How Fireplaces Work | HomeTips
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How Fireplaces Work

Radiant heat from a fuel-burning fireplace warms people an objects with radiant heat.

Here you can see the main parts of a fireplace’s facade; on the following pages, you’ll find the internal workings.

In the case of combustion fireplaces, smoke and combustion gasses are vented away from interior living areas through a flue or chimney, and oxygen-filled combustion air is drawn into the burning chamber. To pull smoke and gasses away by natural convection, a chimney is typically tall—from fireplace to a couple of feet above the roof (though some high-efficiency fireplaces don’t require full-on chimneys for venting).

Unless a fireplace has glass doors and a vent that draws combustion air from outdoors, it can extract more warmth from a home than it delivers. Those same convection currents that carry smoke up the chimney can also pull expensively-heated interior air from the room, sending it out through the chimney.

A fireplace’s hearth and facade may be made of brick, rock, concrete, marble, granite, tile, or other related, non-combustible materials. Codes and common sense restrict how close to the opening combustible materials—such as wood paneling, wood flooring, or wallboard—may be located.

The rest of the fireplace may be constructed in a variety of ways, depending upon the type. On the following pages,  you can see the typical anatomy of a masonry and zero-clearance manufactured fireplace.

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About Don Vandervort
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Don Vandervort developed his expertise more than 30 years ago as Building Editor for both Sunset Books and Home Magazine. He has written more than 30 home improvement books and countless magazine articles. He appeared regularly on HGTV’s “The Fix,” and served as MSN’s home expert. Don founded HomeTips in 1996.

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