Firebox and Damper Repair / Rebuild
Let’s start at Fireplace Anatomy 101.
This is a common schematic of a fireplace. Currently we are discussing the firebox and damper.
What is a Firebox?
When you light a fire, you are igniting it in the firebox. The firebox is the area that surrounds the flames and is made with firebricks and high heat plaster called refractory mortar. Not all fireboxes are built with the correct firebricks or heat resistant plaster, and that is why some do not last as long as others.
It does not take a Certified Chimney Sweep® to identify a crumbling firebox or mortar damage. Unlike chimney damage, you can probably determine if your firebox has deteriorated before you light your first fire of the season. If there is crumbling in the mortar, loose bricks or air coming through the firebox bricks, do not use it. Call in a Certified Chimney Sweep® to inspect and make a recommendation of what to do next.
Why Does a Firebox Deteriorate?
Poor Construction – If your firebox was not constructed properly to begin with, you will see cracks appear because of the extreme heat and temperature shift. Even small holes in the mortar can allow dangerous gases, sparks, smoke or flames to go where they don’t belong causing CO poisoning or house fires.
Water Infiltration – If there is no rain cover mounted on top of the chimney the rain comes in and usually settles behind the damper and washes out the fireclay mortar (fireclay is good for heat resistance, but poor with water).
Natural Disaster – If your home has survived a tree falling, earthquake, hurricane or tornado, chances are there is damage to your firebox. Bring in a Certified Chimney Sweep® to inspect the damage and make recommendations.
Should I Repair or Replace My Firebox?
If the auto mechanic tells you that you need a major repair on your car, you have a choice to pay for the repair and hope nothing else breaks, or you might consider this as a sign to trade it in and get something new and more reliable.
Same goes for your firebox. When your chimney sweep diagnoses the problem and gives you a quote to repair, chances are this is a prime opportunity to replace that aging fireplace with something more updated, more efficient and with your own style rather than your grandma’s.
Option 1: Repair and Tuckpoint Exisiting Firebox
If the bricks are still intact and only the mortar needs replacing, your chimney sweep might recommend tuckpointing. Although an intricate process, your skilled chimney mason can do this for you.
Option 2: Replace Firebox with Firebox Insert
There are a number of high quality, efficient firebox inserts that slide right in where your old firebox was. This is a job a professional chimney mason should do. You can have your chimney mason do the rest of the decorative stonework around the firebox or maybe take on an advanced DIY project.
Option 3: Replace Firebox with New Firebricks
If you want to go all out with a custom firebox, your skilled masonry team can replace the firebricks using refractory mortar and custom design your new firebox. They use architectural and CSIA standards for safety. With the chance to choose brick color and design, this option can give you a very dramatic new look.
If you live in the far west suburbs of Chicago and the question you have to decide on is: “do I repair or replace my firebox?” – Valley Chimney is here to help. As the longest continually Certified Chimney Sweep® in the United States, Terry Dearborn and his team will bring knowledge, experience and customer service to your home, leaving you with a warm, safe firebox.