question about my fireplace

PoorOwnerSeptember 19, 2008

Hi, on my fireplace the previously tiled area above the square grids, does it get really hot? because I am going to install the horizontal oak piece there, it's part of the mantel surround. Just above the grid where the tiles were.

I have not used the fireplace since I moved in, so I don't know how this thing works. The tiles that was on there showed no signs of soot.

Thanks in advance.

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I'm no expert, but I believe that the presence or absence of soot by itself is not the answer. The surround immediately around the firebox needs to be noncombustible, but how big that surround needs to be (the required "clearance") depends on the fireplace specifications. If you have an owner's manual (assuming this is a prefab fireplace), the specs should be there or, if not there, maybe you can contact the manufacturer to find out. If you do not have a manual, or if there is none because the fireplace was custom built, then I would recommend you get an expert opinion from a fireplace contractor. Alternatively, you might have the chimney cleaned -- something you should do, since you're new to the house, unless you know for a fact that it has been cleaned before you moved in -- and maybe the chimney sweep guy can give you some guidance.

As a last resort, if nobody can answer your question, your best bet would be to install a noncombustible surround equal in size to the one that used to be there. That would mean that the oak mantle you are considering would not work, and you'd have to find one with the proper clearance.

You're doing this at the right time, so you'll be ready for the first cold spell. Good luck.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2008 at 9:26AM
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The manufacturer's specification referred to above, as to required clearance refers to the distance between the unit and the surrounding materials around and behind the unit itself and comes into play in the initial instalation. It does not refer to the required distance from the firebox opening to any combustible materials. This distance is governed by your local building code and is typically 12" but can vary. Go down to your local building department and check the code. If you need help they are usually pretty cooperative. You typically will get some heat on the underside of the oak mantle, but nothing to be worried about so long as it has the required code clearance (which is after all the purpose of the building codes - to protect you).

    Bookmark   September 19, 2008 at 4:39PM
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Thanks for your information!

The fireplace might be the original from the builder so I have no way to find out the brand.

The tile was only 4" high or so and if there was considerable heat coming out of the grids, would 4" really made a big difference?

Here is a picture of the original which was not included with the sale of the home. Although I wish I have negotiated on that.

Anyways my mantel shelf is taller than this, and the horizontal part of the surround is about the same and I didn't want to make the overall mantel too high, therefore my question of ditching the tiles and saving 4" of excess height. I am still debating, so I may lay a slightly narrower course of tiles so the wood is not so close to the opening.

I am also using Formby's Tung Oil Finish which is a mix of Tung oil and varnish, and I was wondering if you know if it will hold up to the temperature?

    Bookmark   September 19, 2008 at 5:19PM
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Some building codes define the required clearance in terms of a diagonal line extending out from the firebox so that the further out that the wood protrudes the further it has to be from the opening, and yes 4" can make a big difference in temperature. You will note that in the previous installation the first wood above the opening was close in to the wall, my guess is that the actual horizontal shelf was at least 12" above the opening. If you install something that isn't in compliance with your building code you will have to correct it when you eventually sell and you run the risk of a fire (and fyi, if you were to have a fire and your insurer found out it was caused by a non-code compliant installation that you did, they could deny coverage!). Its no skin off my back if you want to convince yourself that you know better than the experts who wrote the code.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2008 at 8:20PM
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