AskDefine | Define fireplaces

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Plural of fireplace

Extensive Definition

A fireplace is an architectural element consisting of a space designed to contain a fire, generally for heating but sometimes also for cooking. The space where the fire is contained is called a firebox or firepit; a chimney or other flue allows gas and particulate exhaust to escape the building. While most fireplaces are constructed in building interiors, sometimes outdoor fireplaces are created for evening warmth, outdoor cooking or decorative purposes.


In colder climates throughout the world, the fireplace or hearth has traditionally been a central feature of the household, as it gives warmth to aid survival through an extended winter. The sensation of direct heat, and the mesmerizing leaps and flickers of a wood fire, make its use enjoyable in cold conditions even today.
As a result, people gather around a fireplace for conversation and family bonding. After the workday, it is often the place where a family meets at night before retiring to sleep. One famous use of this tradition in the United States during the Great Depression was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "fireside chats", weekly radio addresses in which he made use of the family gathering time to state his views on issues of national importance.
Fireplace mantels are the focus of custom interior decoration. A mantel traditionally offers a unique opportunity for the architect/designer to create a personal statement unique to the room they are creating. Historically the mantel defines the architectural style of the interior decor.

Types of fireplace

In many places, coal, wood or peat burning fires are being replaced by cleaner and often safer natural gas fueled fireplaces and electric fireplaces. Some governmental agencies have placed a partial ban on solid fuel burning fireplaces based upon air pollution concerns. Gas fireplaces very often burn off a small amount of their fuel in a flickering display meant to recall that of a wood fire. Alternatively, flame-shaped paper streamers wave vertically in the air, held up by the updraft produced by a heating element. In recent years, Ventless Gel Fireplaces have received quite a bit of attention. They are a free standing fireplace requiring no chimney and no hearth, but they add fireplace ambiance to any room and they produce a considerable amount of heat. Many new homes are no longer equipped with an open fireplace, its (inefficient) heating function long since taken over by central heating and its social function by the home entertainment center. Some fireplaces have been closed off not allowing them to be used, either the top of the chimney has a concrete slab installed over it or the bottom has had a board nailed to it. This is so the fireplace does not suck out warm air. Prefabricated fireplaces have become popular because of their lower construction cost but offer a limited range of sizes and styles. Brick or stone fireplaces have greater durability and can be designed to meet exact specifications for opening size, depth, and facing material. They also cost significantly more to construct.
A fireplace may consist of some or all of the following elements: foundation, hearth, firebox, fireplace mantel, ashdump door, chimney crane, cleanout door, grate or iron bars, lintel, lintel bar, overmantel, breast, damper, smoke chamber, throat, flue, chimney chase, crown, cap or shroud, and spark arrestor.
Types of fireplace include:
  • Masonry (brick or stone fireplaces and chimneys) with or without tile lined flue. Tiles are used to line the flue to keep the corrosive combustion products from eating away the chimney flue lining. Unreinforced masonry chimneys do not stand up to earthquakes well.
  • Reinforced concrete chimneys. Popular during the 1970s to 1980s. Fundamental flaws (the difference in thermal expansion rates between steel rebar and concrete which caused the chimney flues to crack when heated) bankrupted the US manufacturers and obsoleted the technique. This type of chimney often shows vertical cracks on the exterior of the chimney which worsen as the internal rebar rusts.
  • Manufactured or 'Prefab' fireplace with sheet metal fire box and double or triple walled metal pipe running up inside a wood framed chase with a chase cover and cap/spark arrestor at the top to keep birds out and sparks in. Within about one hundred meters from salt water this type of chimney is subject to rusting. Otherwise it is competitive to the masonry chimney.


Ancient fire pits were built into the ground in the center of a hut or dwelling. The smoke escaped through holes in the roof. Thousands of years later, with the development of two story buildings, the fireplace was moved to outside of the structure. At this time, fireplaces were still vented horizontally and often smoke would be blown outside or even back into the room. The chimney presented a fix for this problem and vented the smoke outside of the dwelling.
In 1578 Prince Ruppert, the nephew of Charles I, raised the grate of the fireplace which improved the airflow and venting system. The 1700s saw two important developments in the history of fireplaces. Ben Franklin developed a convection chamber for the fireplace that greatly improved the efficiency of fireplaces and wood stoves. He also improved the airflow by pulling air from a basement and venting out a longer area at the top. In the later 1700s, Count Rumford designed a fireplace with a tall, shallow firebox that was much better at drawing the smoke up and out of the building. Rumford's design is the foundation for modern fireplaces.


There are a range of accessories used with fireplaces. For the interior firepit, the most common are grates, fireguards, logboxes, andirons pellet baskets, and fire dogs, all of which are used to cradle the fuel and accelerate burning. For the exterior adornment and fireplace tending function, there are fireplace tools including poker, bellows, tongs, shovel, brush and toolstand.
Maybe the most important part of the fireplace is the fireback. A good fireback not only protects the wall at the back of the fire but also increases the efficiency of the fire up to 25%. This is because the cast iron plate will radiate the heat into the room, especially the old, thick firebacks have this function.
Current versions of all mentioned accessories are available, but there are extant accessories manufactured in Europe which date at least as early as 1450 AD.
fireplaces in German: Kamin
fireplaces in Spanish: Hogar (fuego)
fireplaces in Esperanto: Kameno
fireplaces in Persian: شومینه
fireplaces in Italian: Camino (edilizia)
fireplaces in Hebrew: קמין
fireplaces in Macedonian: Камин
fireplaces in Dutch: Open haard
fireplaces in Japanese: 暖炉
fireplaces in Norwegian: Peis
fireplaces in Narom: Chimenaée
fireplaces in Polish: Kominek
fireplaces in Russian: Камин
fireplaces in Simple English: Fireplace
fireplaces in Finnish: Takka
fireplaces in Swedish: Öppen spis
fireplaces in Turkish: Şömine
fireplaces in Yiddish: פייערפלעיס
fireplaces in Chinese: 壁爐
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