Who doesn’t love fireplaces at Christmas time? The mantel decorated with stockings and pine boughs……a crackling fire while you cuddle up with a book and hot cocoa….the notion of Santa sliding down the chimney with a bag of toys…….the list goes on and on. For many people it evokes happy memories. For others, it doesn’t hold any memories and is simply a hole in the wall! Fireplaces, while still appealing, no longer hold the same status they once did as a must have item on all home buyers’ wish lists. With some areas placing limits on burning wood due to environmental concerns, traditional fireplaces may even eventually be out. It turns out wood burning fireplaces can cause all sorts of grief for the environment and your health. In fact, according to the EPA, wood smoke contains toxins including benzene, formaldehyde, acrolein and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)—as well as microscopic particles that can irritate the eyes and lungs. If you or someone in your family suffers from asthma or allergies, wood burning fireplaces should be off limits in your home! And if you could better use the space if it were a blank wall, an extra bank of windows, or built-in storage then you may want to keep the memories and get rid of the fireplace!

If you live in a warmer climate, many homes do not have fireplaces. Those that do may be used just for the holiday decor or perhaps a base for grouping of candles. Even homes in colder climates may not use fireplaces as a heat source. Fireplaces actually do little in terms of providing heat. If true warmth and coziness are what you’re after, you might be better off investing in a quality woodstove, which can generate enough heat to warm an entire house on its own, or in conjunction with another source of heat.

With all the negativity surrounding fireplaces, you’ve gotta ask yourself, “Is lounging in front of a roaring fire really worth it”? As news about the downside of wood fires has spread, home tastes are responding accordingly. The number of new homes built with a fireplace has been decreasing since 1990, to only about half of all new construction. This naturally differs depending on what area of the country you live in but the desire to have a fireplace has significantly decreased all over.

My personal opinion is to have one! I don’t suffer from any health issues that would not allow me to have one. I am a sucker for hanging Christmas stockings and sitting in front of a roaring fire….even living in the south. Obviously on hot summer nights this would not be a choice, but all in all I would still build, purchase or rent a home with a fireplace and a great big mantel! Besides, what WOULD Santa do?