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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 2x4’s and the outside of the sheet metal box. Often flammable 2x4’s are located within ½ inch of the sheet metal!!

BEFORE with damaged panels.

BEFORE with damaged panels.

AFTER with new panels

AFTER with new panels

Mfg label indicates just how close the wood can be!

Mfg label indicates just how close the wood can be!

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 2x4 studs, thus catching the house on fire!

Damaged panel with cracks.

Damaged panel with cracks.

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.

Risking it can be disastrous.

Risking it can be disastrous.

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.

Heat Reflectors

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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I just wanted to thank you for coming to our rescue the other day. I just purchased a new home and a new washer and dryer to go with it. Understandibly, I was a very confused when my dryer suddenly began taking two or three cycles in order to dry my clothes! To my surprise, the appliance repairman who came out told me that my dryer was just fine, but that my dryer vent needed to be cleaned out! I had never heard of such a thing! Mercifully, he referred me to you guys and everything went better from there.

Your technician discovered that a bird had decided to make its nest in my vent! A lot of effort and tons of nesting material later, my vent was finally unclogged!

Thanks again for your valiant efforts! The guy that came to my house was fantastic and took everything in stride, and didn’t charge me any extra despite the fact that my vent took longer than normal to clean! I’ll be sure to tell everyone where they can get great service having the dryer vent cleaned!

~ Denise Gordon, Roseville, CA
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