Replacing Prefabricated fireplaces

Prefabricated wood burning fireplaces are a low cost way for builders to install fireplaces. The cost to build a brick fireplace with the brick material, the additional cost of a foundation to carry the heavier chimney and the skill required of masons to properly construct the fireplace makes prefabricated fireplaces an economical solution for owners who would like to burn wood. The downfall of a prefabricated fireplace is that the manufacture has a 20 year warranty and after 20 years, these units begin to rust or deteriorate and can become potential fire hazards. It is even more difficult to replace a prefabricated fireplace because the old unit requires removal which requires removal of siding, framing, sheathing and other aspects of removing the fireplace. Then a new prefabricated fireplace needs to properly fit in the old box which typically has a sizing problem. This can be performed but requires detailed knowledge of clearance to combustible issues. A Step in Time recommends installation of new fireplaces if there is any rust on any components of the firebox, damper or if the chase cover is rusted. Since the outer wall of the chimney liner of a prefabricated fireplaces is impossible to properly inspect, we recommend replacement of all units over 30 years old regardless of condition.

Prefabricated Fireplaces Maintenance and Repairs

Many homeowners have a wood burning prefabricated fireplace that many in the industry call “prefabs.” This unit is a UL listed metal fireplace box with a stainless steel double or triple wall liner that extends up and out of a chase cover. The manufacture’s warranty on these units are typically 20 years. Everything has a certain useful life and most want to extend that life as long as possible before the need to replace it. Prefabricated fireplaces are not different than any other maintenance item. There are ways that you can increase the life of your prefabricated fireplace and here are tips:

  1. Have a rust free stainless steel chase cover installed. Typically builders installed galvanized chase covers when your home was built and when they rust, they leak and saturate your steel liner of your fireplace. This causes the unit to rust and ruins the fireplace.
  2. 2Caulk the seal between the storm collar and the chimney liner. This caulk will deteriorate and again, water can leak down the chimney liner and damage the unit.
  3. Clean the chimney every spring because the soot and moisture during the summer mixes and causes a mild form of Sulfuric Acid which can damage your chimney liner.
  4. Keep your fireplace panel in good repair by repairing hairline cracks with refractory mortar. This can keep it from deteriorating further.