Fireplaces in San Diego
Mantelpiece, sometimes referred to as fireplace mantels, and grate styles have changed but the basic structural elements of a fireplace have not radically changed for hundreds of years. The early combination of a large stone or brick opening with a smokestackbuilt over it evolved from the obvious fact that smoke rises, rather than from a scientific understanding of how a well-designed chimney system works. Consequently early wood and later coal-burning fires were very inefficient and it was not until a certain Benjamin Thompson produced his thesis on the principles of fireplace mantels design in 1799 that smaller grates and improvements in the internal shape of the openings were introduced.
San Diego Fireplaces
A brick or stone enclosure forms the basis of the fireplace. Variously known as the fireplace opening or recess or builders opening, it may be set flush with the wall or built out into the room, forming a chimney breast. This chimney breast rises through the height of the house, emerging through the roof to form a chimney stack. At the top of the opening the gather and flue combine to carry the smoke up the chimney. If the chimney is shared by several fireplaces on different floors, it may contain more than one flue.
The masonry over the fireplace opening is supported by a lintel or a brick arch. Old inglenook fireplaces used colossal oak beams, whereas a strong iron strap usually supports an early brick arch. Later fireplaces may have a straight arch supported by angle iron, and by the twentieth century cast concrete lintels were the norm.
A hearth, constructed from non-combustible materials such as stone or tile-faced concrete, projects out into the room to protect the floor from falling ashes. In most old houses the hearth was set flush with the floor, although sometimes a superimposed one was used to raise the level. The space within the fireplace opening, known as the back hearth, is usually level with the hearth itself. A dog grate for burning wood or coal can be placed on this back hearth. However, by the mid-nineteenth century the mass produced cast-iron register grate which filled the opening, had become the fashion.
To finish the assembly, a mantelpiece or fireplace mantel – or fireplace surround, as it is often called today – is fitted to frame the grate or fireplace opening. The fireplace mantel may be constructed from stone, slate, marble, wood or cast iron. The walls around it may be finished with wood paneling, or more generally with plaster, and in some cases the fireplace mantel extends upwards to form an impressive chimneypiece. Mirrored overmantels were introduced in the late eighteenth century, and these became the classic feature of Victorian sitting rooms.
Functionality of Fireplace Mantels
Within this fireplace an open fire burning wood or coal is a cheerful sight, but if it is your only source of warmth, as it was for centuries, this romantic image can soon fade especially if the fire does not burn properly. Getting a fire started and keeping it burning then becomes a challenge, if not a chore. For wood and coal fires to burn well a good supply of air is needed under the grate, as well as a means of escape for the hot gases and smoke. With the fuel carefully contained within the fireplace opening on a grate, free movement of air is achievable and waste ash can fall through the grate so the fire is not stifled. If the chimney is inadequate or the flow of air is restricted the fireplace mantels will not operate effectively.