A prefabricated fireplace is more akin to a kitchen range or other household appliance than to a masonry chimney or fireplace, which can last for generations if maintained and repaired as necessary. Prefab fireplaces have a definite and limited service life and are designed to be used up and periodically replaced. Most prefab fireplaces come with warranties that run from 20 to 30 years, although they often contain disclaimers or exclusions to limit coverage of damage related to environmental conditions. The same unit could last for varying amounts of time, depending on the conditions in the particular area in which you live.
The way a fireplace is used also affects its life expectancy. A fireplace that sees many hot fires won't last as long as one that's used less frequently. Chimney fires are especially damaging; they can quickly destroy a prefab fireplace's stainless steel flue liner. Widespread rust caused by water that's leaked through a rusted-out chase cover, bad flashing, or a missing termination cap is another common factor that necessitates replacement.
Most failed or failing prefabs are discovered during a routine chimney cleaning, not because the homeowner realizes something is wrong. A missing termination cap or leaking chase cover can quickly cause internal rust. This sort of damage is often evident around the damper at the top of the firebox or behind the louvers of a circulating fireplace. When such problems are realized, the only practical solution is to replace the entire unit.
When you consider the limited service life of typical prefab fireplaces, it's somewhat surprising that very few owners, through no fault of their own, invest much thought into their eventual replacement. The original manner of installation will determine the method of removal and replacement used. Every case is different, but Chimney Saviors' goal is to remove the old unit with as little disturbance as possible to the interior finish. The firebox of a typical modern prefab fireplace is either 36 or 42 inches wide, and the unit requires a 46- or 52-inch rough opening. The older models we replace generally required larger rough openings. That's helpful because it means we can usually install a fireplace the same size as the original without cutting away surrounding combustibles.
We encourage our customers to think carefully about what they want before they choose a replacement unit. Do they want an efficient heating appliance, or do they want to look at a fire a few times a year? There are specific venting specifications that must be met with any system that's installed in your home. What you currently have in place may not be code compliant. Knowing what you can choose to safely replace your existing unit or add to what you already have could save you money. Knowing what the additional cost would be and what is entailed by changing out what you currently have to make way for the new can save you time and headaches.