If you look inside the firebox in a pre-fab fireplaces you may see what looks to be a brick-like walls. In fact, these are refractory panels that fit together to form the interior walls of the fireplace. These panels are composed of a refractory ceramic material that gives it its heat resistant qualities. Refractory panels can withstand temperatures up to 1,800°F. When these panels show cracks they will need to be replaced since even the smallest opening can allow very high temperatures to escape the firebox.
Although a masonry firebox is built to withstand the gas emissions and extreme temperatures, it will eventually begin to show signs of deterioration. Even with regular use, its degradation is inevitable, but water leaks, cracked firebricks, and inferior construction can accelerate its decline.
The deterioration of the firebox can expose the wood-framing in back of the firebox. As the condition worsens, your home is at increased risk of fire and exposure to carbon monoxide, especially if the flammable gasses penetrate the bricks through cracks or openings. Firebox repairs should only be performed by a licensed and certified chimney professional.
Water Intrusion – There are many entry points for water leaks including a cracked or deteriorated chimney crown, missing chimney cap, defective flashing and damaged or missing mortar joints.
And if the damper is open when it rains or snows, water will pool in the firebox. The moisture will eventually soften the firebricks and mortar and cause metal chimney components to rust and corrode. In a pre-fab fireplace, the moisture can rust right through the metal firebox and require a complete replacement.
Cracked or Broken Firebricks – After years of using the fireplace, the process of combustion, and constant exposure to high heat can cause aging firebricks to crack. Also, softened bricks due to water intrusion can crack, break, or crumble.
Low-Grade Construction – Many older homes were built before stricter building codes began requiring fireboxes to be made with refractory materials. As a result, many builders and contractors were using the same brick and mortar material in the firebox as in the remainder of the chimney. Since non-refractory materials cannot withstand the higher temperatures and flammable gases, the firebox deteriorates faster, resulting in premature firebox repairs.
When you notice signs of firebox deterioration, call the Certified Chimney Professionals at Advanced Chimney Sweep. We will inspect your firebox and provide you with a written estimate for a quality repair. Depending on the extent of the damages, we may recommend parging or rebuilding.
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