiance of a fireplace to their home.
Benefits of Electric Fireplaces
- Install Virtually Anywhere
- Unlike traditional gas or wood fireplaces, which require venting, electric fireplaces require zero venting. This means that they can be installed virtually anywhere. Electric fireplaces provide the same comfort, ambiance, and warmth of a traditional fireplace; however, they are ventless and don't require gas lines or wood storage.
- Emission Free
- Electric fireplaces are the greenest fireplaces available today. They produce zero emissions and burn zero fuel. The only input is electricity; therefore, depending on how your electricity is produced, your electric fireplace can be 100% carbon neutral!
- Modern Styling
- The Regency Skope Electric Fireplace is a class above the rest. High-quality craftsmanship meets elegant styling for a clean, visually stunning modern electric fireplace.
- Flexible Display Options
- With over 39 different lighting combinations, the Regency Skope provides the flexibility to set the mood anytime, day or night.
- Realistic Flame Display
- The Regency Skope series offers some of the most realistic flame and log sets of any electric fireplace on the market. Our 3-dimensional display box and Chromalight technology combine to create stunning, unmatched visuals.
Replacing a Gas Fireplace in a Condo
A condo with an existing gas fireplace that needs to be replaced is not as straightforward as it sounds. Due to the common restrictions preventing new venting from being installed, a suitable gas fireplace needs to be found for the existing venting. If the apartment building or townhomes were built after 2000, the existing fireplace should be a direct vent unit, which opens up more options for replacing the unit with some minor renovations and finding the correct unit for that particular style of direct venting (See Regency P33, G600EC & HZ33CE)
If the apartment building was built between 1990 and 2000, it could still be a direct vent unit; however, it could also be a natural vent. If the building was built before 1990, it is highly likely that the fireplace is a natural or B-vent unit. This will dramatically reduce your options to replace the fireplace. In some cases, you can use a B-vent insert to be placed inside the old shell of the existing fireplace. This allows you to add a new fireplace to the home while maintaining the existing fireplace, venting, and finishing materials. There are very specific use cases for this type of installation. For example, in Vancouver, there is a standard fireplace model that was used in virtually all condo's during the 1980s, and the Regency E18E (only available in BC) can be inserted into the fireplace preserving the existing venting and finishing while quickly and easily updating the firebox.
Updating an existing gas fireplace in a condo or townhome is a very complicated installation that changes between each condo – speak to your local Regency fireplace dealer to get specialized local expertise.
Replacing a Wood Fireplace in a Condo
Very few modern condos have wood-burning fireplaces in them; however, if you are one of the lucky few and are looking to update your fireplace, your best bet will be a wood-burning insert. Wood inserts can be placed inside your old open wood-burning fireplace, and venting is placed inside the chimney to the exterior of the building. Typically, no major modification is required to the envelope of the building, which is the issue with most Strata's or HOA's. Since a wood-burning fireplace is already in your unit, they should also not have any issues with you upgrading to a more efficient unit; however, always check your bylaws and local regulations before starting any project.
If venting can be placed through the existing chimney or external venting system, the installation of a new wood insert should not be a problem. Typically, there are three types of chimney setups in condos. First is a single shared chimney that all fireplaces in the building will use with their own individual flus within the chimney. Second is a shared chimney where two or more fireplaces will use the same chimney and again have their own flu within the chimney. Lastly, there are individual chimneys where each unit's fireplace has a single flu and standalone chimney. If your apartment or condo uses a shared or single chimney, the installation of the appropriate venting and chimney caps may not be possible.
The first step to replacing a wood-burning fireplace in your apartment is to find out what type of chimney system the building uses – single, shared, or individual. Next, you should consult your strata or HOA bylaws and finally contact your local fireplace expert for installation guidelines where you live.
In addition there are typically two types of wood burning fireplaces in condos - brick fireplaces with a brick flu and zero-clearance wood fireplaces that use metal pipe for venting. Some of the older metal piping used in zero-clearance wood fireplaces may need to be replaced as it no longer meets local building codes and In some jurisdictions (BC for example) a wood burning insert cannot be installed inside a zero-clearance wood fireplace. It is important to understand the type of wood burning fireplace you have - take photos and bring them to your local fireplace store for expert regional advice.
How to Measure for a Fireplace Insert
Fireplace inserts come in many different sizes. That’s why you need to measure for a fireplace insert before you buy one. Your local fireplace dealer will ask you for the information below so he/she can help you identify the best fireplace insert options for your home:
Fireplace opening dimensions:
A. Height of fireplace opening (back): ____________
B. Height of fireplace opening (front): ____________
C. Depth (opening to back wall):________________
D. Width (back of fireplace): ___________________
E. Width (front of fireplace): ___________________
Other required information/measurements:
Ceiling height: ___________________
Location in room: ________________
Wall material: ___________________
Flooring material: ________________
Ceiling material: _________________
Want to change the shape of your fireplace? Additional measurements will be required if you have an arched fireplace opening, or if you want to achieve the look of an arched fireplace. Take a photo of your fireplace and send it to your local fireplace dealer before you visit so he/she can guide you with any additional required measurements. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need an arched gas fireplace insert for an arched fireplace opening. Usually you can accentuate or hide a fireplace arch with a standard or custom fireplace faceplate, but sometimes masonry work is required, which is why photos and measuring is needed.
Want to create the look of an arched fireplace or mask the arch you already have? There’s a fireplace faceplate for that.
Industry Leading Warranty
Regency Fireplace Products builds their gas and wood fireplace inserts from scratch using premium grade raw materials (unlike some manufacturers that mostly assemble), and we guarantee the quality of our craftsmanship with industry’s most comprehensive warranty. Next time you visit your local fireplace store, look closely at each fireplace brand. Quality is in the details. For example, Regency wood inserts have noticeably stronger hinges than many brands, while Regency gas fireplace inserts feature ceramic burners and glass that generate more radiant heat and a more beautiful fire glow. When you add a high-quality fireplace to your home not only are you covered for life, you also add real long-term value to your home.