Prefabricated fireplaces are increasing in popularity, partly due to their inexpensive price. They are technically fireboxes, the part of a fireplace which actually contains the fire. These steel fireboxes allow the prefabricated fireplace to be installed in a wood frame instead of a more expensive masonry fireplace.
These fireplaces, also known as zero clearance fireplaces, can be installed very close to flammable material such as wood, needing only 1 - 2 inches (2.5 - 5 cm) of space between the framing and the firebox. Since wood can easily burn if it comes into contact with the heat from the prefabricated fireplace, the inside of the firebox is lined with thick heat resistant ceramic tiles.
Prefabricated fireplaces, like all fireplaces, must be vented. Wood-burning prefabricated fireplaces vent through a metal flue and a vertical chimney, while the gas-burning types are vented through a side or rear vent. Metal flues must meet stringent requirements and be certified by the Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Unless a chimney is already in place, you may want to consider a gas fireplace, so that you do not have to install a chimney in your roof.
These fireplaces are sold as kits, or complete systems that are designed to have all parts installed together. Since the fireplace must be installed correctly to be safe, it is recommended that a certified fireplace specialist install the prefabricated fireplace. Building codes in your state must be followed, as well as all the the manufacturer's instructions, or the fireplace may be unsafe.
Many different styles of decor can benefit from prefabricated fireplaces, as the outside of the fireplaces can take many different forms. Since the prefabricated fireplace is actually only a firebox placed into a shell, the outside of the fireplace can be created to match the decor of the home.
Tile is one common way to adorn the outside of the fireplace, as is masonry work. Other prefabricated fireplaces have a wooden or metal exterior; whatever works well with the room in which the fireplace is located. A prefabricated fireplace is ideal for a decorative fireplace because it is inexpensive, leaving more money to the decorative elements. A prefabricated fireplace should not be the main heat source in a home because they do wear out and are prone to having the steel firebox crack or deform over time.
A prefabricated fireplace can easily be installed during a home renovation, in part because they are light and do not need as solid of a foundation as a masonry fireplace would. The finishing work can be custom made in a variety of materials, or a pre-made wood mantel can be bought in the sizes to match your prefabricated fireplace.
Written by Bronwyn Harris