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Chimneys and fireplaces go hand-in-hand because together, they form a home heating and venting system. As evenings become colder, we look forward to nights in front of the fireplace. The chimney stands tall and proud above the roof, letting everyone know that the residence is a place for family gatherings.

Setting aside emotions, there are practical aspects to this system. Fire is a dangerous thing so understanding how the fireplace and chimney operate is important. A masonry fireplace is made from mortar and stone, blocks, or brick and features a firebox made from firebrick, a brick chimney, and a pyramid-shaped area above the damper, which is also made from brick. A masonry fireplace weighs about six or seven tons, is long-lasting, and requires only minor regular care and periodic maintenance.

A factory built fireplace is comprised of a brick or metal chimney an a metal firebox. This box is usually made from cast refractory panels and metal is usually visible in the area around the box. Past the damper is a round chimney made of metal and this extends above the roof, but the external chimney may be surrounded by simulated brick.

Since a masonry fireplace is so heavy, it requires extensive and durable footing. If this area moves or settles, immediate attention is required. A masonry chimney is constantly exposed to weather elements making waterproofing, crown maintenance, and a chimney cover recommended expenses. Factory built fireplaces can be severely damaged by extreme overfiring or chimney fires so monitored use is critical.

Whether the chimney and fireplace are masonry or factory built from metal, annual inspection by a certified chimney sweep is recommended. This checkup identifies small issues before they become major problems and increases the safety of this inherently dangerous system. Take care of the fireplace and chimney and it will provide years of comfort.