Not all fireplaces are created equal; while all heating appliances create warmth and add ambiance to your home, they type of fireplace you have can make a big difference on how you use and maintain your fireplace.
Fireplaces can be divided into three major categories. While there are still many variations – and even hybrids – within each group, understanding more about your specific fireplace can help you make smarter burning and maintenance decisions.
Masonry fireplaces, also known as open hearth fireplaces, are made completely of bricks or stone and mortar. These massive structures are custom built and can weigh as much as six to seven tons! Because of this enormous weight, masonry fireplaces should be monitored for signs of shifting or cracking; as a home settles – as all homes do – a large masonry fireplace may be vulnerable to damage.
Since all masonry fireplaces are custom built, you can design a fireplace that perfectly meets your heating needs as well as your décor style. Likewise, because masonry is made to last with regular maintenance your masonry fireplace can heat your home for years to come.
Inserts are closed system fireplaces that offer homeowners increased energy efficiency, as well as a wide variety of fuel sources and sizes. Fireplace inserts can be installed as stand-alone units; however, they are extremely popular with those looking to change their existing fireplace to a new fuel source – such as switching from wood to gas – or to make their masonry fireplace more efficient.
If you are installing a new insert into an existing hearth, you may need to have your fireplace relined. Relining the flue ensures that the flue is correctly sized for your fireplace, as well as helps prevent or repair many drafting problems.
Factory built or prefabricated fireplaces came onto the market about 25 years ago; because of this, they are rarely seen in older homes but are extremely common in new construction. Prefabricated fireplaces are popular because of their ease of installation and much lower cost than a masonry fireplace. When installed correctly and properly maintained, prefabricated fireplaces can last for up to 25 years or longer.
There are a number of considerations homeowners should be aware of before purchasing or installing a prefabricated fireplace. First, it is important that manufacturer’s instructions for installation and use are followed exactly, especially in regard to clearances. If a chimney is installed too close to wood, it can cause the wood to ignite at as low as 200 degrees. Likewise, many prefabricated fireplaces are only certified as decorative heating appliances; this means they are not likely to produce enough warmth to heat a room, let alone a home. Lastly, prefabricated just plain wear out. While some models can last as long as 25 years with proper maintenance, over use, damage, or regular wear and tear may necessitate replacing a unit sooner.
Determining what kind of fireplace you have can help you better understand how it works and make smarter decisions with maintenance and upkeep. If you have questions about what kind of fireplace you have or are interested in purchasing a new heating appliance, contact Lords Chimney today!