Fireplace Renovation

From time to time, every home’s fireplace needs some fixing up. Whether from normal wear and tear or just the changing whims of style, your home’s fireplace is a great focus for your remodeling creativity.

Unify Your Fireplace and Room Designs

A big part of understanding how to best update or renovate your fireplace lies in understanding the room surrounding it. Take stock of your design scheme. Is it modern? Classic? Does it fit a particular motif? (Colonial, Southwest, Asian, et cetera.) If you’re renovating the room as well as the fireplace, you should consider making the fireplace one of the room’s main design “anchors.”

Though the classic image of the fireplace involves rustic or classic Americana design schemes, in fact the fireplace remains perfectly suitable for any decorative ambition. The most sweeping – that is to say the most readily apparent – changes will come when you alter the surround (the area around the fireplace’s opening), the mantel, and the interior portion of the chimney.

Re-stain or Resurface Your Chimney

In terms of fashion, brick chimneys and mantels are often the worst offenders when it comes to looking outdated. Bare, “natural finish” brick and heavy wooden mantels can weigh down otherwise careful room renovation plans, throwing the room’s design balance out of whack. Fortunately, they’re some of the easiest elements to change.

A fresh coat of white paint will brighten not just your brick chimney but help to brighten and enliven the entire room. Installing a larger surround that complements the room’s new color palette will also help minimize the brick’s presence in the finished room. Surrounds are also great ways to add texture and contrast: using a tile, metal, or ceramic model can give a room depth and nuance that ordinary paint sometimes cannot.

Upgrade to a Decorative Surround

Fireplace Renovation

Instead of constructing a surround out of materials, using a surround component provides a strong decorative voice that can serve as a centerpiece for the fireplace renovation as a whole. Surrounds also work powerfully as contrast to the chimneys behind them.

When replacing your surround, it’s also a good idea to go ahead and update your flashing (the filler between the fireplace insert and the surround or firebox edge) as well as your fireplace or insert’s decorative panels. Replacing all three components will give your fireplace the fully restored look that will complement the renovated room or chimney to its ultimate degree.

Replace Your Mantel

Mantels don’t have to be strictly contemporary. In fact, classic- and traditional-styled – even retro – mantels often make the most interesting visual elements. Remember, too, that mantels range in size from simple shelves to elaborate hand-carved wood or stone centerpieces.

Keep the mantel at the same size scale as the furniture surrounding the fireplace. If your end tables and coffee table are relatively small, the mantel should be small as well.

Install a Fireplace Insert For Greater Efficiency, Convenience

 

Fireplace Inserts

Fireplace inserts are self-contained but fit comfortably within the firebox, or opening, of your existing fireplace. Some are direct vent, meaning they use a ventilation shaft, while others are entirely self-sealed. Besides the traditional wood-burning fireplace insert, there are also electric, propane, and natural gas burning models.

Inserts provide greater energy efficiency by more effectively containing the heat they produce when compared to traditional fireplaces. Heat is not lost through the chimney but redirected back out towards the room.

Install New Accessories For the Fireplace and Chimney

Don’t let this step’s place on the list fool you: the new accessories you select for your fireplace and chimney should be more than an afterthought. A new grate will make your firebox seem instantly alive (when installed after a thorough cleaning), and a new tending kit will likewise energize your hearth. For the chimney, a mirror above the mantel will make your room brighter but can also make it seem larger.

Finally, your fireplace can remain a place of light and warmth in the spring and summer by burning candles in the firebox and atop the mantle. Use different-sized candles within the firebox and hearth, and a simple string of tea lights on the mantle to create a charming mood, day or night. Warm weather, after all, is no reason not to enjoy a newly renovated fireplace.

Fireplace InsertsIn fifteen words or less, can you describe what a fireplace insert does?

It’s a tough definition. The name “fireplace insert” isn’t entirely descriptive of its renovation potential, or its unique ability to make old fireplaces fully functional again without the need for extensive reconstruction. They also tend to offer greater fuel efficiency than traditional, chimney based fireplaces thanks to their comparatively more modern design and construction.
In the simplest terms, fireplace inserts are fully self-contained fireplaces that are placed inside the firebox (the open area at the bottom of the chimney) of an existing fireplace. Several different manufacturers offer them in many different styles, and there are additional accessories and add-ons that help increase the beauty of their physical appearance.

Different Kinds of Inserts, Different Kinds of Fuel – Wood, Gas, and Electric

Fireplace inserts can be organized into three varieties according to fuel type. Though gas fireplace inserts are the most popular with the general public, electric and traditional wood burning fireplace inserts are also available from some manufacturers.

One of the chief advantages to the gas fireplace insert, in terms of fuel variety, lies in its versatility. Many natural gas fireplace inserts are also capable of operating on propane. Some gas fireplace insert models come with propane orifices already attached as a standard accessory; others rely on conversion kits to help them shift from using natural gas to propane.

Electrical fireplace inserts are prized for their economy and for their low-maintenance construction. Of course, traditionalists will insist on the classic wood-burning fireplace insert. As a means of giving a second life to an existing fireplace, the wood-burning fireplace insert does offer a one-step solution. When choosing which fireplace insert is the best option for your home, consider what fuel type works best for you, and what venting capabilities your home or fireplace already possesses.

How to Choose A Venting System

Fireplace InsertsIn most cases, fireplace inserts will use one of two venting systems, or ways to remove their exhaust. Direct vent fireplace inserts function much the same as traditional fireplaces, with exhaust funneled through the fireplace chimney. One advantage of the fireplace insert over the fireplace itself is that the combustion exhaust is kept sealed and away from the room air. This provides a cleaner, safer fire than conventional fireplaces can offer.

Vent free fireplace inserts are entirely self-contained. They produce no harmful byproducts, and burn cleaner than direct vent and conventional fireplace models. They also offer additional energy efficiency than direct vent fireplace inserts, since they are able to retain all the heat they produce rather than allow some heat attrition through the vent. Vent free fireplace inserts also provide the opportunity to make older fireplaces with non-functioning chimneys usable again. The insert simply fits inside the old firebox but does not use the chimney flue.

Installing a Fireplace Insert – Models and Accessories

Fireplace insert models are much like motorcycles, cars, or other heavy machinery. There’s a wide selection of accessories to fit most models, and getting your fireplace insert up to top functioning capacity – and appearance – will likely involve investing in some optional extras.

Surround kits are sold to help frame your fireplace insert within the firebox, giving it a seamless, “built-in” appearance. Surround kits may include flashings, which close the gap between the fireplace insert edge and the edge of the firebox, and fronts, which fit over the fireplace insert and work to conceal that gap.

Other optional fireplace insert accessories include decorative panels that fit inside the insert itself, safety screens, and operable front doors. Such accessories vary by manufacturer and model, so it’s important to make sure you’re buying the right accessories at the time of purchase to avoid the hassle of returns and exchanges.

Fireplace Safety

A fireplace safety gate

They’re beautiful and cost-effective, but most fireplaces present a potential safety hazard for your children – even when they’re not in use. In fact, the very things that give the fireplace its beauty are oftentimes the same reasons they can be dangerous. Because while brick, wood, and mortar make for long-lasting, dependable fireplace construction, they’re also hard to fall upon of crash into, meaning your child could face cuts and bruises or worse.

Fireplace dealers recommend taking the following steps to making sure your fireplace is a safe place for your children.

Reduce Harmful Injuries With a Heath Pad

Falling on a brick, marble, or concrete hearth can present plenty of cuts and bruises dangers to even older children (and adults.) Falling against the edge of brick or concrete hearth can present risks that are even more serious.

Use a hearth pad to cushion the heart’s hard, sharp edges. Similar to a bumper, the hearth pad fits around the top edge of the hearth with tape or other non-permanent adhesive. It’s treated to be resistant to heat, so you can still enjoy your fireplace even with the mat protecting your kids.

Keep Small Children at a Safe Distance with a Fireplace Gate

Similar to the mesh screens used to cordon off staircases, fireplace gates also sometimes resemble small fences. They’re sometimes tri-fold, like a wardrobe screen, and made of material durable enough to stand up to a child’s pushing and jostling. (Some models have five segments instead of the usual three.) Other models resemble a small garden fence, complete with swinging entry gate.

Hearth gates also work in the backyard, too, keeping children at a safe distance from barbecue pits and grills.

Teach Your Children The Basics Of Fireplace Safety

Fireplace Safety

The hearth pad runs along the hearth's top outer edge.

Educating your children on the importance of fire safety – and fireplace caution and safety – remains the most effective means of preventing hurtful injuries not just in your house but out in the world, as well.

Fire safety is also a great way to spend time with your kids, helping them understand why fire safety remains important and that you’re trusting them with valuable information.

A partial list of fire safety rules to remember should include:

  1. Matches are not toys. They should only be used to start fires inside the fireplace.
  2. The fireplace, including the hearth and mantel, are not a playset. Children shouldn’t hang from the mantel or jump off the hearth.
  3. The fireplace interior – known as the firebox – is off limits. Children should be taught not to climb inside or remove any screens or doors in order to get inside.
  4. Likewise, stacked firewood beside the fireplace or outside should not be climbed on or otherwise disturbed. Falling logs can hurt, and smaller children can get ankles caught between logs as they fall.
  5. If a fire is lit inside the fireplace, children should be taught not to approach closer than three feet from the hearth. Also, they should never wear loose or bagging clothing around the fireplace or around stacks of firewood.

For more on helping children avoid fire-related injuries, check out our Parent’s Guide to Barbecue and Campfire Safety

Fire SafetyOutdoor barbecues and camping trips are a great way to build memories that last a lifetime, but parents should take precautions to make sure such family-friendly excursions don’t end in tragedy. The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) reports that each year almost 5,000 Americans are injured by outdoor grill fires, while the Dayton Children’s Medical Center estimates that campfires make up almost 75 percent of all children’s camping-related injuries.

Fire prevention experts recommend taking the following steps to keep barbecues and campfires safe.

Campfire Safety

The National Institute of Health reports that most child-related campfire injuries stem from children walking or falling into the fire. Clear a four-foot area around the campfire site of any loose debris including stones, fallen leaves and branches, and other obstacles, and make sure the site isn’t placed near dry grasses and wood. Circle the campfire with stones or a metal ring to help contain its kindling and ash.

Once the fire is lit, keep it burning slowly, and instruct children how to place – not throw – sticks and twigs into the flames. When roasting marshmallows or other snacks, make sure children’s hands and arms aren’t covered, and that long hair is tied back. Roasters shouldn’t be waved in the fire but kept steady at a safe height above the fire’s base. Keep a bucket of soil  nearby at all times for quick dousing.

When extinguishing the fire, never pour water directly on the hot wood or coals; this can release trapped gasses underneath that can explode. Instead, toss water in small amounts around the fire, and smother the flames with dirt as well. Fires buried beneath soil without wetting can sometimes smolder on, presenting a fire hazard.

Barbecue Safety

Fire Safety

An outdoor firepit

Barbecue pits and grills should never be used within enclosed areas, as this can cause dangerous buildups of carbon dioxide. Loose clothing should not be worn around the grill surface, and children should be kept several feet away from the grill while it’s in use.

Propane tanks should be securely connected and never overfilled.

Keep matches away from children during the barbecue and out of their reach at all other times. Never add lighter fluid to an already-burning grill fires, as the resulting flashback creates both explosion and fire hazards.

Once the barbecue is over, dispose of hot coals by dousing them with water and stirring them to make sure all embers are extinguished. Never store burnt coals in plastic, paper, or wooden bags or boxes.

Parents can get additional information at the USFA Web site.