Containing the Fire
When most people think about the common problems that a fireplace-owner faces most of them think about things like masonry cracks in the chimney, problems with the ventilation of smoke, and the need to have it swept out regularly. Unfortunately one thing that most people don’t think about is the deterioration of the firebox. In fact many people don’t even know what a firebox is. For those people let me explain. The firebox is the chamber in the fireplace that actually contains the fire itself. The interior walls and floor are what make up the firebox. As fires are burned the constant heating and cooling puts stress on the firebox and over time the entire thing will need to be replaced. If you find yourself at this point it is time to call a professional to come and perform the necessary work.
The first step in replacing the firebox is to determine the size and type. It is very important that the new firebox be of the same size and type as some fireplaces are designed for there to be a gap in between the box and the actual masonry behind it. Once this has been determined the panels need to be removed. This is best done with a screwdriver or chisel. Once all the panels have been removed your fireplace will be devoid of a firebox and thus unsafe to use until a new firebox is put in.
If you have a firebox that is a decade old or older it may be necessary to find a newer model that fits your fireplace as many from that long ago do not fit current industry standards of safety. A professional chimney sweep will be able to make this determination. Once a new firebox is purchased it will be installed. Many fireboxes will require a masonry cement pattern to be drawn onto the box to look like real masonry. It may take a few fires for it to gain the rustic fireplace look. Once the cement dries the fireplace should be ready to burn again and will probably burn even better than before.
It is important never to put off replacing your firebox. If your chimney sweep says that you need a replacement you may be only a few fires away from causing serious damage to your home. The firebox plays an important role in insulating the masonry from the heat of the fire and structural damage to your house is much more expensive and time consuming than replacing the firebox in your fireplace. So always have your chimney inspected and swept on a regular basis and if you get the dreaded news that it may be time to replace your firebox go ahead and do it. You will be saving yourself a lot of time, trouble, and money in the long run.