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People that have a fireplace or stove in their home are often not aware of it’s makeup, or anatomy. Having a good understanding of what makes your fireplace and chimney function can help you keep an eye on those things that need to be maintained. Plus, it can be absolutely fascinating to discover how it all works.

Since chimneys come in two basic types, masonry and factory-built metal, there will be variations depending on the type that you have. Masonry fireplaces are generally made of brick, blocks or stone along with the mortar that holds them together. Each masonry chimney has a yellowish brick material, called firebrick, that makes up the firebox. These massive structures will often weigh between 6 and 7 tons. Because of this, they must have an extensive footing that can support their weight. It is good to keep an eye out for any cracks or settling in the mortar.

Pre-fabricated fireplaces have really only been on the market for the last 25 years. Unlike masonry chimneys, these are made in a factory before hand, and are then assembled at the home. They generally come with a firebox, a chimney and other miscellaneous parts. Since your pre-fab chimneys are made of parts that are tested to work together, it is better to stick with any and all factory recommendations when putting together this type of system. In other words, follow the manufacturers instructions when assembling and maintaining your pre-fab chimney.

There are other parts that go into the chimney, depending on the type of chimney you own. However, in most cases, any type of chimney will have a chimney cap. These caps allow for the protection of the chimney from animals and weather. In fact, nesting animals are a big fire hazard. Rainwater can cause problems in the mortar of a chimney as well.

Now that you have a basic understanding of the makeup of your chimney, be sure to learn what it takes to maintain it. This will ensure many safe years of enjoyment.