When you own a home with a fireplace, it helps to know the anatomy of the heating appliance. Since you are dealing with the dangerous element of fire, this knowledge can help you make your fireplace safer and more enjoyable. There are just two types of fireplaces: masonry and prefabricated (prefab) or factory-built. If you do not know which type you have, it can be easy to find out by looking at your fireplace. If you see a firebox built with yellowish firebrick and have a brick chimney above your roof, you have a masonry fireplace. If you see a firebox of cast refractory panels along with metal around the firebox, you have a prefab fireplace. Although these types of fireplaces are very similar, Ashbusters would like to tell you more about each type of fireplace by sharing with you some information from the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA).
Built entirely of bricks, blocks, or stones and mortar, a masonry fireplace can weigh between six and seven tons and require an extensive footing that is capable of supporting this weight. Without a good footing, the fireplace could shift and crack, which allows the fire to escape to nearby combustible items in your home. Watch for signs of any settling or movement, especially just inside the firebox where the facing material meets the firebrick.
The anatomy of a masonry fireplace is more extensive than a prefab fireplace. Its parts include the parts of the chimney (mortar crown, flue, smoke chamber, and smoke shelf), the parts of the fireplace (damper, firebox, lintel, and hearth), and then the parts underneath the fireplace (ash dump and foundation).
While the chimney is the most exposed to the elements of weather, the firebox takes the brunt of the heat of the fire and needs special attention. Firebrick holds up pretty well to high temperatures, but the joints will eventually fail due to the constant contraction and extraction. Even though refractory mortar is specified, it is seldom used. Many masonry chimneys have clay tile liners, which can be quite long-lasting if they are cleaned and inspected annually and are never exposed to a chimney fire.
Becoming more and more popular over the 25 years that they have been on the market, factory-built fireplaces are generally made from metal. These fireplaces come from the factory as a complete unit with a firebox, chimney system, and all the parts. It is very important to note that the factory-built fireplace and chimney are a complete system that has been manufactured to work together safely and efficiently.
The anatomy of a prefabricated fireplace consists of the hearth, fireplace, chimney, firestop, flashing, and chimney cap. When you receive your prefab fireplace, you should have all of these parts. Professional installation is crucial for your prefab fireplace to work efficiently and safely. Ashbusters is very experienced in installing factory-built fireplaces. While a prefab fireplace is not as long-lasting as a masonry fireplace and will eventually wear out over time, you can prolong the life of your unit by keeping up with all of the necessary maintenance tasks, such as having it inspected and cleaned yearly.
Have questions about the two different types of fireplaces? Call us at Ashbusters to learn more about masonry and prefabricated fireplaces – 843-225-9985.