Did you know that most homes built today are not being built with the traditional old-fashioned masonry-built fireplaces of generations past? Instead, they’re being built with factory-built fireplaces, which are cost-efficient when compared with the traditional kind even if they do have to be replaced every couple of decades. If your home has a factory-built fireplace that is nearing 20 or 30 years, it might be time to have your fireplace replaced.
Masonry Fireplaces Versus Factory-Built Fireplaces
When a home is built with a masonry fireplace, the fireplace is built on site. The home is built around the fireplace and chimney and these remain permanent fixtures within the home unless it is torn down or seriously renovated.
On the other hand, a factory-built fireplace is prefabricated at a remote site away from the rest of the home construction. It has a steel frame and a vent and it can be transported to the home and installed. A factory-built fireplace is easily and more quickly assembled compared with a masonry fireplace. Modern factory-built fireplaces tend to be safer and more environmentally friendly because they do not leave large amounts of buildup inside a chimney.
In many older homes, a masonry fireplace may have once served as the house’s primary heat source. Therefore, it was built to radiate a large amount of heat that can disperse throughout a wide area. Prefabricated fireplaces are not built for such a purpose. Although they provide the ambiance you expect from fire and some heat, they are not going to be a sufficient primary heat source for an entire house or even the room where they are installed.
How Will I Know When to Replace My Factory-Built Fireplace?
Although factory-built fireplaces will often last for a long time if they are properly maintained, they will need to be replaced eventually. You can expect them to last around 20 years, but sometimes for as long as 30 years.
Even if you’re diligent about taking care of your factory-built fireplace, there will be telltale signs that you are past the point of maintenance and repair and are in need of full replacement.
There are a couple of situations that would require a replacement. You might need to replace some parts over the years of having a factory-built fireplace. However, if your model of the fireplace is so outdated, its parts could be obsolete. When one of those parts breaks, it becomes difficult for your fireplace contractor to obtain the right part at a reasonable price. He might be able to do some after-market repair, but these jobs usually end up being much more expensive and drawn-out than a complete replacement. The older your factory-built fireplace, the more likely it is that its parts will be outdated.
A factory-built fireplace might be damaged beyond repair. Weather-related damage, particularly anything involving water, could leave a fireplace in such condition that it needs a total replacement. When the chimney line is damaged or the refractory panel cracks, these could also indicate a need for replacement. A chimney professional might also need to examine parts like the chimney cover, which could rust over and require a total replacement.
What Can I Expect From a New Factory-Build Fireplace?
If you’re getting a new factory-built fireplace, you can expect it to be a lot nicer than anything that was built 20 or 30 years ago. It will not only look nicer and burn fuel more efficiently (which means greater safety and less environmental impact), it will have several other important benefits as well.
A new factory-built fireplace will meet the latest standards put forth by the Underwriters Laboratories and American Gas Association, so you can take security in knowing that your fireplace is up to code and less likely to pose any hazards to your home.
Today’s factory-built fireplaces are much easier to install into your home compared with the fireplaces of past decades. You can even install them in areas where they are right up against what would typically be thought of as combustible material (such as wood paneling on the walls) without any serious concern.
Finally, don’t forget that a new factory-built fireplace comes with warranties (albeit limited warranties) that your outdated fireplace would not have. If you start using your new fireplace and find that there are parts that are damaged or don’t work, you can have them replaced for a specified period of time. In this regard, it is almost like you have a new fireplace for up to a year.