What Is Masonry Fireplace?

Learn what they are, how they work, and what they are made of

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Having a fireplace in your home is a dream of many of us. Fireplaces give our homes a warm and cozy atmosphere that nothing else can give. And of course, they also have a very practical side to keeping our homes warm. And the biggest dream of almost any homeowner is a brick wood-burning fireplace.

Such fireplaces are also called Masonry Fireplaces, and today, we are going to tell you more about them. You will find out how they are made and what materials are used for that. Also, we will explain their anatomy to you and share a few life hacks that will help you make it more energy-efficient. In addition, you are going to find out a couple of interesting facts about this kind of fireplace.

Masonry Wood Burning Fireplaces. What Are They?

A real brick fireplace has a double function in your home. First, it helps to keep it warm of course. And second, there is an aesthetic aspect. Let’s be honest: there is no substitute for the charm and cozy atmosphere that an open fire fireplace can create, with the cracking logs and embers. This is why Masonry Fireplaces offer a fireside experience that is like no other.

Large stone fireplace
By vista.com

Masonry Fireplaces are mostly made of different mortar materials, for example, concrete blocks, bricks, stone, and other variations. It helps these fireplaces be more durable and withstand the test of time, as well as offers you a long period of beauty and trustworthy service. 

Masonry Fireplaces have a long history, as you surely know. People used them for centuries, both in rich and poor families, and they still remain useful. And for as long as they have been around, imitators have been trying to mimic the beauty that only a real masonry fireplace and true wood-burning fire can create. 

Around the globe, burning logs in a Masonry Fireplace has become a tradition. People often even don’t need their fireplace for keeping the house warm that much! They just use it to create a homey atmosphere and get that relaxing vibe. You may think that Masonry Fireplaces can just be seen in old homes, but they are also often built in newer houses and the tradition of the masonry fireplace is still carried on today.

What Are Masonry Fireplaces Used For?

Most of you would say that these fireplaces are used for keeping a house warm, and to a certain point, it is true. However, you will be rather surprised to learn about a few other functions that this fireplace has!

You Can Use It to Warm Up the House

Just as we have mentioned above, masonry fireplaces were originally designed to warm the house in the evening like any other type of fireplace in fact. Sometimes, when temperatures might go to the extreme low during the cold seasons such as winter, a fireplace could also be used during the daytime. 

When installed and maintained properly, masonry fireplaces can heat your house for centuries since brick is a long-lasting and durable material. These fireplaces play an important role in the house, and this is why: brick fireplaces replace other types of heaters since brick is capable of retaining heat for some time, even after you have put out the fire in the firebox! 

You Can Use It For Cooking Food!

Surprised? Surely you are! A masonry fireplace is a good place to boil water for making coffee and tea. You can do this by simply placing the kettle on the burning wood or pellets. In addition, your masonry firebox could also be used to cook some foods. 

Back then, people used to roast some meat on sticks or cook other foods in pots placed on the burning fire. And even though nowadays quite a few people would try this cooking method, this is still a great way to cook since it allows you to save on energy costs a lot. 

It Is Aesthetic

Masonry fireplaces are not only practical and useful. They also play an important role in providing your house with aesthetic appeal since they look and feel classic and elegant. Anyone would agree that it is very satisfying and relaxing to look at fire and flying embers! Besides, burning wood, especially red cider that has a very pleasant aroma, provides you with a rustic natural look. This is why sitting by the fireplace helps calm your mind and relax.

It Adds Value to Your Home

Some of you will be probably surprised to learn that, if you build a fireplace in your home, the value of the building will be much higher! Many homebuyers are usually on the lookout for homes with this kind of installation! This is because apart from the rustic natural look and feel that comes with the masonry fireplace, it also helps save tons of money with energy bills. 

This is why having a masonry fireplace in your home will give you an advantage over other properties available on sale when it comes to selling your house. Potential buyers will be willing to meet your asking price if they have a chance to buy a house with a fireplace.

Now you know how many different uses masonry fireplaces have. You have been aware of some of them, and others were new to you for sure. Nevertheless, now you can imagine much better why you might want to consider building a brick wood-burning fireplace if you don’t have it yet!

Anatomy of a Masonry Fireplace. What Do They Consist Of?

Perhaps, you will not need this information in the future (unless you need to fix your fireplace one day), but it is still good to know how this kind of fireplace is constructed and what parts it consists of. Like that, you will at least be able to better understand how it works, which might be helpful in spotting the potential malfunction.

So, since the main function of any Masonry Fireplace is to control fire, heat, and smoke, its inner shell is made from fireproof materials. The outer shell of the Masonry Fireplace supports the inner shell, which is providing better overall stability of the structure. Some Masonry Fireplaces may have fewer or more individual parts than others but generally, a masonry fireplace will consist of the following parts:

  • Mortar Crown. The mortar crown is the concrete-like surface at the top of your fireplace’s chimney. Its job is to shed water away from the flue and also keep water from entering the chimney chase.
  • Flue. The flue is a vertical opening through the chimney, which is extending from the smoke chamber to the top of the chimney. Its major function is to create a draft and thus ensure proper ventilation, as well as to discharge smoke.
  • Smoke Chamber. The smoke chamber is the transition area in a masonry chimney. It starts directly above the damper and goes to where the first flue tile is installed. The smoke chamber is a hot oven where much of the creosote accumulates, which is why many chimney fires start there.
  • Smoke Shelf. It is a horizontal surface located directly behind the throat of a fireplace, which serves for preventing drafts.
  • Lintel. It is a horizontal, non-combustible member that spans the top of the fireplace opening.
  • Damper. The damper is a mechanical device. It opens and closes to regulate the draft and airflow to the firebox of the fireplace. The damper also stops heat from escaping up your chimney when the fireplace is not in use.
  • Firebox. It is the part of the masonry fireplace where fuel is combusted.
  • Hearth. This is the fireproof area located directly in front of a fireplace. The inner or outer floor of a fireplace is usually made of brick, tile, or stone.
  • Ash Dump is a place where ashes can be collected and then removed through an ash dump fireplace door. Some masonry fireplaces will have an ash dump and others will not.
  • Foundation. In some building codes, the foundation of a masonry fireplace is often referred to as a "footing". The fireplace foundation must be a certain thickness and width with proper reinforcement.

This is what a regular Masonry Fireplace consists of. Now that you know better what parts it consists of and what each of these parts serves for, let’s get further and find out how you could make your stone wood-burning fireplace work better and be more energy-efficient.

How to Make a Masonry Fireplace Energy Efficient

Although newer Masonry Fireplace models are more energy efficient than they used to be, the fact remains that an open masonry fireplace is still the least efficient wood-burning fireplace out there. Why is that, you may wonder?

Despite their popularity, there is one big downside that a traditional fireplace has. Because of its construction, approximately 90 percent of the heat from burning wood goes right up the chimney. That means that the majority of the heat they produce will just fly away into the sky instead of keeping your house warm! 

Of course, using a damper can help you solve this problem partially, however, to be able to do the trick, the damper must remain open all night while you sleep. This is the only way you can make warm air spread around the house after the wood-burning fire dies down. Luckily, Masonry Fireplaces can be made more energy efficient with the following fireplace accessories:

Glass Doors

Glass fireplace doors should always be used on an open-front Masonry Fireplace. A properly fitting glass door will help to seal off the fireplace opening. As a result, your fireplace will be able to provide a valuable benefit in reducing smoke emissions. 

Masonry Fireplace glass doors will also protect the fireplace from any cold air that might be entering the home through the chimney. Moreover, they will prevent warm air from escaping the chimney, thus keeping the home warm and making the Masonry Fireplace more efficient.

Firebacks

Firebacks are made of either steel or cast iron and are sized in proportion to the fireplace. They can be installed in two different ways:

  • either be placed on the floor of the hearth and simply leaned against the back wall of the fireplace
  • or secured to the back wall with supporting braces, which will keep them from sliding

Firebacks are used for cutting down on heat loss because they absorb heat from the wood-burning fire and radiate it back into the room instead of letting the precious heat escape.

Fireplace Insert

Fireplace inserts are specifically designed to fit into the firebox of the existing fireplace where the logs would normally go. This appliance allows the fireplace insert to use the flue to vent smoke and other by-products of combustion.

With these simple life hacks, you will be able to make your fireplace more energy-efficient and not cost you a fortune the next time the bills arrive. And since we have touched on the topic of energy and bills, did you know that it’s not only the wood logs that can be burnt in a Masonry Fireplace?

Did You Know That Gas Logs Can Be Used In a Masonry Fireplace?

We bet that still many of you believe that masonry fireplaces can only use wooden logs to provide heat and warmth to your house. However, it is also possible to make use of gas logs for the same purpose!

As long as your fireplace and its chimney are clean and in proper working condition, you can be sure that your Masonry Fireplace allows you to warm your home with a gas log set. As you probably know, gas logs simulate a true wood-burning fire. These artificial logs are made of life-like ceramic fiber, concrete, or refractory logs, and they can mimic the glowing ember bed and vibrant dancing flames. 

If you consider using this type of log in your fireplace, take into account that gas log burner systems are able to use either natural gas or propane. Natural gas is most widely used with gas log sets, however, some installations may require propane if natural gas is not available. Also, note that masonry fireplaces can use either vented or vent-free gas log sets.

  • Vented gas log sets have a spectacular flame pattern but are decorative only. The masonry fireplace damper must remain open when a vented gas log set is in use.
  • Vent-free gas log sets are designed to operate with the damper closed and they offer high efficiency. However, note that they may not be permitted in some areas! So be sure to check with your local official or hearth specialty retailer before installing any unit.

Now you know way more about Masonry Fireplaces and their specifics. You have learned what kind of fireplaces they are, what elements they consist of, and what they are used for in our houses. Of course, the cost of such fireplace installation is pretty high, and some types of them may have certain downsides in terms of energy efficiency. Nevertheless, Masonry Fireplaces are indeed a token of tradition since they have been used in our homes for centuries! 

Thanks to the vast range of styles these fireplaces offer, you can add an individual look to your home by installing a brick wood-burning fireplace there. The architectural beauty and integrity of this rustic and traditional fireplace will draw everyone’s attention and ensure that it will be the focal point of the home for a lifetime.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will A Masonry Fireplace Warm An Entire House?

It can, especially if the house is not very big. But if it’s big, then you might need extra fireplaces.

Is It Possible To Install A Mason Fireplace Yourself?

No, unless you’re a professional fireplace installer. This should be done by the specialists only.

How Long Do Mason Fireplaces Last?

If this fireplace is properly built and maintained, it can last for centuries!

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