It would be nigh impossible to present all of the wonderful features of fireplaces, surrounds, and types of fireplaces except in a set of several volumes. Fireplaces have been around a long time but perhaps they could be presented in a “nutshell”.
Formal fireplaces, as we know them, began their popularity in Medieval times in the “Great Hall” of the castles and the taverns. Prior to this in ancient times they were mostly indoor fire pits, such as a hole in the ground, or a fire on the floor of a cave.
The Fireplace Surround
The fireplace surround is what makes the look of your fireplace. It is the whole area around the open part in which you build your fire. This is the part of the fireplace that is commonly remodeled.
The mantle is on top of the surround if your fireplace has one. Not all fireplaces have a mantle, some just have a surround, especially contemporary ones. The hearth is on the bottom of the fireplace in front of where the fire is built.
Kinds and Types of Fireplaces
There are many kinds of fireplaces. Most are built into a wall with a chimney made of the same material as the fireplace burn area. Sometimes the fireplace is built with the opening on both sides of a wall making it possible for two rooms to benefit from one fire. Let’s look at a few types of fireplaces.
Traditional or Wood Burning Fireplace
Fireplaces were traditionally made from stone, bricks, adobe, and other natural fireproof substances found in nature.
Gas Powered Fireplace
Fireplaces using gas are usually classified as “ventless” or “direct vent”. “Ventless Fireplaces” vent right into the room they are heating and there is a possibility of releasing carbon monoxide into the air of the room. They are fueled by liquid propane, bottled gas, and natural gas.
The ventless gas fireplaces are quickly becoming obsolete. New innovations on the market have made the gas fireplace safe. They feature vents going out the wall or through the roof, these are called “Direct Venting Fireplaces”. They are fueled by liquid propane or natural gas.
Electric fireplaces come in all kinds of styles. They sometimes have realistic log inserts or an electric firebox which gives the appearance of flames. Most of these have glass doors on them but not always. With the advent of fireplace inserts, the possibility of many looks and styles has become a reality. There is even wall mounted electric fireplaces which are ultra thin and ultra cool.
Manufactured and Prefabricated Fireplaces
A lot of the manufactured fireplaces are made with sheet metal and they might even have a glass firebox. Prefabricated and masonry fireplaces can be fueled by wood, propane, natural gas, electric, and biomass. Biomass is a sustainable fuel made from organic and renewable substances. Actually wood falls under the biomass category. Biomass is used to make electricity and other forms of power and fuel for your fireplace from natural substances.
Cow and buffalo chips gathered on the prairies by the pioneers heading west burned these for fire. They were practicing biomass without being aware that someday they would need to recycle and use sustainable heating and cooking methods.
Fireplaces, Fireplace Surrounds, and Types of Fireplaces in a Nutshell
As you make your journey and decide what kind of fireplace you have or want, learn the history of fireplaces and the different types. Types can get confused with stylings such as contemporary, modern, “Old World”, southwestern, Mediterranean, and much more. The looks of your fireplace can be quickly changed to one of these styles with a little creative influence. You can find several styles of prefabricated surrounds to fit any decor.
Decide if you are happy with your wood burning fireplace, or would you rather convert it to electric or gas? The prefabricated fireplaces on the market are worth your while as an option for a change.
If you really want to get “Up-to-Date” you will love the wide array and choices of fireplace inserts. These burn wood, run on gas with direct vent, or can be had in electric. Many of them have beautifully etched air washed ceramic doors. As you learn about fireplaces, types of fireplaces, and surrounds, you will know exactly what you want when it comes to the perfect fireplace for you.