A fireplace enhances the look and feel of the room where it is situated. Because it is a major center of attraction in the home, you probably wonder how to make it aesthetically pleasing. Can you drywall around the fireplace? We talked to the experts, and this is what we discovered.
It would be best if you did not use regular drywall around a fireplace as it is considered to be highly flammable. Instead, it would be best to surround the fireplace area with non-combustible materials such as stone, tile, marble, or metal. However, if you have a zero clearance factory-built fireplace, you can drywall around the fireplace.
A fireplace is convenient for gathering around with family and friends, especially during winter and fall when the days are darker and the nights longer. It is essential to take care of the fireplace for safety purposes and to ensure that you keep reaping benefits from the fireplace longer. Read on as we will discuss further the materials that can go around a fireplace. We will also address maintenance tips for a fireplace and how you can enhance the safety of your fireplace.
What materials can go around a fireplace?
Most fireplace fires are caused by putting combustible materials too close to a fireplace. For this reason, you should carefully consider the materials that you use around the fireplace.
The National Standard Building Code states that all combustible mantels and similar trim should be kept at least 6 inches from the fireplace opening. Also, provide additional clearance equal to the projection extension for parts of the mantel assembly located along the sides of the fireplace opening, protruding more than 1-1/2 inches from the face of the fireplace.
Further, parts of the mantel assembly located above and extending more than 1-1/2 inches from the fireplace opening should not be placed less than 12 inches from the top of the fireplace opening.
Regular drywall lacks sufficient fire retardent properties and should not be used around a fireplace. Also, drywall with a paper facing is hazardous since the paper is flammable.
Fire-rated Drywall Type X
Drywall manufacturers have come up with fire-rated drywall known as Type X drywall. Although this drywall is fire-rated, it is not fireproof. It slows down the passage of fire rather than stops passage completely. The drywall has a total thickness of 5/8 inches and is reinforced with glass fibers to help it retard fire.
While some people use type X drywall around most fireplaces, others think it is only safe to drywall a zero clearance fireplace. Because zero clearance fireplaces have a larger quantity of insulation than masonry fireplaces, a buffer zone between the fireplace and combustible materials is unnecessary.
Read this article to find out How To Insulate Behind A Fireplace."
How to maintain a fireplace
A fireplace provides affordable and eco-friendly heating on a cold night. However, if these fireplaces are poorly maintained, they are prone to causing house fires. It is of utmost importance that you manage and maintain your fireplace correctly. Observing these fireplace safety tips will minimize the risk of a fire outbreak in your home.
Cleaning the Firebox
Cleaning the firebox after every fire applies to a wood-burning fireplace. The soot and ash heap quickly and can be corrosive. If you do not clean the firebox after every use, coal may build up over time, thus restarting the fire if a light breeze blows over them while they are still hot from the last fire.
How do you clean a firebox?
Allow the ashes to cool before cleaning the fireplace. IFC stipulates that you should not deposit hot ashes, cinders, and smoldering coal subject to spontaneous ignition in a combustible receptacle, within 10 feet of other combustible material including combustible walls and partitions, or within 2 feet of opening to buildings.
The fire code makes an exception for minimum separation of 2 feet from other combustible materials for combustion byproducts deposited in a non-combustible receptacle, placed on a non-combustible floor, ground surface, or stand.
Use gloves when cleaning the firebox to protect your hands from scorching if the fire has not died completely.
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Cleaning the Chimney
The byproducts released during combustion can be very acidic, over time corroding the metal components in the chimney and eroding the mortar in the masonry.
If gunk is left to accumulate, it can cause a fire in the chimney since it is fuel. Moreover, it can block your vent, leading to smoke build-up in the home.
Having a trained professional maintain your chimney annually will enable you to arrest these challenges in good time. The professional will assess the level of wear and tear in the vent and carry out any repairs necessary, eliminating the risks of a house fire.
How do I make sure my fireplace is safe?
You can enhance the safety of your fireplace by putting these measures in place, in addition to properly maintaining your fireplace.
Install a fireplace screen
Fireplace screens protect children and pets from accidentally stumbling into the fire. They also keep stray sparks contained in the fireplace, reducing the chances of a secondary fire starting.
There are various screens to choose from based on your lifestyle and decorating tastes. You can achieve an antique finish, natural scenes, floral designs, or even a glass finish.
Does a fireplace screen have to cover the entire opening?
It is advisable to choose a screen that extends the entire length of your fireplace opening and provides adequate protection from flying embers to enhance its functionality.
In addition to installing a fireplace screen, it is advisable to keep anything that can burn at least three feet from the fireplace. Further, store lighters and matches in a locked cabinet, out of the reach of children.
Do not leave a fire unattended
The International Fire Code (IFC) stipulates that fireplaces should be constantly attended until the fire is extinguished. The fire can emit hot embers that can cause fires if they fall on unprotected surfaces or combustible matter. When someone is tending the fire, they can quickly react by extinguishing the fire or sounding an alarm before it becomes destructive.
It would be best if you positioned the logs near the back of the fireplace to keep the embers from spitting into your living room and causing a secondary fire. The further back the wooden logs are the lower your exposure to a fire hazard.
Keep a portable fire extinguisher within reach
IFC directs that at least one fire extinguisher with a minimum 4A rating or other approved on-site fire-extinguishing equipment such as dirt, sand, or water barrel should be available for immediate use when the fire is going on.
Can ABC fire extinguisher be used on all fires?
An ABC-rated fire extinguisher is best for extinguishing flammable liquids, ordinary combustibles, and energized electrical equipment. This extinguisher may come in handy for wood-burning, electrical or ethanol-burning fireplaces.
With a gas-burning fireplace, it is prudent to first terminate the gas supply from the source then smother the flames with a fire blanket.
How to use a fire extinguisher
In case of a fire, aim the fire extinguisher at the base of the fire. Keeping a safe distance, perform these activities successively. Pull the pin, aim the nozzle, squeeze the hand slowly, and sweep the nozzle from side to side until the fire is extinguished.
Regularly inspect the fire extinguisher's pressure gauge to ensure that it is in good working condition. Additionally, schedule annual maintenance of the fire extinguisher by fire professionals as they are better equipped to detect faults.
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Install a carbon monoxide detector
Combustion of the gas or wood in the fireplace produces carbon monoxide. Although the gas is odorless, it is very deadly and is often referred to as "the silent killer."
Most people experience mild headaches and breathlessness with moderate exercise after exposure to carbon monoxide. With prolonged exposure, they notice more severe headaches, nausea, fatigue, and dizziness. The symptoms may eventually escalate to confusion, impaired judgment and coordination, loss of consciousness, and irritability.
Can you detect carbon monoxide without a detector?
While you may not smell the gas because it does not emit odor, you can still detect a potential carbon monoxide problem by thoroughly inspecting the fireplace for streaks of soot.
You can also observe if the bricks at the top of the chimney are discolored, whether there is back drafting in the flue, or whether the flame in the fireplace is yellow or orange. Ideally, the flame should be blue.
It is advisable to crack a window open while the fire is going on as proper air circulation eliminates the toxic air and brings in fresh outdoor air. Further, installing a carbon monoxide alarm will alert you of any unusual carbon monoxide build-up.
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Fire is a good servant but a terrible master. It is judicious to follow the International Fire Code's safety guidelines and your local code as you use the fireplace to keep the destructive side effects at bay.
Contract a fire professional to maintain your fireplace annually as this will keep the fireplace in functional condition longer while ensuring your safety and that of your loved ones.
You may also be interested in finding out: "Gas Fireplace Won't Start – What To Do?"