When most people
think of chimneys, they think of fireplaces. Memories of cold winter
evenings, relaxed and cozy in front of a crackling fire are hard to
beat, and the ability of an open fire to soothe the wild beast
within us all is legendary. Since the dawn of time, humans have
gathered around the open fire for a sense of safety and community,
and the fireplace is still the focus of family living in many homes,
especially around the holidays.
But in spite of all the
glowing aesthetics, there are some practical considerations. When
your dealing with an element as capricious and potentially dangerous
as fire, knowledge really is power, so please read on to learn how
to make your fireplace both safer and more enjoyable.
Let's start with a quick
anatomy lesson, and a brief explanation of commonly used terms :
Fireplaces come in two
general types, masonry fireplaces built entirely of bricks and
mortar, and factory built fireplaces consisting of a lightweight
metal firebox and a metal chimney. (There are a few hybrids too, the
most common being a heavy metal firebox and smoke chamber coupled to
a regular brick chimney). To figure out which you have will take
only a moment of detective work on your part.
A masonry fireplace has 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 a roughly pyramid shaped affair also built of brick. A prefab
fireplace generally has a firebox of cast refractory panels, and
usually some metal is visible in the room all around the firebox. If
you look up past the damper you will see a round metal chimney. And
above the roof is more round metal chimney, sometimes surrounded by
a simulated brick housing or chase.
Although basically similar,
there are some important differences. We have provided areas with
some special considerations for masonry or prefabricated fireplaces
that you can jump directly to by clicking the appropriate name.