How to tell if your fireplace is masonary or a pre-fab

by Tabatha on Jan.26, 2012, under Fireplace Discussion

The fireplaces that are made of sheet metal and have metal round chimneys are known by various names such as:
1. Pre-fab or Prefabricated metal fireplaces.
2. Zero-Clearance or ZC or “0” clearance fireplaces.
3. “Builder Boxes” or similar terms which denote their popularity with home building contractors.
Since their invention about 50 years ago, metal fireplaces have become common place in newly built homes – in fact, so much so that 100% masonry fireplaces now account for only a small fraction of the construction market. The ease with which they can be installed as well as the lower costs involved have made them a fixture in tens of millions of N. American homes. Many of these fireplaces have aged and are often in need of upgrading.

The first order of business is to determine if your fireplace is prefab or masonry. You can identify which type of fireplace you have by looking up with a flashlight toward the damper area from inside the home – wear safety glasses to avoid dust and particles! A factory-built fireplace will have a round damper and a round pipe, usually 7-11” in internal diameter. The damper plate on a masonry fireplace is usually rectangular and approx. 6” x 24”. You may also be able to ID your fireplace by looking at the exterior of your home. A masonry fireplace will should have an orange clay liner, which is often visible at the chimney top – from outside the home. Another hint is to look at the outdoor enclosure around your fireplace and chimney. If it is covered with siding like the rest of the home, you almost definitely have a prefab. If, on the other hand, the exterior is solid brick which extends down to the ground, it is probably a masonry chimney. Another hint is the presence of large visible louvers and black metal facing on the front of the fireplace opening – this usually means a prefab. If in doubt, give us a call and we can inspect it for you.  Either way you look at it a masonry fireplace or pre-fab box is very inefficient and needs to be addressed.  We have many options to assist with turning that fireplace into an efficient wood burning or gas burning fireplace that will give you the looks as well as heat.

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