Parts of a Fireplace

Dec 11th 2023

Here's a quick overview of the main parts of a fireplace:

Part Function
Firebox The primary chamber for burning fuel.
Fireplace Insert A fireproof box that houses and controls the flame.
Hearth Provides a heat-resistant surface to protect the floor.
Fireplace Glass/Screen Serves as a protective barrier between the flame and living space.
Fireplace Surround The decorative framework around the fireplace.
Fireplace Mantel A shelf-like structure above the fireplace for decoration and protection.
Fireplace Grate A metal framework for burning wood and collecting ash.
Fireplace Ash Pit Collects residual ash from the fire.
Ash Pit Door / Cover Allows only ashes to fall into the ash pit.
Chimney The exhaust system that draws out smoke and fumes.
Chimney Throat The initial opening where smoke begins its ascent.
Chimney Cap Prevents debris and animals from entering the chimney.
Chimney Crown Diverts water away from the chimney.
Damper Controls the opening and closing of the chimney.
Smoke Chamber Facilitates the movement of smoke from the firebox into the flue.
Smoke Shelf Catches debris and prevents downdrafts.
Flue Directs smoke and combustion gases away from the firebox.
Liner Provides a protective barrier inside the flue.
Lintel A structural beam that supports the masonry above the fireplace.
Back Panel Fills the space between the fireplace opening and the surround.

The Firebox

At the heart of every fireplace lies the firebox. It's the primary chamber where the burning of fuel occurs creating the warm and inviting atmosphere we all love. A firebox is constructed from durable materials like refractory brick or stone. 

The firebox is designed to withstand high temperatures and provide a safe space for the fuel to combust without spreading to other areas. 

Depending on how you position your fuel in the firebox, it can also be used to direct heat in a specific direction especially in stoves or furnaces. The firebox is connected to the chimney or flue.

Fireplace Insert

The fireplace insert is an important part of a fireplace, especially in gas and electric fireplaces. It's essentially a fireproof box that houses and controls the flame and can be retrofitted into existing fireplaces. Inserts are perfect for those looking to upgrade their old traditional fireplace to a more efficient and cleaner option. They can be wood, gas, or pellet-burning and are perfect for those looking to modernize without a complete overhaul.

Hearth

The hearth is more than just the floor of the fireplace, it's a symbol of home and warmth. The hearth provides a safe and heat-resistant surface to protect the floor and surrounding area from heat, ash and embers. It consists of two main parts, the inner hearth and the outer or extended hearth. Both parts are made of non combustible materials like brick, stone, tile etc.

The inner hearth is the floor that forms the foundation inside the firebox, whilst the extended hearth extends into the room both lengthwise and width-wise. The hearth can be constructed flush with the floor or raised. Building codes determine the size and dimensions of the hearth.

Fireplace Glass/Screen

A fireplace glass/screen serves as a protective barrier between the open flame and your living space. The fireplace screen is located in front of the firebox and on top of the hearth. Especially important in homes with children or pets, the screen or glass prevents accidental burns and keeps flying embers from spilling into the room.

Fireplace Surround

The fireplace surround is the decorative framework that encapsulates the functional components of the fireplace. It frames the firebox or insert, elevating the overall look of the fireplace. Whether you opt for a sleek metal design or a rustic stone facade, the surround is the finishing touch that ties everything together.

Fireplace Mantel

The fireplace mantel is a shelf-like structure that sits above the fireplace opening or the top portion of the fireplace surround. It serves both decorative and functional purposes. The mantel is often used to photos, art, or even a television. Functionally, the mantel plays a role in protecting the fireplace opening from heat and embers. Mantels come in various designs and materials, offering homeowners the flexibility to choose one that complements their interior decor.

Fireplace Grate

A fireplace grate is a metal framework placed in the firebox where the wood is burned. It serves several functions:

  • Elevates the wood off the floor, allowing better air circulation for a more consistent efficient burn.
  • Collects ash below the grate for easier cleanup.
  • Provides a more stable structure for stacking logs.

Fireplace Ash pit

A Fireplace Ash pit is a specialized compartment located beneath the fireplace grate. It collects the residual ash from the fire above. The ash pit is designed for both convenience and cleanliness, allowing for a centralized collection point for ashes. Access to the ash pit is usually provided through a clean out door, which can be situated either in the basement or on the external side of the chimney.

Fireplace Ash pit Door / Cover

An integral part of the ash pit is the Ash Pit Cover, a grate situated on the floor of the firebox. This grate is designed to let ashes pass through while retaining larger pieces of wood in the firebox. It acts as a filter, ensuring that only ashes fall into the ash pit below, making it easier and more efficient to clean out the ash pit. By incorporating an ash pit and its cover into your fireplace system, you streamline the process of ash management, making it easier to maintain a clean and functional fireplace.

Back Panel

A fireplace back panel fills the space between the fireplace opening and the surround, serving both aesthetic and functional roles. Made from heat-resistant materials like granite, marble, or slate, it completes the visual appeal of the fireplace while also adding some structural integrity. Without a fireplace back panel, the bare wall between the fireplace opening and the surround would be exposed.

The Chimney

Ever wondered how your fireplace stays smoke-free? This vertical structure protruding on the top of houses plays a pivotal role as the exhaust system of the fireplace, drawing out smoke and fumes to ensure a clean and safe environment inside your home. Chimneys function by generating a draft that pulls air and smoke upward. Chimneys are important for safety and efficiency of fireplaces and stoves.

Parts of a Chimney

Chimney Throat

The throat serves as the gateway between the fireplace and the chimney. Positioned right above the firebox, it's the initial opening where smoke begins its ascent, ensuring a smooth transition from the warmth of the fire to the open air.

Chimney Cap

A chimney cap is a protective cover that is placed on the top of a chimney. It is generally made of metal, stainless steel, or sometimes copper. The cap usually comes with a mesh screen which is designed to fit securely over the chimney's opening at the top. One of the primary functions of a chimney cap is to prevent leaves, twigs, and other debris from entering the chimney. It also keeps out animals like birds, raccoons, and squirrels, from nesting in the chimney causing blockages.

Chimney Crown

The chimney crown is the concrete or mortar layer that covers and overhangs the top of the chimney stack. Chimney crowns can also be called crown wash. Its function is to divert water away from the chimney, preventing moisture from entering the chimney and causing water damage. It acts as a first line of defense against the elements, prolonging the life of the chimney.

Damper

The chimney damper serves as the gatekeeper of the chimney, positioned just above the throat and designed to be opened or closed. When the fireplace is in use, the damper is opened to allow smoke to exit, and when idle, it's closed to prevent drafts and conserve indoor heat.

Two primary types of dampers exist: the throat damper and the chimney top damper.

A throat damper is designed to have an opening twice the area of the flue. It features a valve plate operated by a handle or lever that opens toward the back of the fireplace, serving as a barrier against any down drafts.

On the other hand, a chimney top damper, operated by a control chain, sits at the top of the chimney and allows the chimney and flue to be heated when the fireplace is not active. The damper should be opened when the fireplace is in use to prevent smoke from being redirected into the house.

Smoke Chamber

The smoke chamber is a crucial component of a fireplace's chimney system. It is located above the throat and damper. It serves as the transitional area between the firebox, where the fire is built, and the flue. Structurally, the smoke chamber is shaped like an upside-down funnel. One of the primary functions of the smoke chamber is to facilitate the smooth and efficient movement of smoke from the firebox into the flue by compressing the smoke.

Smoke Shelf

Smoke Shelf: The smoke chamber often includes a smoke shelf, a flat or concave area located behind the damper. One function of the smoke shelf is to act as a catch basin. It catches any rain, water, or debris that may fall into the chimney. Another function of the Smoke Shelf is prevention of downdrafts. It helps to prevent downdrafts from entering the firebox and affecting the fire.

Flue

The flue is a critical component of a fireplace's chimney system. It is a vertical duct or main passageway that directs smoke and combustion gases away from the firebox and out of the chimney. The flue is often lined with materials like clay or metal to ensure it can handle the high temperatures and corrosive substances produced during combustion. The size and design of the flue directly impacts how effective it draws out smoke up the chimney.

Liner

Safety is paramount when dealing with fire, and the liner ensures just that. Positioned inside the flue, it provides a protective barrier, preventing heat transfer to combustible parts of the home and reducing the risk of potential chimney fires.

Lintel

The lintel is the unsung hero of fireplace construction. This structural beam spans the width of the fireplace, positioned just above the fireplace opening. It supports the masonry above, ensuring the fireplace's stability and longevity.

Types of Fireplaces

The Time-Honored Single-Face Fireplaces

Single-face fireplaces are the quintessential type, featuring a single opening that faces the room. They have been around for centuries and have seen design modifications across different architectural periods.

Sub Types of Single Face Fireplaces

  • Rumford Fireplaces: These are a specialized form of single-face fireplaces with a tall, shallow firebox and tapering sides designed to reflect more heat into the room.
  • Rosin Fireplaces: An evolution of the Rumford fireplace, Rosin Fireplaces are Unique for their curved back, Rosin fireplaces aim to maximize heat radiation.
  • Air-Circulating Fireplaces: These innovative designs circulate room air behind the combustion chamber, using convection to distribute heat more evenly.

The Modern Multi-Face Fireplaces

Multi-face fireplaces, often found in contemporary homes, offer multiple viewing angles and are usually the room's centerpiece. However, their energy efficiency is generally lower than that of single-face fireplaces.

The Classic Wood-Burning Fireplaces

Wood-burning fireplaces offer an authentic, rustic experience but require a commitment to regular maintenance. They also require  a well-ventilated area and storage for firewood.

The User-Friendly Gas Fireplaces

Gas fireplaces offer a balanced blend of old school charm and modern convenience. With the press of a remote control, you can ignite a cozy flame without the need to mess with firewood. These fireplaces are also environmentally friendly, energy efficient and barely emit any harmful pollutants.

The Futuristic Electric Fireplaces

Electric fireplaces are perfect for those who want a modern, hassle-free heating solution. They come with customizable flame displays and are incredibly safe, emitting no harmful byproducts. The downside to electric fireplaces is the lack of a realistic flame.

The Sturdy Masonry Fireplaces

Masonry fireplaces, built from brick or stone, are a long-lasting option best suited for new constructions or extensive renovations. They offer a timeless, classic aesthetic.

The Budget-Friendly Mason-Lite and Isokern Fireplaces

These prefabricated units offer the look and feel of a masonry fireplace without the cost and installation complexity. They are lighter and can be installed very quickly, making them a budget-friendly option.