I’m often asked if there’s a trick to installing fireplaces in a Monolithic Dome. It’s actually pretty straightforward. The real question is, “Do you need the fireplace?” I see the romantic appeal of visiting around a glowing fire or the desire to reduce your heating bill. However, the energy efficiency of the dome typically changes a need for a fireplace into a want.
The Monolithic Dome is super energy efficient. Any heat you add to the dome is going to stay inside. You better be sure you want it. One dome-owner was going to have a party and felt it was a little bit cool in his house—it was winter after all. He lit the small, wood stove in the middle of the house and in no time at all, the doors and windows were open and people were practically outside in the snow.
If you live in the south like we do in Texas and really want that fireplace feel, I recommend an electric fireplace. They are easy to install, no cleaning, no chimney, no piping, and the good ones look amazing. You also gain the floor space in front of the fireplace because there’s no actual fire danger. Plus your house doesn’t smell like a campfire.
Many homes today install gas fireplaces. They look nice. Give off heat. They only need a simple exhaust. There’s no soot to get the house dirty. You never have to clean it. They are very safe. Usually they turn on with a switch and give a wonderful, real fire to sit around. A child can start it. The clean, natural gas flame gives off less pollution. In areas prone to bad air days there are times when wood fires are banned, but gas fires are not a problem.
If you absolutely must have a wood-burning fireplace you should ask yourself, why do you want it? If it’s for emergency heat then consider a small stove rather than a fireplace. The stove gives off more heat per wood burned than a standard fireplace.
There are some stoves in various parts of the country that burn corn or wood pellets and they make pretty darn good heaters. They look like a type of fireplace. They do not take a lot of maintenance and they are automatic. You add the corn or the wood pellets once a day and the units will take care of it from there.
And, of course, you can install an open fireplace. There are beautiful fireplaces installed in dome houses.
How do you install a fireplace in a dome? First, the flue. Whoever is furnishing the fireplace can specify the size of the flue. You drill a hole through the concrete where you want the pipe to go. Pay special attention on how you flash and seal around the flue as it exits the dome. You don’t want water getting around the opening.
The finished chimney is a surround that encompasses the flue and completes the look of the fireplace. The outside finish can range from ornate to simple. It’s up to you and your budget.
Because height in the dome is variable (tall in the middle, low at the edge) you can simplify the flue by moving it closer to the dome edge. If you want to make a statement, place the fireplace in the middle of the house and make the chimney ornate and a central part of the decor.
We do have one important recommendation. Please do not install a gas or wood burning fireplace without a fresh air supply. The Monolithic Dome is airtight. There are no drafts except where we intentionally create them. So please, install a fresh air vent from the outside to the firebox. We want the fireplace to be something you enjoy, not something that makes you sick.
From flooring to wall layouts, kitchens to fireplaces, the dome forces you to think through all aspects of design. Carefully consider everything you include. For whatever reason you decide you must have a fireplace, installing it won’t be a problem.