Fireplace Anatomy 101
The best way to improve on the enjoyment of having a beautiful fireplace in your home is to take all necessary steps to ensure that it operates properly, along with the chimney. The anatomy of a fireplace is considered to be separate from the chimney, but both should be inspected by a chimney professional at least one per year. Get to know your fireplace better, and you’ll have greater confidence in keeping it in tip-top condition, for greater efficiency. You’ll also be better equipped to troubleshoot if problems occur.
The Firebox, also called the inner hearth, is where the fire is built and combustion occurs. It is also where the chimney interior is readily accessible. To get a fire going, the elements of the combustion triangle must be present, those being fuel (such as firewood), a heat source, and oxygen.
The Mantel has been the primary focal point of American fireplaces, by tradition. Modern designs, however, often exclude the mantelpiece. There was originally functionality to the mantel, in that it caught smoke. That function is no longer needed.
The Fireplace Face is above the firebox and below the mantel. This is an important structural component which must be both sturdy and capable of withstanding the high temperatures that the fires in the firebox generate. The fireplace face is typically always made of brick.
The Lintel helps to uphold the structural load which the inner hearth opening creates. Window openings, archways, and door openings also have lintels.
The Outer Hearth is constructed with heat resistant material and is the flooring at the inner hearth opening. The purpose of the outer hearth is to provide the home additional protection from fire damage.
The Throat is where the venting system of the fireplace originates, and it is located just above the firebox. As a fireplace is being constructed, a damper is usually installed in the fireplace throat. Dampers must now be a minimum of 8 inches above the inner hearth, whereas previously the minimum was 6 inches. When smoke from a firebox leaks into a home, it is often because the fireplace throat was incorrectly built or requires repair or maintenance.
The Damper is located above the throat and in the chimney flue. It is a metal door that must be open when the fireplace is being used so that combustion gases can escape up the chimney. When the fireplace is not in use, the damper should be kept closed; otherwise, it is the same as leaving a window open in the home.
The Firebrick is at the back of the firebox. The bricks are specially made to withstand the extreme heat in the firebox, and they are usually made with fire clay.
The Ash Dump Door is in the middle of the firebox and can be opened for the purpose of easily removing ash from the firebox.
The Ash Dump is the area underneath the ash dump door and is where the ash falls whenever the ash dump door is opened.
The Ash Pit is below the ash dump and is where dumped ash is collected. It should be frequently emptied, to avoid hazardous accumulation of flammable byproducts.
The Footing is a horizontal surface underneath the ash pit and is often located in the basement.
The Clean Out Door, often located in the basement, is used to clean the ash dump.
The Foundation of the fireplace is typically made of cinderblock or heavy duty brick. It is sturdy, able to withstand the heat of hot embers and ash, and provides the chimney with structural support.
Were you aware the fireplace has so many components? If you have any questions about the anatomy of your fireplace or if you need to schedule a chimney inspection or cleaning, contact our chimney professionals today.
Chimney Solutions, Inc.
1155 McFarland 400 Drive, Alpharetta GA 30004
Office 770-691-6707 / Toll Free 877-697-9337