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Light a Fire:  The Parts of a Fireplace

Light a Fire: The Parts of a Fireplace

Folks often get confused by all the parts and pieces of a fireplace.  So, I thought I would post this handy-dandy guide to the most basic parts to help you during your next home improvement project.

Fireplace diagram

The most important part of a fireplace is the ‘firebox.‘  This is the term describing the place you actually light the fire in your fireplace.  A firebox can be equipped to burn wood, or it can be a gas-burning fireplace.  Many homeowners like the convenience of gas fireplaces, but some still prefer the charm that burning logs brings to a room.

The ‘hearth‘ of a fireplace is the portion under the firebox, which generally extends into the room.  A non-flammable hearth is absolutely necessary with a wood-burning fireplace, as it protects the floor from sparks – and, therefore, protects the house from going up in flames.  Many people still install a hearth with a gas-burning fireplace, for a more authentic look, but it is not necessary.  Hearths can be raised, as the one in the diagram is, or they can be flush to the flooring around them.  Hearths are often constructed of stone slabs or tiles.  Sometimes, they are made wider, deeper and taller than they need to be, so they can serve as a bench in the room.

modern tile fireplace

This modern fireplace has neither a mantle nor a hearth.

The ‘mantle‘ is the part of the fireplace above the firebox, often used as a decorative ledge.  A mantle is not necessary, and some homeowners preferring modern design opt against them.  Mantles can be made of stone, tile or wood; if flammable materials are used, there are building codes that dictate the minimum distance between the top of the firebox and the mantle.  In addition, mantles serve to deflect heat from anything above the firebox, making them an important element to folks installing televisions above their firebox.

The ‘surround‘ refers to the area around the firebox.  This area needs to have, in most cases, non-flammable materials close to the firebox.  However, outside of this non-flammable zone, homeowners have flexibility with the design of the surround.  Some folks opt for wood panels or “legs” which tie into the mantle above.  Others choose decorative tiles for the entire area.  The surround is the space that gives a fireplace its personality, and each design is unique.

fireplace with stone tile

This fireplace features custom-cut stone tiles, a stone mantle and hearth and a sheetrock overmantle painted to match the walls.

Above the mantle is the ‘overmantle.’  This area typically does not require non-flammable materials, although many folks choose to use them here.  Sometimes the surround material is carried all the way to the ceiling.  In other instances, wood panels are installed in this area.  Still others choose to simply leave this area sheetrocked and paint it – sometimes in an accent color for the room.  The materials and look you choose will depend on the style of your room and your budget.

stone fireplace

This gas fireplace features manufactured ledgestone in the surround, on the overmantle and on the front of the hearth for a rustic look.

All of these basic fireplace elements can be selected and designed to fit your style and budget.  Since a fireplace is always the focal point of the room, careful planning is required to make the most of this architectural feature.

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3 Responses to Light a Fire: The Parts of a Fireplace

  1. […] pose a problem for any electronics mounted above the fireplace.  Depending upon the size of the mantle (and whether you even have a mantle!), fireplace and television manufacturers can offer […]

  2. This blog is really cool and informative. I have picked up a lot of helpful tips out of this source. I’d love to come back over and over again. Thanks a bunch!

  3. When you’re dealing with an element as dangerous as fire, knowledge is power. Great info.

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