Company Blog

Common Brick vs. Fire Brick: What’s the Difference?

Bricks have stood the test of time as a construction material. As a matter of fact, at the dawn of recorded history, ancient civilizations had already been using brick for thousands of years. Durable, versatile, and able to be made from materials that are readily available in most places around the globe, the popularity of brick should come as no surprise.

Not all bricks, however, are the same.

What Is Common Brick?

bricks stacked with no mortar between themThe type of brick seen most commonly is aptly called “common brick,” although you may also hear it referred to as clay brick, building brick, or red brick. Common brick is classed according to the quality of the brick and uniformity of size and shape, with class one bricks being most suitable for permanent construction projects.

Common brick is durable, versatile, and aesthetically pleasing for a variety of design uses. It has excellent compressive strength, which is what it can be used for load bearing walls as well as facades, patios, fences, and many other uses.

While common brick is prevalent, however, there are other types of bricks that can be extremely useful for specific applications. One of these helpful species of bricks is firebrick.

What Is Firebrick?

True to its moniker, firebrick can take heat. Common brick has a small to moderate degree of heat resistance. Firebrick, also known as refractory brick, can withstand much higher temperatures and tolerate substantially more thermal shock without degrading.

What gives firebrick its super powers? It boils down to its composition. Made of refractory clay, which contains alumina and silica, firebrick comes by its heat tolerant qualities naturally. These materials provide firebrick with excellent heat resistance – and therefore structural integrity – when exposed to extreme temperatures. It can also withstand rapid transitions from cooler to very hot temperatures, and has limited heat transfer, making it an excellent insulator.

Which Brick Is Best for My Fireplace & Chimney?

While common brick serves well in general construction, firebrick is desirable in environments that involve intense heat, such as kilns, furnaces, and – you guessed it – fireplaces. That said, often the two types of brick will be used in tandem when it comes to these heating systems.

Take, for instance, your average home fireplace. Most likely, you’ll find that the firebox – the component of the fireplace system in which the fire is actually made – will be made from firebrick. The rest of the chimney will likely be composed of cement block or common brick, while flue tiles lining the exhaust flue.

Utilizing different types of bricks according to their strengths maximizes a property owner’s resources and the function of the construction project.

Red brick is relatively lighter in weight and more porous than firebrick. Firebrick is more dense (and therefore heavier for its size), has a smoother texture, and is more costly than common brick. Another difference is in color. While there are variances in hue and shade, common brick typically comes in warm, earthy colors. If you see firebrick in these colors, it’s been dyed – while it’s naturally white, pigment can be added to the slurry before firing to color it to fit a desired design.

Because firebrick can take prolonged exposure to intense heat, it makes sense to make use of it in areas in direct contact with flame. Placing it there also protects the surrounding structure. Where common brick may crack or transfer heat, firebrick will contain and insulate without breaking down, making it a worthy investment.

Common brick, while not suitable for this kind of heat exposure, can still find use in the outer layers of heat-related appliances, provide structural support, and act as a decorative facing material. Its lighter weight and lower cost, along with its durability, makes it a great supporting character in relation to high heat specialized structures, and in general masonry work where high temperature resistance isn’t required.

Schedule Masonry Repairs & Maintenance With Us

a masonry chimney that has experienced some brick deteriorationWhile brick is a long-lasting and hard-wearing material, it does require routine maintenance to ensure its longevity and functionality. Mortar can deteriorate over time, and the elements can erode brick or cause cracking and spalling due to exposure to the elements. Left unchecked, these conditions can worsen sooner than later. If initial installation is inadequate, this can exacerbate and accelerate problems.

As certified chimney technicians, we’ve seen masonry in all stages of disrepair and can identify – and help address – issues to protect and repair masonry.

Call Our Certified Sweeps Today

If you’re considering an addition to your property that involves masonry, be sure you know your brick types and how to use them to your advantage, especially if your addition will involve extreme heat. Looking to have a fireplace installed, upgraded, or repaired? Rely on a chimney professional with solid industry certifications and experience when undertaking this type of project. When done excellently, it can add years of enjoyment and value to your living space!

The Hudson Valley has been trusting us for their chimney care for over 25 years, and our satisfied customers will attest to our concern for the safety, investment, and comfort of your home. Call or reach out online today to get started.

Crowns vs. Caps vs. Chase Covers

Your fireplace plays an important role in the structure of your home, providing all those who reside their safety and warmth from chilly autumn, winter, and spring air. What many people don’t realize, however, is that your chimney is made up of many parts that work together to create an entire system – one that funnels the smoke and other byproducts of burning outside.

And while the warmth of summer may tempt you to forget about cold weather, now is the perfect time to check out the various components of your chimney and make sure that they are strong and ready for the seasons ahead. 

At All Seasons Chimney, keeping your chimney strong is our specialty. A strong chimney will keep water from damaging your roof and your home, while guarding against unwanted chimney fires and smoke. We want to give you some tips on three major components of your fireplace: the chimney cap, chimney crown, and chase cover.

Knowing how each component functions, how they are different, and what to look for when inspecting the condition of your fireplace will help you get a jump on your chimney’s maintenance needs (and save you money in the long run).

About Chimney Caps

The chimney cap sits directly above your chimney flue. It is often made of metal, like stainless steel or copper. Many chimney caps include mesh or solid sides, as well.

Why is your chimney cap important? Here are a few major reasons your chimney cap needs to be strong and in good working order.

  • Rain & Moisture Protection: Your chimney cap acts as a sort of umbrella that prevents water from coming down the chimney flue. Water is a major enemy of chimneys for a lot of reasons. It can cause rust, damage to the chimney liner, and deterioration of your brick and mortar. Your chimney cap is a first line of defense against water, which helps keep your masonry strong.
  • Keeping Animals Out: Birds, squirrels, raccoons, and other critters are known to build nests in chimneys. The warm and dry climate inside a chimney is an appealing place for animals to make a home. Chimney caps with mesh sides act that act as barriers, preventing animals from living rent-free and bringing dangerous and flammable nesting materials into your chimney.
  • Keeping Debris Out: Chimney caps help keep leaves, twigs, and other dangerous and unwanted materials outside where they belong. They act as a shield that deflects harmful debris. This, of course, lowers the risk of chimney fire or carbon monoxide poisoning and increases safety.

When inspecting your chimney on your own, it is important to make sure that you have a properly installed, well-fitting, appropriately-shaped chimney cap. You should not see any cracks, holes, bends, or other flaws in the cap. If you notice you are missing a chimney cap or if you see anything that stands out as a possible defect, don’t hesitate to give us a call at All Seasons Chimney. We can help get you exactly what you need, so that you are saved from costly damage down the line.

About Chimney Crowns

The chimney crown is a slab of concrete, mortar, or stone that sits on top of the chimney surrounding the flue. Though it might look flat, it is actually shaped with a slight slope or angle that allows water to run off of the chimney and away from the materials that make up the structure of the chimney.

So, why are crowns important?

A common misconception to masonry is that it isn’t prone to water damage. The opposite is actually true. Brick and mortar is porous and can soak up moisture. And when moisture collects in the minute pores within masonry, it can lead to high rates of deterioration and structural damage. The chimney crown provides a barrier between water and the brick and mortar of your chimney. When properly treated with professional grade waterproofing treatments, it becomes an impenetrable defensive barrier for your chimney and your home.

In addition, a crown provide structural stability. While brick and mortar chimneys are stable in their own right, the chimney crown provides a solid structural framework that can keep your chimney sturdy and safe, no matter what nature throws at it. 

When looking over your chimney crown you shouldn’t see cracking, crumbling, or deterioration. These are all signs that there is a problem somewhere and that repairs are needed. It is important that your chimney crown is able to function fully or it can become more of a liability than a strength.

About Chase Covers

Chase covers are metal coverings installed on prefabricated chimneys. They cover the whole top of the chimney and are not typically found on masonry chimneys. They are generally made of stainless steel, copper, or galvanized steel. Here are a few of the reasons you need a fully functioning chase cover if you have a prefabricated chimney.

  1. Weatherproofing: Like the chimney cap and chimney crown, the chase cover acts as a defense against rain, snow, and other moisture-heavy weather. It boxes in the chimney and allows smoke out, while keeping water from getting in.
  2. Rust Prevention: The chase cover prevents wood rot, mildew, and mold by keeping moisture away. Over time, a galvanized chase cover can rust, but by replacing it with a copper or stainless steel chase cover (that doesn’t rust), you can prolong the life of both the cover and the chimney itself.
  3. Debris and Animal Exclusion: Like chimney caps, chase covers also act as a barrier against debris, leaves, and animals attempting to enter the chimney chase housing. The solid metal construction prevents weathering and potential damage caused by nesting animals.
  4. Aesthetics: Simply put, chase covers just look nice. They look like a natural extension of the home by keeping the chimney out of direct sight. They can also be customized so that they look like other parts of the home, which can improve the aesthetic value of the home.

Your chase cover should not contain any deterioration. There should be no unnecessary holes or distortions in its shape. If you spot an issue, get on the phone with us or reach out online now.

We Can Help You Avoid Costly Problems

At All Seasons Chimney, our years of experience and expertise can help you quickly and easily spot little problems before they become big and costly ones. Give us a call at 845-552-1701 today, so we can help you inspect your chimney safely and thoroughly. Go into the colder months knowing that your chimney is healthy and safe so you can enjoy all that your chimney can offer. We’re here for you.