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What’s the Difference Between Built-in Fireplaces and Stand Alone Units

Built in fireplace

Electric fireplaces are about choice. They come in shapes and sizes to meet every need. You can choose from a number of flames from absolutely realistic to quite stylized. You can heat a large area or a small one. You can have radiant heat or traditional heat with a blower. You can get one built into your walls or standing alone in the room. Both are great choices but do have differences in style and utility. This article reviews the utility and design choices for electric fireplaces.

In this article you will learn:

  • Built-in fireplaces
  • Stand-alone fireplaces
  • Differences between built-in and stand-alone fireplaces
  • Design with a built-in
  • Design with a stand-alone
  • Some design ideas for fireplaces
  • FAQs


The first question you need to ask is what kind of fireplace will work for you. Are your walls thick enough to hold a built-in? Or do you need to grow out into the room with a stand-alone? What kind of cabinetry do you need? Is it bookshelves or storage space for larger things or do you need to display art? Is a mantel enough? Each of these choices will require a unit of a distinct style and shape. When selecting fireplaces, remember MagikFlames’ 30 ultra-realistic flames, built-in 5,200 BTU heater, and crackling log sounds. The atmosphere of the fireplace matters in creating a room that will become a comfortable retreat.

Built-in Fireplace

Fireplace built-ins sit inside the wall. A mantel can sit atop it, or you can place it flush into a plain wall for a modern look. The mantel built around it can grow from the simple to the complex. Many homeowners are excited about the possibilities for even larger built-in units. A built-in wall can contain shelves and cabinets for the storage many living rooms lack. It can include a nook for the TV. It can also hide cords and mess to improve the whole look of your room.


A stand-alone fireplace makes a strong visual statement. Many of these designs are highly contemporary, using fireplaces in different shapes and forms. You can place a stand-alone along a wall. You can build forward sets of cabinetry around it to make it look built-in. Today’s designs often place the fireplace in the center of a large room or as a divider between an open-plan kitchen and living room. A modern fireplace may peek through, open on both sides between two rooms. Or it can take on a minimalist design, sitting in a clear firebox at a central point.

Differences between a built-in and stand-alone

Fireplace built-ins have become part of the house. They integrate the fireplace into an existing wall. They also couple a wall with the utility and storage needed and a gorgeous fireplace. A stand-alone either moves forward from a wall or stands outside of the wall structures.

Mostly, the heating of these units works the same way. (Although there is a difference between MagikFlame’s infrared heating and traditional blown-air heating.) As far as usefulness goes, these two types of models both provide heat to a room. You want to look at their comparative BTUs to determine how much space each individual unit can heat.

While constructing built-ins is the perfect time to wire the electric fireplace directly into your home’s electrical system. This has advantages such as not worrying about the plug coming out of a wall outlet and greater safety with children and pets. A stand-alone will have a greater problem dealing with placing cords – or placing outlets. It’s difficult to run an electric line to a fire in the middle of a room. A middle-room model requires additional electrical help, and possibly more tearing up of your house.


A fireplace is an intimate part of home decor. To select a design for your home, go to Houzz or another interior design website, and look around. You will see a wide range of designs in Classic, Traditional, Transitional, Contemporary, and other styles that illustrate the choices you make. Your fireplace might include a traditional brick or stone frame around the fireplace or become a bookcase for your library. You might prefer contemporary rustic and choose a shiplap fireplace wall to run up the side.

You can take the design ideas you like to a home builder or contractor and move those plans into reality and get an estimate of what the costs may be. You can design around your furniture or take this opportunity to select entirely new furniture to match the fireplace. Your fireplace will be around for a long time. Think about whether it will stand up to a variety of changes in the room.

Designing with a built-in

Here, you must decide how large you want your built-ins to be. They can be as small as a fireplace mantle or expand into a fireplace surround that creates some display and storage space up the side of the fireplace. Increasingly popular is including an entire wall, which fully integrates your fireplace into your home. How many cupboards do you need? Shelves? Drawers? Do you need to create a space to hold your flat-screen TV? Will that space is big enough for future TVs? Or do you want to put all this aside to follow a particular style?

What does it cost to create built-ins around your fireplace?

Costs for this project can run from $500 to $10,000, depending on what you want, how much you will do yourself, and how expensive your tastes are. A small and simple DIY mantle plus a setup to hide cords you build yourself will not cost much at all. A designer-showcase fireplace will cost a lot more. Bringing in a carpenter to create a mantle and build some basic custom shelving around your fireplace will typically run about $1000 to $4000. If you are getting an estimate that is out of that range, you need to talk with your contractor.

Designing with a stand-alone

We have covered how to build a mantle or a basic surround for a stand-alone unit that sits flat against the wall. Creating a three-dimensional piece surrounding the fire makes it look more like built-ins as the surround wraps forward around the fireplace.

A stand-alone can be a DIY project for the family room. You can clear the wall space and plug it in. Or your designs can include routing new electrical or gas lines if you choose to build a gas fireplace instead. With an electric fireplace, you have the freedom to position it wherever you want it to be. The biggest concern is the plug or electric lines to wire the unit directly into the house.

Design examples

Creating your new fireplace ranges from a DIY installation of IKEA shelving units to hiring an architect to fit your new fireplace perfectly into your house as a design feature. Start with an idea. You can find some ideas on Houzz. Here are a few more to get you started planning.


In a contemporary room, the fireplace is the focal point. Clean lines surround it. As a stand-alone, a gas fireplace can grace the center of an open-concept room with dancing blue lights. Or our MagikFlame’s sound of flickering flames may draw you. Styling around a contemporary electric fireplace design should be minimal. What is there should match and enhance the lines of any existing fireplace?

One design that looks great with a stand-alone fireplace is floating shelves. If the fireplace is sitting in front of the wall, or on an island in the middle of the room, floating shelves will bring the wall out around the fireplace. These are great storage for books or objets d’art. The shelves can take on a regular pattern, or for a very contemporary look, float at random places on the wall.


A favorite look is the classic library mantle. In this style, the fireplace is surrounded by a mantle and bookshelves. This look lends itself to an office or a living room. Floor-to-ceiling bookshelves are a classic look, but you can include a smaller set of bookcases. This fireplace sells as a built-in or the fireplace built with the bookcase to sit in front of the wall for a stand-alone. Topping the design with a large, but simple crown molding brings life to the area.

Family room

In a family room or living room, start your design with a base cabinet at or slightly above floor level – depending on your baseboards. Remember, if you have small children, ground-level cabinets are a great idea and help the kids be able to put their own toys and books away. Cabinet doors should be easy to open and cabinetry safe for small children and pets. Contemporary looks rule here, because the focus on simplicity and utility makes the rooms easy to use.

Wainscotting leading from the fireplace creates a friendly atmosphere. Whether the wainscotting is MDR and batten, or shiplap, or even Shaker panels, it creates a down-to-earth look. And, since you will have part of the wall torn up for the fireplace in a renovation, this is the perfect time to add wainscotting, baseboards, and other design elements. Wainscotting is also perfect in a dining room to protect the walls from chair backs.

Dining room

A Craftsman look is perfect for a room where you eat. Its simple forms make it useful for storing extra plates and glasses or holding food you do not want to keep on the table through dinner. A decorator can be helpful in setting a room unit up to best fit your home’s requirements. Add a crown molding that echoes the simple lines of the built-in. With an electric fireplace, you can have a fire in the room for dinner. A stand-alone fireplace is perfect for rooms you do not use all day. You can even buy smaller models, unless your room is huge.

Great room

In the great room, a fireplace wall often holds a mounted TV. Fireplaces give you great flexibility about where that television can go. It can share the wall with the fireplace, either mounted over the top of it or providing a second side-by-side anchor to the room. The television can even sit directly on top of a MagikFlame electric fireplace because our models do not direct any heat upward.

The most traditional look of all is a stone fireplace. Stone is one of the best insulation materials around a real fire. Although infrared electric fireplaces only produce heat out of the front, the stone is a design that grounds your home into the needs and style of the past. A fireplace built out of stone looks classic and will continue to look that way many years from now. Use stone to surround your fireplace built-ins to make them look like they have been in your house forever.


Even an entryway can hold a fireplace to warm you or your cold guests the moment they arrive. I remember my grandmother’s house and we would all go in and cluster around the radiator in the entry hall to warm up. An electric heater provides the same warmth and homey feeling. In the winter, there is no better welcome than the warmth of being inside.


You can fall asleep to a roaring fire, knowing you are safe if it’s a bedroom electric fireplace. You can set it on a timer to go off after you sleep or keep it on all night at a low level to warm the room. If I had a fireplace at the foot of my bed, I would never leave the bedroom. It provides a soothing warmth and a hypnotic look that helps you fall asleep faster. Your fireplace mantel can hold items that make you feel like resting.

DIY your fireplace

If you know some woodworking, or are ready to learn, creating these built-ins or surrounds for a stand-alone fireplace is a significant task to take on to save you a lot of money. Get your nailer, MDF, and caulk ready. Line up some pics of and designs to pull from. Measure twice. And think of your skill level. Pocket holes are beautiful in the assembly of a cabinet, but if you are not putting together an IKEA kit, they can be difficult to construct. Consider buying a kit but know that it may not fit your space exactly.

Built fireplace

Bottom Line

Look over our website. MagikFlame has fireplaces in several styles plus inserts to fit your own design. Our different designs give you a wide range of fireplaces. Go to our photo idea gallery to see some design ideas using our fireplaces.

Whether you choose a stand-alone or a built-in fireplace, think about how the two fit your design needs. Think about the connection to the electric system and how you will configure it. Then, close your eyes and think about the warmth and beauty you will have next winter in your living room.

Built in fireplace


Do I paint shelving before or after it goes into place on the wall?

It’s a great idea to paint any shelving before it goes up on the wall. This makes it easier to avoid paint pooling or dripping. Paint, then install. Once installed you wipe down the wood and give a final coat of paint.

What is the best time to add a new fireplace?

The two best times to install a fireplace are when you are building a new home or engaging in a remodel of the room you want to contain the fireplace. This way you can easily get different people involved to work together, such as your builder and architect. Plus, adding a fireplace as part of a build or an existing remodel lets the mess and craziness of it hide inside the entire remodel.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog post is for general informational purposes only. While we strive to ensure accuracy, there may be errors, omissions, or discrepancies. The author and publisher make no warranties about the accuracy, reliability, or suitability of the information contained herein.

Product specifications and features are subject to change without notice and may vary from actual products available. Readers should consult the manufacturer or retailer directly for the most up-to-date information, installation requirements, safety guidelines, and warranty details.

The author and publisher shall not be liable for any loss, damage, or inconvenience caused by reliance on this information. The use of any information provided is at the reader’s own risk.

Please note that some links may be affiliate links, and we may earn a commission from purchases made through these links. This does not impact our editorial content or recommendations.

For questions or concerns, please contact the manufacturer or retailer directly.

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