Wood stove bricks are designed to take a lot of heat. While durable, they are also susceptible to cracks and splintering. Replacing fire bricks in a fireplace that have been damaged will keep the heat steady and the appliance in good working order.
Wood heater fire bricks can be removed and replaced rather easily with the proper care. Always follow the manufacturer's safety instructions before replacing wood heater fire bricks to ensure you and the appliance aren't in any way damaged during the process.
How Wood Stove Bricks Work
Designed to hold up to extreme heat, the fire bricks that line the bottom of a wood-burning stove are built to reflect heat back inside of the chamber. This protects the surrounding structures as well as maintains a steady temperature. They have a low thermal conductivity so the heat that builds up in the chamber is reflected back rather than out of the wood-burning stove. This makes them much more durable than standard bricks.
They insulate the firebox so the heat that collects within the firebox stays neatly inside the structure as much as possible. Although some heat may escape, the fire bricks ensure that the temperature stays high and steady. Without the fire bricks, heat can dissipate through the side of the stove and heat the surrounding walls.
When to Replace Fire Bricks
Fire bricks aren't indestructible. If they have large cracks or have splintered into large pieces, then they should be replaced. Replacing a fire brick in a wood-burning stove that has cracked should be done as soon as it is noticed to maintain steady heat.
Cracked fire bricks can allow the heat that has gathered in the wood stove chamber to escape. This will not only create an inefficient fire but also leave the sides of the fireplace susceptible to damage as they face higher, unregulated temperatures.
Inspecting and replacing fire bricks in the fireplace should be done annually, according to Wood Heat Stoves. Cleaning out the wood stove and checking for broken fire bricks can extend the life of the appliance.
Prepping to Replace Fire Bricks
Before working on a wood stove, Regency Fireplace Products recommends waiting until the appliance and ash has had time to cool down after last being used. Use a face mask and safety eyeglasses when working with ashes, particularly if you have respiratory issues. Ash can fly into nasal passages and eyes.
Cover the ground in front of the wood stove with a cloth, plastic tarp or newspapers when you are sure that the ashes inside the appliance are no longer hot or active. This will collect ashes and debris that you pull from the oven.
How to Replace Fire Bricks
Remove the debris and ashes along with the log grate. Gently pull bricks that are damaged or cracked from the wood stove. Remove the entire brick and clean the area thoroughly.
Use a small wire brush to remove piles of ash or bits of broken fire brick from the area. Replace with a new fire brick of the same size and height. Tap the brick into place with a rubber mallet until it sits firmly in its nook.
Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing for a variety of clients, including The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal Home section and other national publications. As a professional writer she has researched, interviewed sources and written about home improvement, interior design and related business trends. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her full bio and clips can be viewed at www.vegaswriter.com.