Fireplaces for the Fireplace Illiterate?

Updated on October 10, 2011
K.K. asks from Traverse City, MI
9 answers

I've never in my life owned a fireplace. this house we are moving into has 2.
we will be getting someone to come and inspect it for safety before we use it, but right now I am painting and cleaning up and just need to know a couple of things.

the bricks around it (the mantle?) seem to be in one big piece...but not attached to the wall? just kind of laying against it? looks like there is a small L-bracket that could be holding them in place if it hadn't come loose. is this the proper way to do this? or should it be sealed and caulked to the wall or something?

the shelf that sits on top of the mantle is stone or concrete or something, and is also not attached, but VERY heavy and not going anywhere, so I'm thinking that is ok?

same question for the ugly brass doors that are attached to the brick? seems to be a little loose in the top do I get those on there better? they sit on the outside of the "fireplace opening" not tucked in flush to the opening.

i apologize if i'm using the wrong terms...LOL I have no clue what everything is called.

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So What Happened? is an actual wood burning fireplace. it seems that maybe some of the mortar near the top edge especially has become separated from the wall, on the brick that surrounds the whole thing on the wall..(the decorative part of the fireplace. maybe it can be re-mortared? if that's such a thing. it appears that a bracket used to be holding the shelf on....but it simply came out of the I can reattach that....sounds like it needs to be! the actual opening of the fireplace and the brick around it seem to be sealed...but those doors....are loose, and something looking like insulation can be seen? maybe i'll put fireplace doors on the list of stuff that needs to be replaced.

on a funny note...i'm kind of glad all of this wasn't attached as it made painting the wall around it ALOT easier this weekend! now that its painted they can seal her back up! hahaha

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answers from San Francisco on

I'm thinking it all should be attached to the wall, especially if you have a heavy mantle sitting on the unattached face. I think you should have the entire unit inspected before using it and sooner rather than later!

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answers from St. Louis on

boy, do I have a stupid question: is this a real fireplace with a hole in the wall & all.......OR is it a fake fireplace that just butts up against the wall?

Next question: is this wood-burning or gas?

& lastly: is this a wood stove insert or is it just a fireplace? In other words, are there any vents & a switch anywhere?

I honestly think we need to know more details!



answers from Columbus on

Just wanted to add that there is paint or something that you can use to paint the knobs black ....if that would be better.



answers from Detroit on

Didn't read the other responses. Just wanted to say we had a bigheavy shelf on the mantle that wasn't attached. Everyone put their hands on it and it tipped the contents off several times beforemy Dad finally bolted it down. Trophies and picture frames and such were broken. So i'd suggest to find a way to fasten that down. :)


answers from St. Louis on

Okay sounds like you have a fireplace insert. A masonry fireplace the brick goes all the way around and through the wall.

I watched my house carefully when it was being built. There are no brackets connecting the brick to anything. They put the insert in place and it is screwed into the studs that frame the chimney. The brick facade is kept in place by the mortar. The hearth, which is what is on the floor, and the facade, the brick going up the wall, is one piece, the weight and mortar keep it in place. They put the mantle, the bit on top, on when I wasn't there. It is secured to the wall. So far as I can tell there is a stud nailed horizontally to the studs, the mantle is nailed to the stud.

The brass doors, I am not sure. My doors were made by heatilator, the same company that made the insert, for the insert so they fit in groves on a track. If the previous owners put in some after market door you may just want to toss them since they aren't necessary. My dad had one and the darn thing would fall out constantly.

I hope I didn't miss something.

Oh, the bricks are against the studs, no wall behind them.

I sit corrected, the drywall does go a bit behind the brick but that sucker is going no where.



answers from Charlotte on




answers from Salt Lake City on

Is it the hearth at the bottom that is not attached or all the bricks around the fireplace ( the face)? I would have that looked at the entire fireplace should be built into the wall you should not have spaces between the walls and the bricks. If the fireplace was there originally the brick would have been done before the walls. The Mantle should actually be attached with a bracket or something just for reassurance, not to scare you but when I was little my Aunt had a fireplace with a large marble mantle- It was not attached it fell and crushed my cousins foot could have been a lot worse. You can take the brass doors off and get a fireplace cover that will look better (if wood burning- you cant if it is gas) just make sure there are the metal curtains inside the opening to prevent the sparks from flying out if it is a wood burning fire place.
hope this helps


answers from Detroit on

The doors aren't necessary... Be sure the chain-style curtain [like previously stated] is there. I'm confused by seeing insulation though.

I'm wondering if someone didn't put up drywall on top of plaster.

Most homes had plaster [prior to the 60's]. That plaster would be pushed into the edges of the brick. But if someone drywalled over plaster, you might have a small gap at the edges (if the person doing it wasn't great at it), but no real issue with that because the plaster behind it would be formed into the brick. Also, if this is the case, and the doors were attached to the drywall and not the plaster, you'd see the plaster behind the broken drywall... Plaster can flake an chip and look like a solidified, uneven, chunk of mud.

Also... That is if it's real brick and not a faux brick face.

You can reattach things with fresh mortar. We did so with one of our pillars on our home.

I almost want to see pictures... PM me if you can email me some.



answers from Albuquerque on

I don't really have any answers for you, except to make sure you have a GOOD inspector take a look! We have to have ours inspected this month, too, and I'm going to call around. I'd ask:
1. How much do they charge for the inspection? (our last company charged $140 and inspected the fireplace and furnace)
2. What does the inspection cover? (test carbon monoxide/dioxide, gas flow, camera into the chimney flue)
3. How long has the company/person been in business? (I don't want a newbie who doesn't know as much)

Then, when they show up, follow them around and ask all the questions you want! We also have 2 fireplaces--one gas, one wood-burning, and I want to make sure they are all good before we use them! Good luck! I know that I'm sure looking forward to using ours!!

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