factory-built fireplace old world stoneworks

Your Comprehensive Guide to Masonry vs Prefab Fireplace

Usually you can tell at a glance whether a fireplace is masonry or prefab. While traditionalists prefer the aged look of a masonry fireplace, not every house is blessed with one. That’s when a prefabricated fireplace may be the best solution. Both can add that wonderful fire element to your home, and each has its advantages and disadvantages.

What is a Masonry Fireplace?

A masonry fireplace, with its classic design, can be integrated into both new constructions and remodels, enhancing the architectural beauty of a home. Constructed on-site by experienced masons, here are its defining features:

  • Origin: Masonry fireplaces are not just reserved for older homes. They can be custom-built for new constructions, remodels, or upgrades to existing spaces.
  • Material: Using brick or stone for its interior, masonry fireplaces look elegant and efficiently retain heat. Similarly, their chimneys, constructed from brick, exude style while ensuring safety.
  • Timeless Appeal: While often associated with older homes, masonry fireplaces’ allure lies in their timeless beauty, making them a sought-after choice for many homeowners, regardless of the age of their home.
  • Door Options: With masonry fireplaces, you can choose your door installation, be it inside mounted or overlapping, tailoring to the design and aesthetic of the space. Opting for a masonry fireplace ensures homeowners experience a blend of tradition and warmth, adaptable to various home types and ages.

By choosing a masonry fireplace, homeowners embrace timeless elegance and the promise of long-lasting warmth for their living space.

masonry fireplace old world stoneworks

A Masonry Fireplace


What is a Prefabricated Fireplace?

A prefabricated fireplace, often called a “prefab” fireplace, is a modern alternative to the traditional masonry fireplace. Manufactured off-site in a factory setting, these fireplaces are designed for easy installation and adaptability. Here’s what defines a prefabricated fireplace:

  1. Origin and Popularity: Prefab fireplaces came into prominence during the 1960s and have since become a staple in newer homes. Their rise in popularity can be attributed to their cost-effectiveness, convenience, and adaptability to contemporary home designs.
  2. Material and Design: Unlike masonry fireplaces made of brick or stone, prefabs are primarily constructed from robust metal sheets. Many models incorporate refractory panels that mimic the appearance of bricks. These panels add an aesthetic touch and act as a protective layer, preventing the fire’s intense heat from damaging the firebox.
  3. Chimney Structure: These fireplaces come with chimneys that extend through the roof. Depending on the design and aesthetic preference, the chimneys may be enclosed with siding or faux brick housing. Additionally, atop the chimney, you might find a chase cover, often likened to a shoebox lid, providing an added layer of protection.
  4. Safety and Installation: One of the standout features of prefab fireplaces is their rigorous factory testing to ensure safety standards. But, it’s crucial to note that their safety extends only to their installation. Proper installation is paramount to ensure the safety of the household. Moreover, when considering replacements or upgrades, ensure parts are specific to your fireplace model to avoid potential hazards.
  5. Fuel Types: Prefab fireplaces offer versatility in terms of fuel. While some models are designed for burning wood, others are optimized for gas. Some advanced designs even cater to both. Using the designated fuel type for your specific model is essential to ensure efficient burning and safety.

In conclusion, a prefabricated fireplace blends modern design, ease of installation, and adaptability, making it an appealing choice for contemporary homes.

factory-built fireplace old world stoneworks

Factory-built fireplace

Prefabricated Fireplace vs Masonry Fireplace Key Takeaways

Cost Considerations

Investing in a fireplace involves considering both the immediate expenses and the long-term value addition to the property.

Masonry Fireplaces:

  • Upfront Cost: With a custom design and the expertise of skilled masons, these fireplaces, while a bit pricier at the onset, promise unparalleled craftsmanship.
  • Return on Investment: More than just a heat source, masonry fireplaces elevate your home’s value. Their lasting nature means fewer repairs and consistent performance, offering value for money in the long run.

Prefabricated Fireplaces:

  • Upfront Cost: Being more budget-friendly, prefab fireplaces are attractive for those seeking an immediate, cost-effective solution.
  • Design Limitations: However, they might offer a different breadth of design versatility than masonry fireplaces, meaning customization might be more restricted.

Durability and Maintenance Insights

The lifespan and maintenance needs of a fireplace largely depend on its type.

Masonry Fireplaces:

Longevity: Built with durable materials like bricks and stone, these fireplaces are designed to last generations with proper care.

Heat Tolerance: They are more resilient to intense heat, reducing the risk of damage from high temperatures.

Maintenance: Over time, masonry materials may need water-repellent treatments to prevent deterioration. With regular upkeep, these fireplaces maintain their integrity for years.

Prefabricated Fireplaces:

Lifespan: Generally, expect a prefab fireplace to serve well for up to 15 years. Parts can wear out, and finding exact replacements might be challenging.

Heat Sensitivity: Prefabs can warp if exposed to overly intense fires, which can be a consideration for those who enjoy larger fires.

Flue Maintenance: Prefabs come with metal flues, which tend to be easier to clean than brick chimneys. The reduced risk of creosote buildup and often-included lifetime warranties on stainless steel liners are notable perks.

Insulation and Efficiency Dynamics

Heating efficiency can significantly influence one’s fireplace choice, especially in colder climates.

Masonry Fireplaces:

Heat Retention: The solid materials used in masonry fireplaces retain heat well, radiating warmth over time.

Insulation: They might not be as well-insulated as their prefab counterparts, leading to some heat loss.

Prefabricated Fireplaces:

Efficiency: Prefab units are designed with heating efficiency in mind. Their combination of insulation, metal construction, blowers, and air-cooled pipes effectively transfer heat into a room.

Safety: Their robust insulation allows them to be installed close to combustible materials without risk.

The Role of Fireplace Inserts

Fireplace inserts can transform the way a fireplace functions, especially concerning heating efficiency.

Masonry Fireplaces:

Customization: Owners can upgrade their masonry fireplace’s efficiency by integrating a fireplace insert, enhancing both aesthetics and heating capabilities.

Prefabricated Fireplaces:

Limitations: Not all prefab models support inserts. Before considering an upgrade, ensure the manufacturer offers compatible inserts for your specific prefab model.

Summing Up the Masonry Fireplace vs Prefabricated Discussion

If you’re still contemplating the choice between masonry and prefab fireplaces, reach out to Old World Stoneworks. Our expertise in fireplaces and mantels ensures you get personalized advice tailored to your needs. Contact us today to discuss your unique fireplace considerations.