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Design Dilemma
Design Dilemma

Fireplace information

SKsouthFebruary 25, 2013
Just bought a 1905 small house with two fireplaces, back to back. Both closed up, and painted many many times. The mantel and part of the opening are metal. Does anyone know if the whole surround would be metal? or how these originally looked? I've scoured the web but only found Victorian style fireplaces, and much grander ones.
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Yarbro Home Improvement LLC
Google " what is a fireplace lintel" that might answer 1 of your questions. The entire surround should not be metal. Just the top. I can't explain why the mantel is metal. Solid metal? What do you want to do with the existing fireplaces?
1 Like    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 5:59PM
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First, I'd like to get an idea of how they originally looked. Then either remove paint or paint them. Down the line I'd like to open them up and use them, even if it is just with gas logs. The chimney needs some work, and I'm sure they haven't been used for years.
    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 6:01PM
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It's possible. Because your fireplaces share a single chimney, a shallow metal box did exist at turn of the century that was intended to keep and direct uneven heat into the room and not the room behind, or up the chimney. They were often stamped and, to my mind, rather charming.The only way you will know what you have is to open 'em up. When it turns out to be a drafty rusted out casing full of dead birds, then you can nail it shut again, saying,"oh THAT's what the board was for!"
1 Like    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 6:42PM
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A number of mantlepieces from the 19th century were made of cast iron and were faux finished to imitate marble. Careful hand scraping away of later paint may reveal this treatment. It is unclear from your query if the entire mantel assembly metal.

The area immediately around the hearth opening is always a fireproof material - often brick or ceramic tile and sometimes metal. It was common for people to use metal to seal over old fireplaces and removable, decorative metal summer fronts in a permanentl fixed frame around the hearth itself were extremely popular for coal burning fireplaces. The type of brackets holding up your mantel were popular in the 1870s & 1880s and from the photo I would guess them to be wood.

I would caution you to make completely sure your chimney and firebox is safe for whatever type of use you plan. Fireplaces meant for coal can be damaged by heat of a wood fire and in a wood fire made under a bad or inappropriate chimney could cause a house fire.

The second attached picture shows a typical, if slightly elaborate mantel of circa 1895-1910. Behind the contemporary pellet stove one can see the metal frame for the hearth and then small rectangular ceramic tiles. This is the most typical arrangement for coal fireplaces of 1905 vintage.

The third picture is of an intact coal fireplace in my 1889 home; you can see that the surround and hearth are tile but that the sides and back of the firebox are of cast iron, with a decorative brass trim. The iron helps reflect heat back into the room.

As an aside, it is possible that your handsomely detailed house, or at least a portion of it is earlier than 1905 as the wide fluted woodwork with the bullseye corner blocks is typical of the 1870s & 1880s as is the mantel itself. While some people use older style materials in new construction due to reasons of taste or economy even in rural areas this would have been out of fashion by 1905. By that time a solid horizontal lintel with a crown molding on top in a Colonial Revival or neoclassical mode would have been more popular (see first attached image of this type of treatment on my main level in my 1889 home, where it was then very up to date and cost more because of the mitering work needed. The upper levels have the corner blocks we cherish nowadays but what were then cheaper & easier to install
1 Like    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 6:48PM
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Thanks for the info. By all indications the fireplace was gas, with valve embedded in floor. The hearth is flat and feels like metal. I think it is combination of wood (maybe the columns) and metal. I don't think there are any tiles.

The house is a modest size, less than 900 square feet. Rooms are square. Would love to find some painted pattern beneath it all.
    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 7:14PM
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