Did you know that your masonry fireplace and chimney can be made of 22 components? How many do you think you know? Having knowledge about the different parts of your masonry fireplace and chimney can help you troubleshoot problems and stay on top of maintenance. Or, if you’re not a do-it-yourself type of person, knowing these components can help you talk with fireplace and chimney experts, like those at T. J.’s Chimney Service, when you need to have maintenance or repair work done.
Here are the basic components (from the bottom up) that make up your masonry fireplace and chimney, so they can function efficiently and safely:
- Foundation. Made of heavy-duty brick or cinder block, the foundation provides the structural support for the chimney’s walls.
- Footing. Typically made of concrete, the footing is the surface under the ash pit in older homes or the firebox in homes without an ash pit.
- Ash Pit. Generally located in the basement or under the firebox, the ash pit is where the ash collects. Some fireplaces may not have an ash pit, and the ash is cleaned directly from the firebox. The ash pit may have a cleanout door, located in the basement or outside at the base of the chimney, that enables you to get into the ash pit so you can clean out the ash.
- Ash Dump. This is an opening in the firebox that enables the ash to fall into the ash pit. The ash dump may or may not have an ash dump door that you can open to dump the ash.
- Also called an inner hearth, this is the area in which you build and light the fire. The firebox is lined with firebrick, a special brick made from fire clay that can withstand a fire’s high temperatures. Firebrick can crack or weakened after years of use, so you should have your firebox inspected about every five years.
- Fireplace Doors. Some fireplaces have doors made of glass or metal that prevent air from transferring between the flue and room.
- Hearth. Called the outer hearth or hearth extension, this is the area in front of the firebox or inner hearth that’s made of brick or tile to reduce the risk of fires.
- Fireplace Face. The fireplace face or surround is the part of the fireplace surrounding the firebox that you see in the room. It’s made of brick, stone, concrete or other noncombustible materials. Its purpose is to ensure the area outside the inner hearth doesn’t catch fire.
- Mantle. This is the decorative shelf above the fireplace. Originally, it helped to catch smoke and keep it from entering the room.
- The lintel is the architectural feature that supports the bricks, stones or other materials on the front of the fireplace above the opening.
- Chimney Damper. Located above the firebox, the damper controls the chimney airflow. It can keep hot air from escaping up the chimney and cold air from traveling down the chimney and into your house. Also, it keeps rain water and animals from entering your home, too.
- Smoke Chamber. With the use of smooth sloping walls, the smoke chamber helps to compress the byproducts of combustion as they move up the flue, without causing a backdraft. At the bottom of the smoke chamber, the smoke shelf helps to prevent backdrafts from reaching the firebox. It also catches soot, rainwater and other debris that falls down the chimney.
- Chimney Flue. The flue is the passageway inside the chimney through which the heat and combustion byproducts travel up the chimney. Masonry chimneys also have a separate chimney or flue liner, made of heat-resistant tile or steel that keeps the chimney from overheating.
- Chimney. The masonry structure that passes through your house and encloses the flue.
- Chimney Crown. The concrete or mortar top that seals the top edge of the masonry chimney. It helps to keep water out of the bricks and mortar of your chimney, protecting them from damage.
- Chimney Cap. Often made of heavy-duty stainless steel, a chimney cap keeps water, animals and debris from getting into your chimney. Not only does the wire mesh keep out animals, leaves and other debris, it helps keep sparks from landing on your roof or in our yard, causing a fire.
With so many components to your fireplace and chimney, it’s important to make sure they’re all working properly. Contact T. J.’s Chimney Service, located in Greenfield, Ind., to schedule your annual chimney inspection and cleaning. Our professionals will ensure the parts of your fireplace and chimney are clean and working correctly before fall and winter arrives.