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A Practical Guide to Buying and Installing a Recessed Electric Fireplace

A Practical Guide to Buying and Installing a Recessed Electric Fireplace

A Practical Guide to Buying and Installing a Recessed Electric Fireplace

If you’re good with a drill and a saw, you can install a recessed electric fireplace within a day. It’s that easy, which is one of the reasons why electric fireplaces are so popular. 

Installing a recessed fireplace is a stylish and modern way of creating a warm hearth in your house. Traditionally, the fireplace has always been the center of the home where families grew warmer and closer together. 

Installing an electric fireplace is most practical when you have remodeling or new construction work going on, but you can also install one without having to call a contractor. It can be as easy as cutting a hole in the wall and screwing the unit in place. 

Before you get cutting, however, you should know how to buy the right electric fireplace and install it properly.   

Recessed Fireplace and Other Installation Options

A recessed or built-in fireplace installation is where you cut a niche in a wall to the fireplace’s dimensions and then fit the unit inside flush to the wall. That’s why it is also called flush mounting, and it results in a clean and unobtrusive look. 

While a recessed fireplace is one of the best ways to ensure a seamless installation, other options are easier to carry out but won’t provide the same elegant finish.

Wall Mounted Electric Fireplace

You can mount an electric furnace in the same way you would hang a TV. Most small and mid-size electric fireplaces come with wall brackets from which you can hang the furnace, but they have to be fixed to strong wall studs.

In most cases, a wall-mounted electric fireplace can be hung on a wall or recessed. One of the best is the Dimplex BLF34 Wickson, a 34” beauty that features very realistic flame effects powered by LED technology.

Recessed Fireplace in a Bump-Out Wall

If you are not comfortable cutting a hole in an existing wall, you can build a bump-out wall around the unit. This is a more intensive process, but it is safer, and you can personalize the new wall to fit your style. 

Free-Standing Electric Fireplaces

Free-Standing Electric Fireplaces

You can buy an electric fireplace fitted inside pieces of furniture such as a mantel, TV stand, or custom entertainment center. These freestanding units fit into the room like any other piece of furniture, but they are much more expensive.

Fireplace Insert 

If you already have an existing gas, wood, or coal firebox, you can buy a fireplace insert for that space. The insert plugs into a wall outlet and recreates the atmosphere of a real fire.

Just like with ethanol fireplace inserts, electric fireplace inserts allow you to combine a modern fireplace with an antique grate or old stove.

Buying an Electric Fireplace for Recessed Installation

Here are some of the most common types of electric fireplaces on the market. 

Types of Electric Fireplaces

Type of Fireplace Description Example
Electric fireplace insert units also called log sets
  • Designed to be placed in existing fireplaces.
  • The fireplace insert will plug into a nearby wall outlet.
  • They have flame projection technology for a realistic “fire.”

DIMPLEX Revillusion 25
Source: amazon.com

Built-in/ wall mounted electric fireplace
  • These enclosed units can be installed in a recessed niche inside a wall.
  • No insulation required (zero clearance)
  • Some of the best examples are the Touchstone Sideline series and Dimplex Ignite

Touchstone 80004
Source: amazon.com

Electric fireplace mantels
  • These are standalone electric fireplaces that come with a mantel built around them.
  • They offer a more authentic ambiance
  • They need no further installation work

SEI Furniture Tennyson Electric Bookcases Fireplace, Mahogany
Source: amazon.com

Electric fireplace stoves
  • Free-standing units styled like coal stoves.
  • They are portable and only require you to plug them in. Most use infrared heating technology
  • If you already have a stove, get a fireplace insert for the same results

Electric fireplace stoves
Source: amazon.com

All factors considered, what you need is a unit capable of recessed installation. Some features to look for include:

  • Ventless or front-vented—a ventless wall-mounted electric fireplace uses infrared filament technology, while front-vented units have fan-forced heating vented on the side facing the room.
  • Zero-clearance certification—the unit will require no insulation and come in contact with combustible materials with no safety issues.
  • Size: width, length, and depth to fit your room dimensions. Length can vary from less than 30” in length to 100”. 
  • You should also ensure that the depth will fit the space inside your walls so that the unit will be fully or primarily recessed. For example, the Dimplex Opti-V is famous for its realistic flame technology, but it has a depth of 13.5 inches compared to the usual 4.25” for LED fireplaces. 
  • Heat output— Units with infrared heating can heat up to 1000 square feet, while a unit with a fan-forced heater can manage 400 square feet. 

Benefits of Recessed Fireplace Mounting

A recessed wall-mounted electric fireplace reproduces the unique, warm, cozy feel of a gas or ethanol fireplace. Just as our forefathers used to gather around a hearth and talk, a recessed unit invites romance and good times with family.

Benefits of Recessed Fireplace Mounting

Source: amazon.com

Whether you manage a fully recessed or partially recessed wall mount, this method saves you space in the room. Some people even find it cool to mount a TV above the fireplace for a snazzy contemporary look.

Every wall-mounted electric fireplace is designed to be safe and maintenance-free. If you hardwire the unit to your home circuit or conceal the power cable, you get a clean, seamless look and a modern feel. 

How to Install a Recessed Electric Fireplace: Step-by-Step Guide

As we have already mentioned, you have two options when installing a wall-mounted electric fireplace. You can either carve a niche into a wall or build a bump-out wall to surround the fireplace.

DIY Recessed Fireplace Installation

What You Need

  • A wall-mounted electric fireplace
  • A suitable location; check that the fireplace will fit in length and height. Also, make sure that the wall is deep enough for the unit to be fully or mostly recessed. 
  • Also, consult manufacture guidelines for clearances; some units need to be at least 3ft away from combustible materials.
  • A nearby power outlet. If possible, have an electrician run a dedicated circuit for the unit from the power supply.
  • Building materials—a few pieces of 2x4 lumber for framing, paint (optional). If you do more damage to the wall, you might need wall finishing and wall caulking to patch things up.
  • Tools—Phillips screwdriver, hand saw or a power saw (a circular saw or jigsaw is good), spirit level, measuring tape or straight ruler, pliers, gloves, drill, wall scanner (optional), and dust vacuum (optional)
  • Alternatively, you can use a hammer and nails in place of a drill

Installation Steps

  1. Unbox the unit and check that everything works

    Before you install the fireplace, get it out of the packaging and plug it in. Cycle through all the controls and make sure that all components work in case you need to return it or have repairs made. 

    If everything works correctly, unscrew the front glass panel in readiness for installation.

    electric fireplace installation
  2. Find the right spot

    Locate a non-load-bearing wall in which to install the unit. If you want to install it on an exterior wall or a load-bearing one, have a contractor install it for you. You can also opt to build a bump-out wall instead.

  3. Measure and cut a hole in the wall

    Measure the dimensions of the fireplace. Mark these out on the wall, but make every side ¼” larger as an allowance. Use the spirit level to ensure that every side is perpendicular to the floor and sides.

    Before you cut into the wall, check that there are no electric cables or plumbing behind the drywall; this is easily done using a wall scanner. 

    Once you have everything ready, use a handsaw or power saw to cut the drywall. Cut through and remove any studs in the middle section, but studs to the sides should be kept because they will be necessary for support. 

  4. Frame the wall opening in the correct dimensions

    Measure and cut pieces of 2x4 lumber and frame the hole created from inside the cavity. It will help to re-support the wall and outline where the fireplace is going to fit. 

  5. Connect the power supply

    Most built-in electric fireplaces give you the option to hardwire them to your home circuit or connect them using a power cord to the nearest wall outlet.

    If you choose to hardwire the connection, make sure that it is grounded and follows all safety guidelines from the manufacturer and local authorities. If possible, have a dedicated circuit for the fireplace to avoid tripping breakers or blowing fuses.

    If you use the power cord, you can conceal it with trunking then paint over the trunking to match your existing wall. 

  6. Insert the fireplace in the opening

    Thanks to the ¼ clearance, the fireplace should fit perfectly into the opening. Secure it in place by drilling its screws into the wall or wall studs.

  7. Insert the decorative media

    Electric fireplaces use different technology to recreate a realistic flame effect. Some use LED lights; others use water mist and halogen lamps. This is the time to put in decorative media such as firelogs, glass crystals, or halogen lamps.

    Electric fireplace crystals

    If you have a unit with LED lighting, you will have a bag of crystal balls and a log set. The log set has a more realistic flame, while the crystal balls are more versatile; choose the one that works best with the atmosphere you want to create.

  8. Insert the front glass panel

    Some glass panels require screws to hold them in place, while others just slot in. The oversized glass panel fits flush to the wall and will cover any remaining spaces between the fireplace and the wall. It will also conceal fireplace flanges for a seamless finish. 

  9. Turn on and customize your fireplace

    With the fireplace installed and plugged in, you can now turn it on. You will have different options such as heat on/off, flames on/off, sound on/off (for high-end models), among others. You can also set the heat levels, set timers, and a lot more. 

    High-end units like the Dimplex multi-fire XD firebox even let you customize the flame for a more vivid, realistic flame pattern. You can create the ambiance you want with the touchscreen, remote control, or smartphone app controls.

Video Example: How to Install a Wall Mounted Electric Fireplace by Building a Bump Out Wall

The unit referenced here is the Simplifire Allusion Platinum 60” electric fireplace, but it has since become unavailable. Instead, we recommend the Touchstone Sideline 8004 or Dimplex Prism Series 74”.

These units are highly acclaimed for their realistic flame patterns, high heat output, and top performance.

In this video, they are building a bump-out wall to hold the fireplace. It takes a little more work, but the result is just as beautiful. In short, what they did was:

  1. Build the wall frame to the required measurements. In this case, they used 2x4 lumber cut to size.
  2.  Add a header and a sill plate.
  3. Screw or nail the header to the ceiling and the sill plate to the floor to hold the frame in place. 
  4. They finished the wall with drywall, but you can use any type of material such as tiles, faux brick, stone, or stucco. Still, you will find it helpful to use a material that you can drill through easily when securing the fireplace.
  5. Run the electrical connections into the cavity. When doing this, you should always ensure that the connection is grounded and compliant with other safety codes. 
  6. Install the fireplace as detailed above in steps 6-9. 


Do You Need Professional Help to Install a Recessed Electric Fireplace?

No, you can do a DIY install of a recessed electric fireplace. However, you might need to get professional help finding a non-load-bearing wall, sealing any existing venting or chimneys, and hardwiring the fireplace’s power supply.

How Much Will It Cost to Install an Electric Fireplace Insert?

Since most electric fireplaces are plug-and-play, DIY installations are mostly free if you already have the tools required. Compare that to a professional installation that could cost you $150-$2,500, depending on the work required, and it becomes an easy decision to make so long as you know what you’re doing.  

Can You Plug an Electric Fireplace on a Standard Wall Outlet?

Yes, most electric fireplaces are designed to run from standard 110V sockets. However, the current draw can be as high as 15 Amps or more, which could trigger breakers or blow fuses. If you can’t run a dedicated circuit, replace the fuses or breakers with a 15A or 20A model. 

Do Electric Fireplaces Need to Be Vented? 

No, the right electric fireplace will require no outside venting. The fireplace produces clean energy with no smoke, ash, or flue to deal with. Fan-forced electric fireplaces produce hot air, but it is vented through the front of the fireplace and needs no special consideration. 

Which Fireplace Technology Produces the Most Realistic Flame?

Each manufacturer has their own proprietary technology they claim has the most realistic flame effect. In our experience, the most authentic technology is the Dimplex Opti-Myst using water mist and halogen lamps.

Dimplex Opti-Myst Technology

Any model using projection screen technology can also produce a realistic flame in 3D, of which Dimplex and Napoleon are masters.

Do You Need Help Finding the Right Electric Fireplace?

Having made it this far, that recessed fireplace you have been dreaming about is about to become a reality. It all starts with careful preparation, selecting the right inbuilt-fireplace for your room, and taking the time to install it carefully.

So long as you have the right tools and can join one piece of wood to another, you’re good to go. Ours is to make sure that you have only premium-quality electric fireplaces.

You’re welcome to browse through our curated collection of the best electric fireplaces to find one that suits your taste and space.

Featured Image from: Freepik

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