4 Ways to Improve Your Hearth Shopping Experience
So you need to replace your fireplace/insert/stove/log set…
Many homeowners are thrown off by the wide assortment of choices available when replacing an existing unit. On the one hand, the breadth of options available allow you to have a finished product that matches your home styling and personality. On the other hand, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the choices if you don’t have the right checklist before visiting a showroom.
Below is a guide crafted by hearth industry experts who have handled every situation, from the simplest to the most complicated, to help expedite the process of finding the perfect hearth product for you.
1. Skip the Tape Measure, Grab the Model Number Instead
Many homeowners will try expedite the process by taking measurements themselves to bring with them into a showroom. While this is more helpful than nothing at all, such measurements can result in viewing (and possibly purchasing) a unit that isn’t a direct fit. Depending on factors like the face plate chosen by the builder or original buyer, the framing built around the unit, venting type, and many others, actual unit size and measurements can be different than what is easily measured with a tape measure.
Good news is, the exact model number provides much more helpful information for a product specialist. Not sure how to get your model number? Nothing to sweat. In the vast majority of instances, you can find the model number right behind the bottom louvers, or access panel, of your fireplace or insert. Just flip the panel open and you should see a metal plate or sticker facing forward with the model number.
Whether you’re looking for a direct replacement, using the same fuel type as your existing unit, or looking to make a significant change with your new purchase, simply having the model number in hand when visiting the showroom will help the product specialist significantly narrow the options and save you time.
2. Budget Beyond MSRP
Many manufacturers require dealers to list only the MSRP when advertising a product, especially when advertising it online. The important thing to know, though, is that the MSRP is almost always only a bare-bones unit. In fact, MSRP often times doesn’t even factor in the cost of required accessories or add-ons. Not only that, nearly every replacement job requires replacing the existing venting, as well. This can be due to wear and tear on existing venting, fitting compatibility with the replacement unit, or a combination of both.
Last, but certainly not least, you should remain cognizant of the fact that no two installations are identical. On the outside, it may seem like a run-of-the-mill fireplace. But inside those walls, it’s possible that the chimney or flue is not simply a straight shot up the house. Sometimes the venting is acrobatically woven through structural elements that add time and complication to an install. The installation cost for just a single replacement unit can vary significantly. It never hurts to get several quotes. But always ask if the installation crew is NFI (National Fire Institute) Certified. The hourly cost may be higher than non-NFI Certified installers. But the quality of install will be higher.
3. Mantel/Surround Changes or Upgrades
The desire to upgrade one’s fireplace often comes with the desire to upgrade the entire hearth presentation, like the mantel or surround. Maybe you wish to replace old brick or wood with an updated stone or tile surround. Ask the product specialist at the hearth showroom you visit if they partner with or recommend anyone who can do the custom surround work you’re looking for.
It’s understandable to want to find someone who is capable of handling everything from the fireplace installation to the surround and any other custom build or design requests you have. However, keep in mind you are dealing with a series of very different, and highly specialized skill-sets. Having a different sub-contractor for each major aspect of the project might involve coordinating a few schedules at once, as well as the possibility of a higher installation cost. But you’d have each element installed by a specialist in that line of work, increasing the likelihood of the highest-quality finished hearth presentation possible.
4. Stay Coordinated With Your Builder/Contractor
It’s all too common to see situations where a home builder or contractor will come into a showroom on behalf of a homeowner. Then, unbeknownst to the builder or contractor, the homeowner will come into the same showroom and speak with a different product specialist. If you stay in sync with your builder or contractor, you’d be able to receive all the information and product recommendations you need, while saving you valuable time.
What’s a good solution? In a perfect world, you’d notify each other in advance and have the process planned out. But we know a trip to one place can lead to visiting one or two additional competitors you may not have been aware of prior. But you can still keep your builder or contractor in the loop fairly easily. If you have a good experience speaking with the product specialist, you feel confident about the information being provided, and comfortable with preliminary prices, simply make sure you ask the product specialist emails you some information and copies your builder. This is helpful because your builder or contractor can ask the specialist highly technical questions directly, while keeping you in the loop, too.