The Care & Maintenance of a Factory-Built Fireplace

A factory-built fireplace can potentially provide the same aesthetic benefits as a more expensive masonry fireplace, but there is also just as much a possibility of a home fire, without proper care and use. Solid fuel-burning appliances should be used watchfully and according to manufacturer’s instructions. They should also be maintained routinely, to ensure safety and proper operation. The following are more details about the care and maintenance of a factory-built fireplace.

How to Identify a Factory-Built Fireplace

If you don’t know what kind of fireplace you have, you aren’t alone. Many homeowners are unfamiliar with the different types of fireplaces installed when a home is built, often assuming all are masonry fireplaces. In fact, builder box fireplaces or factory-built fireplaces are common. A factory-built or pre-fab fireplace is much lighter than a masonry fireplace. It is made of metal and has glass doors and may also have air-cooled pipes and blowers, to circulate the heat from the fire into the home. The fireplace and chimney are designed and engineered to work together, and it is of utmost importance to use the chimney designed to go with the specific pre-fab fireplace it was built for.
Factory-built fireplaces can safely be placed closer to combustibles than masonry fireplaces. A heavy concrete foundation is not required for builder box fireplaces. Because these appliances have excellent insulation as well as built-in cooling spaces, they can fit in tighter spaces.
Another distinguishing feature of factory-built fireplaces is that they usually have a round damper, whereas traditional masonry dampers are more rectangular in shape.

Proper Use and Care of a Factory-Built Fireplace

When a pre-fab fireplace is used in ways other than intended, the potential for a dangerous house fire is greatly increased. Using a factory-built fireplace properly is a critical safety issue. Keep the following in mind, when starting a fire in a builder box fireplace:

  • Fully open the damper before starting a fire, and leave it open until the fire has gone completely out.
  • Do not start a fire using kerosene, gasoline, or other types of liquid fire starters.
  • Do not overload the fireplace because burning firewood could roll out.
  • Never use unseasoned or green wood.
  • To prevent hot embers and sparks from flying into your home, close the screen when a fire is burning.
  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions. Typically, glass doors should be closed only as the fire is dying out. The glass doors must be specifically tested and listed for use on the particular fireplace they are installed on. Using the wrong glass door can result in a dangerous house fire.
  • Never burn colored paper or Christmas trees in the fireplace. These materials cause fires to get very hot rapidly and can cause the chimney joints to warp or separate.
  • Do not install an appliance, such as a wood stove, with a chimney unless the two are approved by manufacturers to go together.

The Chimney Safety Institute of America and the National Fire Protection Association recommend annual inspection of all types of solid fuel-burning appliances such as factory-built fireplaces. Annual cleaning may also be needed, depending on the amount of creosote buildup in the chimney. With factory-built fireplaces, acidic creosote can shorten the life of the chimney and increase the potential for a dangerous chimney fire. For these reasons, chimney cleaning should be scheduled when there is any noticeable buildup of creosote.
Contact our chimney professionals today to schedule your annual chimney inspection and cleaning.