How to judge the quality of your our fireplace accessories?
All of our fireplace accessories for sale have been used before. If a fireplace accessory is damaged or cracked we will provide pictures of the damage. If relevant, we use the following to indicate the actual condition:
- ***: these fireplace accessories are in very good condition, but possibly show minor wear consistent with age and use. Still 100% fit for use in a fireplace.
- **: these fireplace accessories have obvious signs of wear and possible structural issues, including minor instability. Still well suited for use in a fireplace.
- *: these items show structural instability that inhibit their function. An example is a fireplace tongs with such a loose mechanism that the rods may overlap. A fireback in this classification can still be used in a gas fireplace or as a backsplash.
If you want additional information on the quality or classification of a fireplace accessory, don't hesitate to ask us.
Can I still use a fireback with a crack?
Some used firebacks for sale contain one or more cracks of various sizes. With normal usage (meaning the fire is not too big or continuously burning) cracks should not hamper the functioning of the fireplace fireback. They will normally not continue to crack.
If you prefer a large fire using large logs and/or like to keep the fire going continuously, it is advisable to select a very thick plaque with little or no cracks. On the other hand, every fireback can become overheated and crack when large fires are kept continuously for days and nights.
How to judge the quality of a fireback?
Of course, we cannot give a 100% guarantee for the above-mentioned classification. But if a fireback has already served its purpose for centuries, even with a few cracks, there is little chance that it will cease to function in the short run.
Also, don't worry about rust. Although cast iron doesn't rust much, a little rust on the front or back of a fireplace fireback is normal and has no influence on the quality of the fireback at all.
Antique firebacks often show horizontal or vertical lines. These are not cracks, but the print of the shelves of the original wooden mold (see picture below). This mold was put under pressure in the sand, then the cast iron was poured into the print. These lines are therefore often one of the signs that the fireback was cast in sand (i.e. it’s an original not a reproduction).
Why are some firebacks brown and others black?
If an old or antique fireback has a nice brown patina of rust, we tend to preserve that; thus the fireback remains brown. In all other instances, our fireplace firebacks have been treated with stove polish and thereby have a black/greyish color. If you prefer to have a black-colored fireback, we can deliver any brown fireback in black. Yet, a black fireback cannot be delivered in brown. Realize that a fireback in use in a fireplace will get black in its central section regardless.
Why are some firebacks black and others grey?
Most of our black/greyish firebacks have been treated with stove polish. The color variations on the pictures of the website mostly depend on the light shining on the fireback. If the fireback is in bright light or sunlight it will look grey while less light shows the fireback black.
Are there any precautions for using a fireback?
The most important rule for using a fireback is to allow a thoroughly cooled down fireback to heat slowly (usually at the beginning of the season or after a week or so of no use). This means that you should start the season by making a moderate fire. A cold fireback subjected to intense heat can crack due to ‘thermoshock’. For similar reasons, you should never extinguish the fire with water.
Do firebacks really work?
The effect of a fireback behind a fire is immediately tangible. A fire without a fireback hardly radiates any warmth, while a fire with a fireback very much does so. There is more radiation if the fireplace fireback is larger or thicker, and a thicker fireback retains heat longer. After burning a fire for a day, you can still feel the warm cast iron back plate the next morning. If you used thick logs, the fire box will still be hot enough so that you can easily light your fire again the next morning using the smouldering remains of the previous night’s fire.
Radiator effect: how efficient is a fireback?
The efficiency of a wood-burning fireplace to heat air is typically 10%, but with a fireback this may increase to 15%. This is less efficient than a stove or fireplace insert in heating air, but efficiency is a complicated concept with open hearth fireplaces. Most efficiency tests consider just the effect of heating the air. An open fireplace is not, and never was, intended to heat the air. A fireplace with a fireback is a radiant heater, so don't worry that it's drafting air from your house. In fact, it's replacing it with radiant heat, and typically much more of it, and has done so since the 15th century. The best way to gauge the output of a fireplace fireback is if you notice you're turning the thermostat up or down.
And don’t forget--while a fireplace may be less efficient than a stove or fireplace insert, there’s no substituting the warmth and pleasant ambiance it brings to your home.
What size of fireback suits my fireplace?
The preferred size of a fireback depends on the following factors:
- Size of your fireplace.
- Size of your fire (how big do you want to burn?).
- Your taste.
- Your wish to protect the back of the fireplace.
Visually, it often looks nice to not fill the back of the fireplace entirely with a fireback, but to keep 5-10 cm space on the sides and top. If the back is sloping sideways it is often nicer to cover as much as possible of the back with the fireback. Yet, it always remains a matter of personal taste. A nice way to visualize a fireback of a specific size in your fireplace is to put a carton or black trash bag of similar size in your fireplace.
Read more on What size of fireback fits your fireplace.
What style of fireback suits my fireplace?
The choice of a certain fireback can reflect a personal statement or can complement the period or style that dominates a house. On the website you can find, under the heading “Style,” firebacks that correspond to different style periods. A fireback consistent with the fireplace and the fireplace’s surroundings is preferable. Also, the combination of a fireback with firedogs and grate deserves attention. A beautiful fireback and a pair of lovely firedogs can form an unattractive ensemble. Or, mismatched, andirons may distract the attention of a magnificent fireback. However, sometimes, two seemingly dull items, together may work very well with a fireplace and its surroundings.
How to install a fireback?
In principle, a fireback can be placed against the back wall of the fireplace. However, it should be fixed to the wall so it doesn’t crack if it falls forward. To prevent the fireback from falling, secure the fireback to the wall using one or two hooks attached to the wall on the topside or sides of the fireback. Normal hooks and plugs can be used, as the wall just above the fireback usually does not heat up very much. However, we do sell special mounting brackets for this purpose (see Fireplace accessories).
Sometimes an elevated fireback looks nicer. You can lift it with refractory bricks or by using our special mounting brackets (see Fireplace accessories).
Read more on How to attach a fireback in the fireplace.
How to maintain my fireback?
A fire always yields soot. You can remove the soot by brushing the fireback with a steel brush. And use stove polish to buff the fireback. Stove polish can be bought in any DIY shop. Note that this is an aesthetic treatment and is unnecessary for the upkeep of the fireback.
Cleaning the fireback for use as a backsplash
Most of our black/greyish firebacks have been treated with stove polish for use in a fireplace. The ‘brownish’ firebacks have been treated with antique wax. Some of our customers who use a black or brown fireback as a backsplash indicate that they don’t treat the fireback at all. Instead they just clean it now and then with soap and water. One option is thus to just affix the fireback in its present state and see if that works for you. You can always treat it with wax or paint at a later stage.
If you aren’t satisfied with the fireback as-is, you can treat the fireback as follows: 1. Remove the stove polish or antique wax with a cloth and petrol. 2. Dry the fireback with a dry cloth to prevent it from starting to rust again. 3. Spray it with a primer. 4. Spray it with paint in the preferred color. (Don't paint the fireback with a brush, because this results in a thicker coat that can mar the sharpness of the picture on the fireback.)
How to install a backsplash above range or stove?
You can install any type of fireback with our mounting brackets (for stone walls) or with regular metal brackets with screws (for drywall and studs). This can be done in either a new wall or existing tile wall. Remember, however, that the brackets remain visible.
In a new drywall, a sturdy option is to weld ‘L’ brackets to the back of the fireback and then fix the brackets to the studs/framing of the drywall. Alternatively, a contractor can recess the fireback into a drywall and hang it with a high quality construction adhesive (rated for cast iron). This option is only feasible for firebacks that aren’t too heavy.
Another option is an aluminium angle screwed to the wall under the piece, with adhesive to adhere the fireback to the wall. The angle will support the weight and the adhesive will keep it from going anywhere. Of course, you can also drill holes in the sides of the fireback and fix it to an existing or new wall with screws. The holes can always be repaired with paste or a simple kit.
Click here for a more extensive guideline on How to install a fireback above a stove.