“Rumfordizing” Fireplaces in Older & Newer Homes

Among enthusiasts of old architecture, there has long been an eagerness to search out old fireplaces. A certain type of shallow fireplace is especially treasured today, though more modern styles have replaced it for practical reasons. The sought-after fireplace design is a Rumford. This late 18th-century invention is credited to Benjamin Franklin, who revealed it under his pen name “Count Rumford.” Learn more below.

What Exactly is a Rumford Fireplace?

Rumford fireplaceThe title of an essay introducing Rumford fireplaces is quite a mouthful, as follows: “Chimney Fireplaces, With Proposals for Improving Them to Save Fuel; to Render Dwelling-Houses More Comfortable and Salubrious, and Effectually to Prevent Chimneys From Smoking.” The essay goes into such detail describing the quality of the fireplace that it was used as a blueprint for mimicking the design. Count Rumford described his recommended fireplace as follows:


The back wall of the fireplace is approximately one-third the width of the fireplace’s front opening. The two sides or covings of the fireplace inclines to the front opening at about a 135-degree angle.

According to experts, the design creates the following effects:

  • Air can be very efficiently drawn into the fireplace, allowing for strong, clean-burning fires with plenty of oxygen.
  • The design is effective at reflecting heat into the room.

The Rumford creation was such an improvement over existing fireplaces at the time that Thomas Jefferson went for the Rumford with tremendous enthusiasm. Jefferson famously added eight Rumford fireplaces to his stately dwelling, the Monticello–a popular destination for history lovers even today.

A Turn of Events

The shallowness of the Rumford fireplace and the effectiveness of providing heat in the room came at the risk of burning logs and embers falling out of the fireplace, potentially causing a home fire. When gas-fueled home heating came along, a shallow fireplace was no longer necessary. Hence, fireplaces began to be built with deeper fireboxes. The newer design has allowed people to enjoy the terrific ambiance of fires without also having to deal with a clear fire hazard.

A Rumford Revival!

rumford fireplaceIn old homes, the hunt for original Rumford fireplaces is on! Many homeowners are recreating this historic fireplace design. Rumford fireplaces are so popular that even some newly built homes include a Rumford fireplace. Another approach to Rumfordization is to remodel a non-Rumford to follow the Count’s effective design. Not since 1850 have Rumford fireplaces been so popular! In some locations, building codes have been changed in recent years to allow for the design.


Contact Chimney Solutions for a New Fireplace Installation

The chimney sweeps at Chimney Solutions are CSIA-certified and have the expertise for fireplace remodeling, rebuilding, and masonry repairs. We offer a beautiful selection of top-brand hearth appliances for sale as well as professional installation to ensure maximum safety and efficiency. If you are interested in having your own Rumford fireplace, contact our friendly experts at Chimney Solutions. We serve Atlanta, GA, and the surrounding area, and all of our work meets local code requirements. Contact us by calling 770-255-1300 today.

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