Does a fireplace increase home insurance costs?

Yes. A house with a fireplace will likely increase home insurance costs because having a fireplace correlates with a greater risk of fire. Certain insurers will charge higher rates due to the increased risk of the peril of fire based on having a fireplace. If you're considering buying a home that has a fireplace, or if you want to install a wood-burning stove in your home, it could raise your home insurance rate.

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Why does having a fireplace increase home insurance costs?

Having a fireplace in your home can increase insurance costs because they can increase the risk of a house fire. Insurance companies base homeowners insurance rates on several factors which are specific to each home, such as its size, location, market value and many others. Insurers typically raise prices when the level of risk is higher.

Do wood-burning stoves have different insurance requirements?

Yes. Wood-burning stoves are an added risk which increase the probability of a fire loss. Insurance companies have different requirements before they will insure a home with a wood-burning stove as the sole source of heat than they might for a home with a fireplace. Some companies might require wood-burning stoves to be professionally installed and undergo a safety inspection, while others may only require a photograph of where the wood stove has been installed.

Still, other insurance companies may determine that wood-burning stoves render homes ineligible for homeowners insurance if they are the primary heat source. Other insurers may apply a wood-burning stove surcharge. Certain states have eligibility qualifications surrounding the wood-burning stove being used as a primary source of heat, which could make the house ineligible for coverage. Even if a wood-burning stove isn't the primary heat source, it will likely increase your homeowners insurance cost.

The make and model of the wood-stove and how it's connected to the chimney play a significant role in the safety of a wood stove. If you add a wood-burning stove to your home or are considering it, you should notify your insurer right away.

Gas fireplace vs. wood-burning fireplace: which is more costly to insure?

A gas fireplace may be less costly to insure than a wood-burning fireplace because they tend to have a lower risk of fire. Gas fireplaces can be a safer option over a wood-burning fireplace for several reasons:

  • Wood-burning fireplaces require supervision and regular maintenance (such as annual inspection and chimney cleaning) or the risk of fire could increase
  • Gas fireplaces can be left unattended, and they do not expose you to the airborne pollutants a wood-burning fireplace might

Does home insurance cover damage from fires that started in a chimney?

Your homeowners insurance may cover fire damage to a chimney and to wherever it may have spread throughout the house if it was a result of a covered peril. If your policy covers your fireplace or wood-burning stove, the damage was unexpected, and you didn't directly cause it, your homeowners policy may cover the damage.

The National Fire Protection Association reports that dirty chimneys are a leading factor in home heating fires behind space heaters. Built-in wood-burning fireplaces pose a greater fire risk and may cause an increase in your home insurance rate.

Consider the right type of fireplace for your home

  • What's your purpose in buying a fireplace?

    Before buying a fireplace, consider its purpose. Do you want a fireplace for decoration and ambience, or for heating?

  • What's your budget for a fireplace?

    Establish your budget before you become overwhelmed with the variety of choices available.

  • Where will you put the fireplace?

    Determine where you will put the fireplace and ensure that you have enough space and decide whether you'll put it in the kitchen, living room, master bedroom or in another space.

  • Do you want an electric, gas, or wood-burning fireplace?

    Electric fireplaces give warmth without a flame. It is cost-effective, easy to install, and simple to maintain.

    Gas fireplaces offer warmth and the look of fire without the need to haul wood or clean a chimney as they do not produce soot or ash. They are also easy to install, use natural or propane gas, and they will still work when the power is out.

    Wood-burning fireplaces offer the unbeatable visual, aroma, and warmth of a crackling fire, and they can increase the value of your home. Wood-burning fireplaces require regular maintenance, and constant work stacking, chopping, and hauling wood, and starting and tending the fire.

Is heating homes with wood gaining popularity?

A story in the Times Union reports that wood heating is a growing trend fueled by rising heating costs. As home heating oil, natural gas, propane, and electricity prices increase, some people are turning to wood-burning stoves to heat their homes to save money.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has health and safety information about wood-burning appliances and wood smoke.

How to prevent common fireplace problems

Whether you have a fireplace, wood-burning stove, or fire pit, there are a few things you can do to prevent a house fire and reduce the risk of fire and other potential problems.

Clean your chimney once a year

The U.S. Fire Administration recommends having chimney and vents cleaned and inspected by a qualified professional at least once a year. It's important to clean your chimney to identify potential risks, such as cracks in the chimney, creosote residue build-up, and whether any cleaning or repairs are needed.

Get tips for choosing a home inspector.

Take measures to prevent fires from spreading

Fireplace fires can spread quickly. Here are a few fireplace safety tips and steps you can take to help prevent them from spreading:

  • Never leave a fire burning unattended
  • Keep flammable items away from the fireplace
  • Keep rugs away from fireplaces and wood-burning stoves
  • Make sure no drapes are hanging too close, as heat or a loose spark could start a fire
  • Securing a screen, glass, or similar cabinet door for a wood-burning fireplace may prevent sparks and ash from causing damage

Use the right type of wood

If you use a wood-burning fireplace, seasoned hardwood tends to be safer to burn than softer wood. Not only does hardwood burn longer, but it doesn't produce as much residue in the chimney.

Avoid burning these things in a fireplace as they can release toxic fumes:

  • Plastic
  • Paper
  • Garbage
  • Painted or treated wood for construction
  • Charcoal

Heating your home with wood can keep you feeling snug and cozy inexpensively. Remember that while you might be saving money on utility bills by using a wood-burning stove or fireplace, using wood as your primary heating source may increase the cost of your homeowners insurance. Also, factor in the cost of the annual inspection and chimney cleaning.

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