Building a home or just redoing your own home is one of the most complicated processes you can do within a few feet of your bed. However, there are many codes and regulations that you need to adhere to, with the safety codes regarding fireplaces being some of the most important.
Typically, the type of drywall you want to use around a fireplace is called the Type X drywall; gypsum-based drywall that resists heat well. Thin metal and insulation will cover the fireplace chimney to prevent heat from being transferred directly to the surrounding drywall.
There is more to building a fireplace than having the perfect drywall to prevent fires and other problems from happening. When building your fireplace and making it pretty, you will need to have a specific set of materials that surrounds it to ensure that everything is as flame retardant as possible.
Do You Need Special Drywall Around a Fireplace?
Yes, you do need special drywall around a fireplace as the materials used in normal drywall are both flammable and may melt when exposed to extreme heat. The drywall used around fireplaces will not absorb the heat from the fireplace and will not combust when exposed to an open flame.
When normal drywall is exposed to the heat from a fireplace, it will usually start degrading fast as well, causing structural weaknesses in your building. The same materials used to insulate the drywall or make it weatherproof will combust when exposed to too much heat.
The drywall, Type X, used around fireplaces will rather melt than catch on fire, which will only happen when exposed to thousands of degrees of temperatures. The drywall will often be coated as well, preventing any fire or heat from damaging the material.
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What Material Do You Use Around A Fireplace?
Most commonly, you will use steel, concrete, and stone around your fireplace as these are materials that cannot spontaneously combust. Fire bricks are used directly on the fireplace to prevent heat from being transferred into the wrong place or back into the structure of your house.
However, you need to know what types of steel, concrete, and stone will work best, as many materials will dry out and become cracked if used. Some stones have been made or picked to handle extreme temperatures, while concrete and steel must be manufactured to handle the heat.
Steel is one of the most popular materials used around fireplaces; as long as it is a few millimeters thick, it can handle the heat. But its popularity comes from the wide range of trims and designs that you can get, with anything that you can imagine being made as long as you have the time and money.
However, steel does tend to become completely hot throughout, with the fireplace’s heat being spread throughout the entire system. This makes it dangerous to have with pets, and small children, even the steel that is a few feet away from the actual fire can become scorching hot.
When the concrete has been mixed with the right material, you will have something that looks amazing and can stay warm for hours on end. Concrete is not new to being used with your fireplace but has recently experienced a resurgence in popularity because of the possibilities.
Like steel, anything that you can imagine can be made out of concrete with designs from the Victorian era to the latest modern looks possible. The only downside to concrete is that it requires a complete demolition of your home to change properly once cast.
Stone is usually a mix of wood, drywall, and concrete that allows the stone to be built up around the fireplace, creating insulated stonework. Stone as a material depends on what shape you are building and what stones you have chosen to build your fireplace with.
One of the things that you need to remember with stone is that they come in all shapes and sizes, with some stone fireplaces only being made out of small sleet stones. However, you can get much larger marble fireplace structures that look amazing and cost and weigh several tons.
What Kind Of Drywall Do You Need For A Gas Fireplace?
When building a gas fireplace, you need to consider several other safety precautions that need to be taken, with many area codes being quite strict.
You can use Type X drywall or fire-resistant drywall when building around a gas fireplace; however, the drywall must be a minimum of six inches away from the fireplace. This is to prevent any flames from getting to the drywall and prevent spontaneous combustion of the material.
TIP: If you are still unsure about using drywall, there are other materials that you can use instead of drywall. Even drywall that has been specifically engineered to be fire-resistant will not always be perfectly fire-resistant, whereas concrete will only crack under extreme heat.
Is It Ok To Put Sheetrock Around A Fireplace?
No, normal sheetrock cannot be installed around a fireplace, especially fully synthetic sheetrock that you normally use on your roof. The sheetrock can surround the fireplace’s exhaust on the roof but should not be used to insulate or surround the fireplace.
There is a special type of stone sheetrock that is not made from synthetic materials that have been manufactured for use with fireplaces. This sheetrock type is much stronger and heavier than normal sheetrock and absorbs heat to help heat the entire house or room.
We recommend checking several times before you install the sheetrock on your home. If used properly, the sheetrock will give a beautiful finish to your entire fireplace, as long as you are using sheetrock made to handle the high temperatures.
What Are The US Codes For Fireplace Surround?
Each state in the US will have specific codes for the building of a fireplace, this usually depends on the types of fireplaces usually used in the state. This means you will have to get a local expert who knows what to use and what not to use when building your fireplace.
DID YOU KNOW? The national code for fireplaces in the US states that all flammable material must be at least six inches away from the fireplace. Creating a hollow surround for the fireplace in which there is only open air in which ventilation and piping may be allowed to run, depending on the type of fireplace.
Even when using fireproof or Type X drywall, it will have to be at least six inches away from the actual fireplace. Usually, people will prefer to build fireplaces out of concrete or stone specifically because stone and concrete are the fireplaces with no wasted space.
Can You Use Cement Board Around A Fireplace?
You can use cement boards, often called Hardiebacker, around your fireplace, given you are adhering to the national code to keep everything six inches away from the fireplace. When working with the cement board, you should also ensure that you are not putting anything directly onto the fireplace.
TIP: Most fireplaces that are quick to install will be steel fireplaces already built, made to be installed, and bolted into the house. When using cement boards around these, you must stick to the regulations as the cement board is not fireproof.
Instead, it is just fire-resistant, which means handling much more heat than other materials. However, when pushed to its limit, it will start crumbling, start melting or even start burning or smoking, releasing dangerous fumes into the house or room you are in.
Should You Insulate Around A Fireplace Insert?
Yes, when using a fireplace insert, you will have to use insulation around the insert and around the flue that goes through the roof. The insulation will prevent the heat from the fireplace from escaping directly through the walls and roof to the outside.
However, you will have to use fiberglass insulation just around the fireplace insert to prevent the insulation from melting or catching fire. Fiberglass does not melt or catch fire; in the worst-case scenario, it may melt slightly and become black around the hottest parts of the insert.
The insulation stops the heat from escaping or going back into the walls of your home, which can cause damage to the internal structure. Many fireplaces will have insulation in the wall behind the insert, with the proper gaps around the fireplace, ensuring that the heat only goes into the room.
How Do You Cover A Fireplace With Drywall?
There are two options when covering a fireplace with drywall that you should be aware of, each one affecting how you are building the fireplace. When covering the fireplace, you should consider construction adhesive or glue combined with nails or screws to secure everything.
People often will only use one or use something water-based, causing the glue or adhesive to dry out as the fireplace continues to work. Causing the structure to be weakened and the pieces that decorate the fireplace toe eventually falling off and becoming damaged.
Construction Adhesive for Plasterboard
We recommend this when you are not using drywall on or near your fireplace; the construction adhesive can work even when under extreme heat. Holding stone and other features onto the fireplace without cracking, breaking, or becoming completely structurally broken.
We recommend that you check the construction adhesive you are using to ensure that it can properly handle the heat you will be making in the fireplace.
Many people have made the mistake of using regular construction adhesive that does not handle the heat from the fireplace well. A construction adhesive that remains tough on high temperatures like this one from Amazon is a good choice.
Glue Directly Onto The Drywall
If you are building with an insert, you should have drywall that surrounds the fireplace, making a structure that is at least six inches away from the insert. On this drywall, most people will have a decoration to ensure that the structure is attractive and fits the home.
Because this drywall will not reach such extreme heat, you can use drywall glue thanks to the insulation and the space between it and the fireplace. The glue will keep everything intact and prevent it from falling off or being damaged by the heat produced by the fireplace.
Can You Put MDF Around A Fireplace?
Yes, you can use MDF around a fireplace the same way that you are using drywall, as the MDF has been treated not to burn instantly. Many people who are building more intricate shapes around the fireplace may prefer to use MDF, as the wood can handle a lot more weight.
TIP: MDF is ideal for using a stone façade; the wood can handle much more weight than normal drywall. We always recommend using some MDF when building a fireplace that has several different types of stone on it as part of the décor.
However, you should not use MDF to support the structure of a stone or cement fireplace; it is only meant to be used as a replacement for drywall. The MDF allows for nails and screws to be driven in without having an anchor as you would need in normal drywall, which prevents the number of screws allowable.
What Is The Drywall Around A Fireplace Called?
The drywall around your fireplace is called the surround; it consists of the entire structure around the fireplace. Including the mantel, legs, returns, and everything else that is part of your fireplace’s assembly, this includes the parts of your fireplace where the fire is being made.
People often get confused when talking about the surround of a fireplace, mistakenly thinking it is only the drywall that builders and designers are referencing. However, you need to ensure that the surround is within your state’s regulations and the country.
We have seen many people build fireplaces that only put the drywall six inches away from the fireplace, leaving wood floors and carpets right up to the fireplace. However, this means that the fireplace is no longer according to code as not everything is at least six inches away from the fireplace.
Can You Use Wood Around A Fireplace?
Yes, wood trim is one of the most popular trim options for larger fireplaces, especially if the room the fireplace is in is much larger. This is because the wood trim looks amazing and has been treated to be extremely fireproof, allowing the wood toe to handle extremely high temperatures.
However, you need to be sure that it is real wood that is being nailed onto the drywall or MDF, as many people have tried making alternatives. When using synthetic wood trims, you need to take care of the regulations and the material that the trim is being made out of.
We have seen several people that did not check if the trim they are using is real wood or not, ending up with synthetic material that melted with the first big fire. If you are not sure, we always recommend using a concrete trim that has been styled to look like wood using stamps and paint instead.
The best drywall in the world is still not entirely fireproof, even when you’re using the preferred Type X drywall that most builders will have.
Instead, spacing everything correctly and having materials such as concrete or steel that cannot melt or catch fire is much safer. Just remember, once the fire has been lit, it can be almost impossible to stop!
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