Home Tips & Advice

Fireplace Furnishings

In addition to items that help the energy efficiency of fireplaces are those that are necessary to its operation or that add to its decorative value. Fire screens, andirons, grates, fire tools and gas logs fall into this category.

With the exception of gas logs, there are several factors that are common to fireplace furnishings, primarily:

Quality metals, such as solid brass, that will withstand heat.

Many finishes are available, but fireplace items should be coated with special lacquers to preserve their luster and protect against heat damage. Use a soft cloth to clean fireplace items rather than a polish that could remove the protective coating.

SCREENS

Chain-mesh screens can be flush mounted inside the fireplace opening, face mounted on the outside or freestanding. Folding panel screens are freestanding and must be set aside to add wood.

These screens protect from scattering sparks and ash, but do little- if anything-to reduce the draw of room air up the chimney.

ANDIRONS AND GRATES

Andirons and grates serve the same purpose-to hold burning logs off the hearth. Andirons are a pair of metal bars (usually cast iron) with decorative front shafts that hold the logs. Grates not only hold logs, they also prevent them from rolling forward.

Using andirons and grates allows air to circulate and feed the fire, while ashes fall away from burning logs. It is advisable to keep the ash deposit cleaned out. If ashes are allowed to fill the space under the grate and retain heat, the fire could melt the grate.

FIRE TOOLS

Fire tool sets contain a shovel, brush and poker in a wall rack or floor stand. Some sets have flexible, three pronged tongs instead of a poker to move large logs easily and perform many of the same jobs as a poker.

Tongs are available separately, too, in the same styles as the sets. They stand independently on their tripod-like prongs.

GAS LOGS

Gas logs, which operate on natural gas or LP gas, fit into fireplaces with a gas hookup. Gas log heaters install into any UL listed, solid fuel-burning fireplace or in an American Gas Association (AGA) design certified, vent free firebox listed for use.

Decorative gas logs may be placed directly on the fire grate or laid on a flame pan covered with a bed of volcanic granules for a more realistic "fire."

The logs are made of high temperature, heat resistant ceramic or cement in a variety of finishes. Gas logs come in sets containing logs, burner, grate and/or flame pan.

Gas logs are vented or un-vented. Vented gas logs are less fuel efficient than un-vented logs. Vented logs operate at a range of 60,000 to 90,000 BTUs and lose heat because they re quire the chimney damper to remain open. Vent free models provide homeowners more heat at less cost because they operate with the damper closed to prevent heat loss and they use less energy. Typical vent free gas logs have adjustable inputs with maximums of 40,000 BTUs.

Vent free systems require no electricity to operate and provide emergency standby heating in the event of a power outage.

For safety, vent free systems include oxygen depletion sensors (ODS). The ODs protects against oxygen depletion and shuts off the gas flow to the burner.

FIREPLACE ACCESSORIES

In addition to the necessities, there are many fireplace accessories. Among the most common are:

  • Bellows to pump oxygen into a flickering fire.
  • Hearth brooms to sweep ashes and other debris from the hearth; range from 2' to 4' long.
  • Firelighters to ignite logs without kindling or paper. They are small pots with a porous stone torch that steeps in kerosene until lighted. Small blocks of wax impregnated compressed fiber, which are placed on the logs and lighted, are another type of fire starter.
  • Artificial logs, made from wood particles, light easily and burn for several hours, often with scented or colored flame.
  • Log rollers to recycle newspapers into fireplace logs by rolling them into log shapes.
  • Log carriers to haul wood from the wood pile to the fireplace. Made of sturdy canvas in a variety of colors and patterns.
  • Woodholders or metal log baskets to store extra logs near fireplace. Can be matched to finishes of other fireplace furnishings and accessories.

STOVE ACCESSORIES

Accessory items for wood and coal-burning stoves include stovepipe, paint and insulation.

Stovepipe should not be confused with a chimney. Stovepipe is used to connect the stove with the chimney and should never be used instead of a chimney. Stovepipe should have a gauge of 24 or thicker (smaller number indicates thicker metal).

When installed, the stovepipe should be as short as possible, and turns and bends should be kept to a minimum. No more than 75 percent of the pipe distance should be in a vertical position.

Stovepipe should be inspected regularly and will probably need to be replaced every two or three years.

Stove paint is used to touch up or completely refinish a stove that has become dingy looking. Use a paint specifically designed for wood or coal-burning stoves. These paints will withstand temperatures as high as 1,200 degrees F.

Stove paint is available as an aerosol as well as a liquid. It is available in tones of green, brown, blue, maroon and black. Regular and metallic finishes are also available.

Never begin painting the stove until it and its contents have cooled completely, and then only in a well ventilated room.

Most stove owners will also need to purchase insulation material to protect the floor and/or walls near their stoves. There are minimum clearances consumer's must follow when installing his or her stove, and insulation also provides protection. Follow manufacturer recommendations for insulation.

Remember that floor protection should extend 18" in front of the stove to protect against hot ashes or falling coals.

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Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Information in this document has been furnished by the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) and associated contributors. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy and safety. Neither NRHA, any contributor nor the retailer can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.

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