Which Fireplace Is Mine?

Life is full of options, and fireplaces and chimneys are no different. There are two main types of chimney systems, prefabricated and masonry or traditional. Not sure which one you have? While both can provide years of comfort, warmth, and relaxation, there are some key differences that can clue you into which type of system you have.

Prefabricated Chimneys & Fireplaces

Pre-fabricated chimneys and fireplaces, also known as factory-built, are fireplaces and chimneys that are designed, built, and tested in the factory, by the manufacturer, as a single, cohesive unit. These systems must be installed exactly as instructed by the manufacturer, and can be installed in the home during construction or after the home is built. The main components of a prefabricated fireplace and chimney system are:

  • Metal firebox (with refractory panels)
  • Fireplace facing (made of faux brick/stone, wood, or other lighter weight materials)
  • Damper
  • Metal chimney pipe

Prefabricated chimneys may or may not have a faux brick or siding surround that conceals the metal chimney above the roofline, as well as a chase cover (a metal covering at the top of the chimney chase).

Masonry Chimneys & Fireplaces

Masonry or traditional chimneys and fireplaces are typically built of brick and mortar or stone and mortar, and are constructed on-site as part of the home. The main components of a masonry fireplace and chimney system are:

  • Firebox (made of firebrick and refractory mortar)
  • Fireplace facing (made of brick, stone, or other masonry)
  • Damper
  • Smoke Chamber (the upside down brick funnel you’ll see if you look just past your damper)
  • Clay Tile Flue (or stainless steel flue liner)
  • Brick or stone chimney above the roofline
  • Chimney crown (at the top of the chimney stack)

Masonry chimneys should also have a chimney cap attached to the top of the flue liner.

Aside from materials and components, what makes these two types of chimney systems so different?

Perhaps the biggest difference between masonry fireplaces and prefabricated fireplace systems is that masonry systems last decade after decade, as long as they’re built and maintained properly, while prefabricated systems typically only last about 10-15 years. Think of a masonry chimney system as a part of the home and a prefabricated chimney system as an appliance, like a dishwasher.

Prefabricated systems are constructed of metal parts that can rust, wear out, or otherwise need replacing, while masonry systems are made of brick and mortar, which are strong, durable materials that can withstand the high temperatures and abuse of fire and the elements. While brick and mortar are both porous and can spall, crumble, or crack as a result of water damage and severe weather, they can still tend to last significantly longer than prefabricated systems.

Another major difference between masonry and prefabricated chimneys and fireplaces is that, with a masonry system, you can install a fireplace insert into the existing firebox to upgrade the hearth, change fuel types, or boost performance and efficiency. Prefabricated chimney systems, on the other hand, are not designed to work with retrofitted fireplace inserts or gas logs. They are tested and regulated for use solely as a cohesive unit.

Prefab Or Masonry, We’ll Keep Your Chimney System Looking & Working Great

No matter which type of fireplace system you have, you can count on Complete Chimney & Fireplace Solutions for all of your installation and maintenance needs.

Do you have a masonry chimney and fireplace?

Keeping up with regular cleanings, inspections, and maintenance is key to keeping your masonry chimney and fireplace standing strong and looking beautiful, decade after decade. Another great way to prolong the life of your masonry chimney system and preserve its appearance is to invest in professional waterproofing services. Both brick and mortar are porous, but our professional-grade water-repellents can prevent chimney leaks and water/weather damage that can lead to masonry deterioration.

Do you have a prefabricated chimney and fireplace?

Again, keeping up with regular cleanings, inspections, and maintenance is key to enjoying your prefab system as long as possible. Annual inspections are of the utmost importance because they’ll allow us to locate and address any issues, such as chimney leaks, rusted out chase covers, or other damage that could cause your prefabricated chimney system to wear out earlier than it should.

Call Our CSIA Certified Team Of Chimney Pros Today!

Have questions about your system? Ready to schedule your annual maintenance? We’re here to help! Just give us a call at 201-444-4752 or reach out to us here on our website and our CSIA certified chimney professionals will take care of you.