Fireplaces Are a Central Household Feature
A fireplace is an architectural structure to contain a fire for heating and, especially historically, for cooking. A fire is contained in a firebox or firepit; a chimney or other flue directs gas and particulate exhaust to escape. Fireplaces are a central household feature, as the flames and crackling sounds are comforting, even when not necessary for heat or cooking. Fireplace mantels are a focus for interior decoration.
Types of fireplace
A fireplace may have: a foundation, a hearth, a firebox, a fireplace mantel, an ashdump door, a chimney crane, a cleanout door, a grate, a lintel, a lintel bar, overmantel, a breast, a damper, a smoke chamber, a throat, a flue, a chimney chase, a crown, a cap, a shroud, or a spark arrestor.
- Masonry (brick or stone fireplaces and chimneys) with or without tile lined flue. unreinforced masonry chimneys do not stand up to earthquakes well.
- Reinforced concrete chimneys. Fundamental flaws (the difference in thermal expansion rates between steel rebar and concrete which caused the chimney flues to crack when heated) bankrupted the US manufacturers and obsoleted the technique. This type of chimney often shows vertical cracks on the exterior of the chimney which worsen as the internal rebar rusts.
- Manufactured ("prefab") fireplace with sheet metal fire box and double or triple walled metal pipe running up inside a new or existing wood framed or masonry chase with a chase cover, a cap, and spark arrestor at the top to keep small animals out and sparks from exiting the chimney cavity. This type of fireplace is very popular for new construction for ease of installation and is very cost effective. This type of fireplace is currently being made for wood, natural gas and lp/propane fuel sources.
- Ventless Fireplace (duct free fireplace) that are fueled by either gel or natural gas. Some states and local counties have laws and ordinances regarding these types of fireplaces. Require little installation and do not produce the same BTUs as a traditional fireplace.
Ancient fire pits were sometimes built in the ground in the center of a hut or dwelling. Smoke escaped through holes in the roof. Smoke would be blown outside or back into the room. Chimneys, invented much later, partially fixed this problem, venting smoke outside.
In 1678 Prince Rupert, nephew of Charles I, raised the grate of the fireplace, improving the airflow and venting system. The 1700s saw two important developments in the history of fireplaces. Ben Franklin developed a convection chamber for the fireplace that greatly improved the efficiency of fireplaces and wood stoves. He also improved the airflow by pulling air from a basement and venting out a longer area at the top. In the later 1700s, Count Rumford designed a fireplace with a tall, shallow firebox that was better at drawing the smoke up and out of the building. Rumford's design is the foundation for modern fireplaces.
One famous tradition in the United States during the Great Depression was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "fireside chats", weekly radio addresses in which he made use of the family gathering time to state his views.
Many homes no longer have open fireplaces, their inefficient heating replaced by central heating, or electric heaters, its social function by the home entertainment center. Some fireplaces have been closed off not allowing them to be used. Some governments have a partial ban on solid fuel burning fireplaces due to air pollution. Ventless fireplaces have received attention recently: they are free standing, requiring no chimney and no hearth. Prefabricated fireplaces are popular because of their lower construction cost and safer and more reliable operation. Brick or stone fireplaces can be designed to meet exact specifications for opening size, depth, and facing material. They cost more to build and require more maintenance.
A wide range of accessories are used with fireplaces, which vary between countries and regions, and historical periods. For the interior, common in recent Western cultures are grates, fireguards, logboxes, andirons pellet baskets, and fire dogs, all of which cradle fuel and accelerate burning. Heavy metal firebacks are sometimes used to capture and reradiate heat, to protect the back of the fireplace, and as decoration. For fireplace tending, tools include pokers, bellows, tongs, shovels, brushes and toolstands.
- Air pollution
- Carbon monoxide
- Fireplace mantel
- Fireplace insert
- Wood-burning stove
- House Styles List