Whether you’re roasting chestnuts or warming up your cold hands, a fireplace can be an impressive and useful home amenity. But it can also be dangerous.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, each year, there’s an average of 22,300 fireplace, chimney, or chimney connector fires. In certain circumstances, the fireplace can be more of a liability than an asset.
So some homeowners may opt to remove this fiery feature. But will that affect your property value or sabotage your home sale?
Here are some factors you should consider.
Buyers might expect a fireplace in your climate
Not surprisingly, a fireplace is most useful in regions where temperatures drop below freezing.
“In the Midwest, many buyers consider a functional fireplace a must-have amenity, and will only look at homes with fireplaces,” says Barbara Balossi, a real estate agent at Keller Williams Laguna in Orange County, CA, who also worked as a real estate agent in St. Louis. Therefore, she says, removing a fireplace could reduce the number of buyers who are attracted to your home listing.
“You don’t want your home to be labeled ‘the house without a fireplace,’ especially in cold climates,” says Benjamin Ross, a real estate agent and investor at San Antonio-based Mission Real Estate Group.
In warmer climates, a house without a fireplace might not be a deal breaker.
Jared Greenberg, a real estate agent at Keller Williams Premier Realty in Katy, TX, says it’s not a big deal in his area when homes don’t have a fireplace because most of the year, the weather doesn’t justify its use.
“Because of this, we have seen a recent trend of many new home builders not putting in fireplaces and offering them as an upgrade option to the buyer,” he says.
Fireplaces can add a unique design element
Even if they rarely use it, buyers may like a fireplace because it can dress up a room—or make it feel cozier.
“A fireplace can make a home feel very family-friendly and comfortable,” says Brett Ringelheim, licensed real estate agent at Compass in New York. “Imagine sitting around the fireplace on a cold night to warm up or making s’mores with your kids.”
Fiona Dogan, a real estate agent with Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty in Rye, NY, agrees.
“Fireplaces are a sought-after feature among home buyers, and removing them will negatively affect the value of your home,” says Dogan, who adds that they are inviting and evoke feelings of warmth and charm—especially in the Northeast.
If it needs to be renovated, Dogan recommends replacing a wood-burning fireplace with a gas-burning option, which is easier to operate. While she says they’re probably not the most important amenity to buyers, they could determine if the home makes the buyer’s short list or not.
Removal can be a huge ordeal
Sometimes, if a fireplace is an eyesore or does not function properly, it should be removed. But this can be a big hassle.
“Often, the masonry base and chimney are a huge part of the structural integrity of the home,” says Katina Asbell, associate broker at Real Living Capital City Realty in Atlanta. “In such a case, the removal would not only be expensive but could compromise the home’s stability.”
If you really aren’t happy with the appearance of your fireplace, try painting it a fresh color like white or replacing the mantel with something more on-trend.
Fireplaces are space hogs
One of the only times when taking out a fireplace might make sense is when space is at a premium. Some of Asbell’s clients recently experienced this in a home they purchased in Atlanta.
“The livable square footage on the main level was 800 square feet, and in the living space was a large, prefab fireplace with a hearth,” Asbell says. The couple removed the fireplace, which gave them more floor space and made the room feel more open.
Tamara Heidel, a real estate broker at Heidel Realty, in Las Vegas, says that she loves fireplaces, but admits they aren’t always conducive to open floor plans.
“Recently, I had two clients remove their fireplaces because they were used as dividers between rooms,” she says. This opened up the space and made the layout of the home more appealing for buyers in search of open-concept living.
Should you remove your fireplace?
So when it comes down to it, is taking out your fireplace a smart move? Our experts says that, in most cases, you should just leave your fireplace be.
In the thousands of homes Greenberg has shown over the years, he’s had buyers who said they must have a fireplace and buyers who didn’t care either way. But he says he’s never met a buyer who has refused to see a home because it had a fireplace. He would never advise removing a fireplace unless there were certain reasons to justify this action.
“Even if someone doesn’t plan on using it, they can turn it into a decorative fireplace and put candles or stacked wood in it,” he says.