In the search for a fireback, it is very important that the size of the fireback is appropriate.
How big a fireback should be depends on four things:
- The size of the fireplace;
- The size of your fires;
- The desired heat radiation: the biggest possible open-hearth fireback offers the most protection of the back wall and has the greatest radiator effect;
- Your preferences.
Relationship between the size of the fireback and fireplace
We describe the relationship between the size of the fireback and that of the fireplace below for three kinds of fireplaces:
- Fireplaces with a rectangular hearth floor;
- Fireplaces with a tapered hearth floor;
- Fireplaces with a slightly forward-tilting back.
Fireplaces with a rectangular hearth floor
The breadth of an open-hearth fireback can be the same size as the breadth of the back of the heart. Take into account here the small variations in the breadth of both the hearth and the fireback, since the two are often crafted by human hands. In French castles, you often see that firebacks fill up the entire back side of a fireplace. The advantage of this is that the radiation of heat from the fireback is then maximal.
The disadvantage, however, is that in fireplaces that have a rectangular bottom, you can less easily see that there is a fireback in the fireplace when no fire is burning. With a beautiful fireback, that can be unfortunate. In that case, it is advisable to leave at least 5-10 cm (2-4") open on each side and at the top of the fireback.
Fireplaces with a tapered hearth floor
With a tapered fireplace and hearth floor, where the front of the fireplace is broader than the back of the fireplace, it is often nicer to fill up the back wall as much as possible with a fireback. The back side of the fireplace is relatively small in proportion to the front, so that there is space optically next to the fireback. You thus always see the fireback clearly.
The maximum height of a fireplace back plate is also the height to the beginning of the chimney. If the fireback intrudes into the smoke channel, it can negatively influence the draw of the chimney.
In a tapered fireplace, it is often nicer to fill up the back wall as much as possible with the fireback.
But of course it also remains a matter of your personal taste.
Fireplaces with a slightly forward-tilting back
Many fireplaces now have a slightly forward-tilting back. On its own, a fireplace back plate can easily stand at a bit of an angle, as long as it is properly attached with heat-resistant mounting brackets (see Our mounting brackets). Sometimes people do this on purpose in order to let the fireback get even hotter. (We think this is not needed, given that a fireback always gets extremely hot when a fire is built against it.)
A good way to visualize in advance how a fireback of a certain size and shape will look in your forward-leaning fireplace is to place a piece of cardboard of that size and shape in your open fireplace. This can also be a good way to estimate in the two previously mentioned fireplace models whether the fireback will be too large or too small.
Relationship between size of fire and fireback
For the protection of the back wall of the fireplace, the breadth of the fireback must be have at least the breadth of the maximum fire. The maximum heat of the wall behind the fire for a normal hearth fire is about 30 cm in height above the hearth floor, so fireback does not have to be much higher than 40-50 cm (15.7-19.7") above the above the hearth floor. With larger fires, the height is higher than 30 cm (11.8") and it goes without saying that a larger fireback is also needed.
Relationship between appearance and size and thickness of the fireback
The broader and taller the fireback is, the stronger the radiation into the room. If a fireback is also thicker (i.e. heavier), it will also hold and continue radiating the heat longer, like a radiator, even if the fire has gone down. Large and heavy firebacks (>100 kg or 220 lbs) that have a fire built against them for a whole day will continue to radiate a soft, even warmth the following day.
Taste and shape and size of the fireback
In general, the following combinations do not work as well:
- A fireback that is smaller than the fire basket or andirons with grate, even if that breadth is not entirely used for the fire;
- A very small fireback in a very big fireplace;
- A fireback that is wider than it is tall in a fireplace that is taller than it is wide, and vice versa.
There can of course be other reasons to deviate from the principles above. Taste is not a matter to be argued, and many choices depend on your own taste.
A good way to visualize a fireback of a certain size and shape in advance in your fireplace is to mount a black garbage bag or a piece of cardboard of that size and shape in your open fireplace.
Other choice considerations
It is often very beautiful if the style of the fireback matches the style of the fireplace. The oldest firebacks date from 1500, and firebacks have followed the architectural styles. A fireback from a certain style period fits well with a fireplace or a house with the same style. For example, a baroque fireback with a baroque fireplace or a neoclassical fireback with a neoclassical fireplace. At the same time, an old fireback can form a beautiful whole with a modern fireplace. An antique fireback instantly sets the tone for the fireplace.
The colour of the fireback. This is brown or black. Brown firebacks are often brown because they have been cleaned and the rust patina has been preserved. When used in the fireplace, the brown plates become black again in the middle section due to the fire. Black firebacks have been treated with stove polish. Brown firebacks can always be delivered in black, but black cannot be made brown again.
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