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You can replace Refractory Fireplace Panels by first laying down a drop sheet in front of your fireplace, next while your vacuum is turned on and the hose is in the fireplace to pick up any dust scoop out any ash and dispose of it, next slide either the side panel or floor panel out first and after that the rest of the panels will come out easily. Once their out vacuum the firebox and slide in the new fireplace panels in the same order as they came out, this can be done as an easy DIY project.
Most factory built fireplaces or sometimes called zero clearance fireplaces that are on the market use refractory panels inside their firebox that are generally 1 inch thick, they are positioned on the sides walls, back wall, and floor of the inside of your firebox to protect from any heat transfer that could affect the metal box behind them or wood framing inside the wall.
So as you can see having a fire in your fireplace without them is very important, also if you have a fire without them or they are damaged this can cause warping inside the metal firebox if yours are broken or cracked they need to be repaired or replaced.
Continue reading and you will get a chimney sweep’s view and insight on how to replace fireplace panels.
This post will talk about when they need to be replaced and how you will know? will also talk about how to buy new panels, how much they cost, and if yours are no longer available from the manufacturer how to buy aftermarket ones and install them yourself as a great DIY project to save some money.
I decided to write this article because as an installer and chimney sweep people always ask if the cracks in their panels are in need of repair and being such a common problem I have to say it really depends on how bad they really are.
So in this post will talk about when you should replace them and how to replace them.
Also in this post, we will talk about 4 Important things to know when replacing fireplace panels:
- How do I know if my fireplace panels need replacing?
- Can I repair my fireplace panels?
- How much does it cost to replace fireplace panels?
- How to replace fireplace panels?
How do I know if my fireplace Panels need replacing?
Refractory fireplace panels are not meant to last forever and they deteriorate for many reasons, so how do you know if your fireplace panels need replacing? lest look at a few ways to tell, the most common reason for a deterioration occurring is age, and heating and cooling over years of use, this is a huge shock on your refractory panels and eventually, they will begin to deteriorate.
Fireplace panel thermal shock
This can be especially damaging if you like to get a roaring fire going and don’t take the time needed to heat them gradually for each fire, this is called thermal shock when something is heated too quickly making it expand or contract at an unnormal rate causing it to lose its integrity over time, and so what happens in this case, is that panels can crack, break or crumble over time.
Also putting water on your fire can cause thermal shock to the panels and causing them to crack and in most cases, the floor begins to deteriorate and crack.
Another cause is the way you put the wood in your fireplace, unfortunately, some people are not very careful and like to throw the wood into the firebox, and over time braking or cracking will occur most commonly in the back panel.
Can you repair refractory fireplace panels?
This is a great question because no one wants to spend money if they don’t need to, so how do know if your panels need replacing or can be repaired? Well, it’s common and acceptable to have fine hairline cracks in panels from normal usage and if that is all you have then yes you can definitely repair them, but anything above and beyond that will probably need to be replaced
Let’s start with whether they can be repaired, so you should be able to see if yours need repair by placing a dime in the cracks, yes that’s right a dime, now if it fits in the cracks, that could be a sign that they need replacing because the panel now has a crack that is larger than a hairline and its an indication that it is starting to separate and that will allow heat to transfer to the metal firebox.
Are your fireplace panels crumbling?
Now if you are missing pieces of your panels, or they are crumbling you definitely need to replace them, this is because the panels are no longer preventing heat from transferring behind the panels into the wall, remember the panels are essential because they are acting as a heat barrier and burning without them can cause a safety issue and also warp or damage the metal, so when they get this bad they should not be repaired but they really should be replaced with new fireplace panels.
How much does it cost to do a fireplace panel repair?
The cost to do a fireplace panel repair is very low, you can buy a 64oz container online or in your local hardware store for around $15 and a tub that will fit in a calking gun for around $7, you will also need a painters spatula to work it into the groves, that may cost an additional $3 so really the cost is minimal.
How to use refractory fireplace panel cement
There are many brands of refractory fireplace cement, and yes you can use refractory cement to do minor repairs and this can lower your costs, that’s if you are handy and like DIY projects, but this is not a permanent fix and eventually, you will need to buy panels in the future.
Something to remember about using refractory cement is that when you put it on only use small amounts in the cracks, if you use too much it will look strange and all of your friends will know you repaired it yourself, remember less is more as the saying goes, and if the repairs are on the back wall you won’t even see them after a few fires because they will be covered in black soot.
How much does it cost to replace fireplace panels?
Fireplace panels cost more or less $200 to $600 and up depending on the size of your fireplace and brand, remember you may not need all the panels you might only need the back one or the floor or vice versa, this is obviously much cheaper then replacing all of your panels if you don’t need to, and the great thing is it will refresh the look of it.
How can I find the right brand of panels?
So the first thing you need to do is look for the certification label on your fireplace, depending on the model of your fireplace this label could be right on the front of or hidden behind the vents around sides or top and bottom. each factory-built fireplace has a certification label that tells you the make, model, certification standard, and the year your fireplace was manufactured, if you have the original owner’s manual this should also have this information.
When you are ready to buy the replacement panels you can look online for the manufactures website, from there you can email them or what I recommend is calling the number provided by them and talk directly to a representative, if the manufacturer doesn’t have them in stock anymore then continue looking online for other options some times other companies carry the same panels.
It’s worth taking the time to ask around to find the original panels if possible, you can also ask your local fireplace store if they can get them for you but understand that if they can get them they will charge significantly more than buying them online from the manufacturer.
So if your fireplace is less than 25 years old you will probably be in luck and they will still have your panels in stock, but something to keep in mind is if your fireplace is 30 years old it is at the end of its life expectancy and would probably be better to replace the whole unit with its chimney unless it was almost never used.
To do a full fireplace and chimney installation you will need need to contact a licensed specialist or fireplace store this is not a DIY project.
So once you get your new panels you can take out the old ones and start the installation, generally gently put the floor in first, then the back wall, and lastly the side panels, on most fireplaces, there are metal clips or tabs that hold them in place, normally you can just slide them into position and your good to go.
Each fireplace is slightly different so you can always look at your owner’s manual online if you don’t have one from the time of purchase, and there should be installation instructions there.
If you’re having any trouble, remember you can find this with the information on the fireplace label.
I can’t find the refractory panels for my fireplace!
This can be a headache but don’t get frustrated and I understand but don’t get frustrated because there are aftermarket replacement refractory panels that you can buy on Amazon and if needed they can be cut to fit your fireplace If you are handy and like DIY home improvements you should be just fine.
How do you replace fireplace panels?
If any of the above scenarios sound familiar and you think they need replacing I can help.
Start by laying down an old sheet or tarp in front of your fireplace this will help you keep the floor clean and give you somewhere to put the panels that you take out next with your vacuum running and the hose in the fireplace start shoveling out any ash that’s in the fireplace, then vacuumed around the joints of each panel.
Now each fireplace is a little different and the panels can be installed differently also, so check and see if the panels are held in with clips, unscrew them if there are any, next look for the easiest panel to slide out first this is usually the floor or a side panel, then slide out the other panels
How do I cut refractory panels?
So if the panels need to be cut you can cut them with a grinder that has a diamond blade, or a circular saw with a similar blade, this can cause some dust so it is best to work outside.
To cut them the perfect size you can use the old broken or cracked refractory fireplace panels as a pattern, just lay them on top of the new panels and trace around them with a pencil for an exact measurement.
In most cases, you will need to cut angles on the back corners so they fit tight, the panels are commonly 24 x 28 and 1 inch thick but come in many sizes, and as we have mentioned can cost around $200 to $600 on average for each set.
So, in conclusion, don’t be afraid to replace your panels yourself this can be an easy DIY project, but if you are not so handy there are many professionals that can help, you can call a local chimney sweep, fireplace store, or handyman and they will have them installed in a flash.
Thank you for reading this article and I hope it was informative and please share with anyone that would find this useful.