Prefab Refractory Panel Replacement
Prefab or Zero Clearance Fireplaces (ZC’s) are different from masonry fireplaces in that they are not made of brick and mortar. Instead, ZC’s are made out of very thin sheet metal and refractory cement panels. ZC’s get their name for two simple reasons; They’re called a “Prefab” fireplaces because they are a sheet metal fireplace that was “pre-fabricated” in a factory. They’re called “Zero Clearance” fireplaces because there’s very little “clearance” between the flammable 2×4’s and the outside of the sheet metal box. Often flammable 2×4’s are located within ½ inch of the sheet metal!!
If you were to light a fire in this box with damaged or missing refractory panels, two things could happen. First, the thin sheet metal fireplace could get really hot and warp, thus permanently damaging the unit requiring the entire fireplace be replaced. Secondly, and worst of all, as the metal got hot, you chance having the heat transfer onto the nearby flammable 2×4 studs, thus catching the house on fire!
To keep this from happening, prefab fireplaces have refractory cement insulating panels in the box which take the majority of the heat’s abuse and keep the metal cooler. Like any other household appliance, with use, these panels eventually wear out and need to be replaced due to repeated heat exposure. Think of your refractory panels as your prefab fireplace’s disposable diapers. The more often your burn fires, the more quickly (and often) your refractory panels will need to be replaced.
If your prefabricated fireplace’s refractory panels are cracked or damaged, we recommend you discontinue any further fires until you have the damage inspected by a CSIA certified chimney sweep and replaced if necessary.
How do you know when replacement is necessary? The rule of thumb is that once you can either get the edge of a credit card into the crack or once the panel is cracked all the way through (it flexes when you press on it lightly), it must be replaced. Also, if no cracks are visible, but chunks of the cement have fallen off (spalling), it should be replaced as well.
Continued fires with damaged panels is risky business, so don’t risk it!! If your panels need replacement, do not continue to burn fires until damaged panels have been replaced by a qualified professional.
Don’t forget that a stainless steel heat reflector can significantly increase the lifespan of your refractory panels by keeping them cooler reflecting up to 42% more heat into the room! Not only will you get more “mileage” out of your refractory panels, but you’ll also enjoy more heat from your fires! Our customers LOVE them and they are highly recommended!
Talk to the folks at A to Z about installing a heat reflector in your fireplace…it’s a prefabricated fireplace repair we can highly recommend.
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My experience with A to Z sweeping my two chimneys went very well. After sweeping each chimney, the technician put a camera up into the flue as part of their safety inspection, and he let me see the video monitor. He explained what he found and what needed to be done. Very thorough work, very neat and clean. My home was left pristine when everything was said and done.
~ Anne Harvey, Carmichael, CA
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