What Kind of Fireplace Do I Have?

It seems that these days, we are never without options. Just take a look at the egg selection at your local grocery store. Should you buy organic or non-organic? Farm-fresh? Local? Extra large? Brown or white? Vegetarian? Soy free? It seems that as time goes on, the possibilities in all fields of life grow exponentially. Although you may not be aware, there are different types of fireplaces and chimneys:

  • Prefabricated or Factory Built Fireplaces and Chimneys
  • Traditional or Masonry Fireplaces and Chimneys

While both fireplace and chimney systems provide warmth and enjoyment, there are some distinct differences. If you are not sure what kind of fireplace and chimney system you have, read on!

Pre-fabricated Fireplaces and Chimney Systems

Pre-fabricated fireplaces and chimneys are designed in the factory as a cohesive unit. These systems are extensively tested for safety and efficiency. They are regulated and must be built and installed per the manufacturer’s instructions. Manufacturers plainly list which chimney systems are safe to use with each specific fireplace, and if you do not heed their recommendation, you are putting your family at high risk for a fire.

As shown in the diagram, these systems have a metal firebox with precast refractory panels. If you look up past the damper, you will see a round metal chimney, which extends through the roof and is sometimes surrounded by a housing composed of simulated brick or siding. You may also see a metal “shoe box lid” covering the chimney top — this is known as a “chase cover” — and a round chimney cap.

Prefabricated fireplaces/factory-built fireplaces and chimneys can last for years, but keep in mind they are appliances. Life expectancy for these types is approximately 10 -15 years as long as there are no damages (due to a chimney fire, lightning strike, water penetration or other occurrence). Over time, parts can wear out and ultimately need to be replaced.

Masonry Fireplaces and Chimney Systems

Masonry fireplaces and chimneys are constructed on-site from stone or brick and mortar and are part of the homes structural design. Typically, these fireplaces and chimneys are built as the house is built.

As shown in the diagram, these systems have  a firebox built of individual (generally yellowish) firebrick, a brick chimney above the roof, and if you look up past the damper, you will see an upside down funnel also built of brick.

One of the biggest differences between a masonry and a prefabricated fireplace and chimney is that a masonry fireplace and chimney system will typically last longer than a prefabricated fireplace. When properly designed, constructed, and maintained, masonry fireplaces and chimneys can withstand decades of heat and fire abuse. The bricks and mortar may begin to crumble over the span of many years, but as long as you have regular maintenance and a professional water repellent coating applied to your masonry system, it will add warmth, enjoyment, and value to your home well into the future.

Another difference between masonry and prefabricated fireplaces is that you can install a fireplace insert in a masonry fireplace, but that is not the case with a prefabricated fireplace unit.

Click here to learn more about wood inserts and which inserts we carry!

Below are some real life examples of prefabricated and masonry chimneys and fireplaces.

Prefabricated Fireplace

Prefabricated Chimney

Masonry Fireplace

Masonry Chimney

Now that you know the differences you should be able to tell what kind of system you have, prefabricated or masonry. Contact us today with any questions you still have – we’ll be glad to talk you through the differences. But – we still can’t help you pick out eggs!

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A wood stove insert could be the perfect chimney installation or replacement service to add more efficiency to your fireplace experience.