For the average homeowner, the purpose of a fireplace is either primarily utilitarian or primarily aesthetic. Which category you fall into generally determines the style of fireplace you're most likely to choose, so long as you're well informed. In order to make the choice that most appropriately suits your views it's important that you know a little more about the styles of fireplace available to you.
Wood Burning Stoves
Some are freestanding, some are inserts, but wood stoves differ from other inset fireplaces in that they can be securely sealed. The net result of a fully enclosed fire is generally a hotter burning fire, largely because less of the heat of combustion is swept away by the drafts that seep through gaps in a glass door or wire covering. As a result, the greater surface area of the enclosed front also helps to radiate that heat more effectively and for longer periods of time.
A freestanding wood stove goes a step further, exposing more of its total surface area to the room and allowing more of the heat to radiate outward. This does require a fireproof platform to place it on, and may not be appropriate for homes with small children, but with the right precautions a wood burning stove will generate a significant amount of heat in an enclosed space. Models which include a fan can also help to circulate that heat into more distant rooms, seriously reducing your reliance on a central furnace.
Most often characterized by an open front covered by glass or wire coverings, sometimes even both, an insert fireplace provides the most classic image people have of a fireplace in the home. Aesthetically, it's hard to imitate the radiant glow of a flickering log fire, and the added benefit of a moderately warmer proximity can really help to set a mood for a number of occasions. The most important heat producing component of an open-front insert is the reflective firebricks at the back, which act to radiate the heat from inside the fireplace out into the room beyond.
Unlike a wood stove, an inset fireplace will require that a chimney be in place before it can be installed, while a freestanding stove can literally be installed anywhere. A chimney can be built from scratch, but it's important you hire the right masonry contractor to do so in order to avoid problems with water penetration or improper insulation.
Both wood stoves and inserts have noteworthy benefits, but for different reasons. It's a good idea to really think hard about what you're hoping to get out of a new fireplace before you make a choice; that way you're less likely to regret the decision to move forward with the installation.
Talk to a company like Karl Mattes Co Inc to learn more.