Refractory panels are the brick-patterned stamped concrete panels lining the inside of a Pre Fab fireplace.
About Refractory Panels
Cement panels: Our replacement panels are generally thicker and if cured correctly should last much longer than original panels.
Pre Fab or Zero Clearance Fireplaces (ZC’s) are different from masonry fireplaces in that they are not made of brick and mortar. Instead, ZC’s are made out of very thin sheet metal and refractory cement panels. ZC’s get their name for two simple reasons; “Pre Fab” because they are a sheet metal fireplace “pre-fabricated” in a factory. “Zero Clearance” because there’s very little “clearance” between the flammable 2X4 wood framing of your home and the metal box. Often flammable 2X4’s are located within ½ inch of the sheet metal! If you were to light a fire in this box with damaged or missing refractory panels, two things could happen. First, the metal could get really hot and warp, thus permanently damaging the fireplace itself. Secondly, and worst of all, as the metal got hot, you chance having the heat transfer onto the nearby flammable 2X4 studs, thus catching the house on fire!
To keep this from happening, the Pre Fab Fireplaces have refractory cement insulating panels in the box which keep the metal cooler. Like any other household appliance, with use, these panels eventually wear out and need to be replaced.
Radiant Firebacks can significantly increase the lifespan of your refractory panels and at the same time make your fireplace more efficient.
Replacing Refractory Panels
How do you know when replacement is necessary? The rule of thumb (suggested by most manufacturers) is that once you can either get the edge of a credit card into the crack or once the panel is cracked all the way through (it flexes when you press on it lightly), it must be replaced. Also, if no cracks are visible, but chunks of the cement have fallen off (spalling) picture, it should be replaced, as well. Continued fires with damaged panels is risky business, so don’t risk it! If your panels need replacement, do not continue to burn fires until damaged panels have been replaced by a qualified professional.
Skamolex panels: Higher insulating ability than cement panels, longer lasting and cost less. Downside? The color of these panels generally is a few shades darker than cement panels, so for aesthetic reasons these are generally used when we can replace all 3 panels of a fireplace (the 4th panel (bottom) must always be cement).
We offer two different types of refractory panel replacement: Cement or skamolex? It is very important that you complete the installation by curing the panels.
DO NOT begin the curing process until 24 hours after the panels have been installed. This will allow time for the newly installed walls to settle. UNCURED WALLS MAY CRACK WHEN EXPOSED TO A LARGE FIRE BEFORE BEING COMPLETELY CURED.
The manufacturer strongly urges a person to have six (6) small fires for the first six (6) times you use the fireplace. They recommend using 1/4 of a Duraflame-style log and burn it for 30 minutes each time.