Fire Glass Buyer's Guide
Turn the focal point of your home into a dazzling display with fire glass. The colors, shapes, sizes all come together to give your home a contemporary vibe that will turn heads. Because of the massive number of options you have in fire glass, the potential aesthetic beauty you can bring to the home is endless. All those choices have a downside, however. It can be a pain to know what's what and how to use your fire glass properly. That's where this article comes in.
What is Fire Glass?
A bag of fire glass is small bits of tempered and colored glass made to go into your fireplace or fire pit. Many times fire glass comes from recycled glass. The conventional way manufactures make Fire glass is to create a tempered pane of dyed glass that is 1/2, 3/4, or 1/4 inches thick, polish it with a high-temperature laminate, then break it. The bits go into a machine that smooths out the edges. Since this is tempered glass, it will not soot, pop, or stink like regular glass. The high-temperature laminate gives the glass a reflective quality that withstands the heat and radiates warmth out to you.
It's essential to only use fire glass for your gas/electric fire pit or fireplace. Do not DIY and break a backpack full of old coke bottles. You can ruin your fireplace, but more importantly, you could get hurt. More on that later.
Fire glass is a great medium to add to your fire unit. But, there are some things to learn before you buy a 10-pound bag. This article will help you understand the standard sizes, varieties, and how much fire glass to use.
What are some common fire glass sizes?
Fire glass comes in different sizes. To the untrained eye, the size of your glass matters little. Think of it like this: what do you prefer, starlight or glitter? When you look at the stars, you see the glint of them in the night sky, with a subtle twinkle here and there. Or glitter, where any light reflects in constant dazzling waves. So, in effect, the larger the size the further away from glitter you get.
- 1/4 inch - The smallest size many fire glass manufacturers offer. A bag of 1/4 inch glass means there are more bits for the fire to reflect. You get a sparkle closer to glitter than starlight. This size of fire glass sees use in smaller gas fireplaces or log sets and even as an accent in electric fireplace models.
- 1/2 inch - Larger than 1/4 inch glass, 1/2 inch glass is excellent for burners where 1/4 inch may cause a gas blockage. 1/4 inch glass can be packed in more densely than larger sizes. Gas burners that expel a weak flow of gas or have smaller burner ports can be blocked by densely packed glass. At this size, more gas flows through, and it's great for those who need a higher volume of fire glass. Because of the larger size of the glass, you need less volume to cover your gas burner or fireplace.
- 3/4 inch - The largest of the most common sizes of fire glass. 3/4 inch is great for fire pits with high BTU output, and other large-size installs like linear burners. The coverage of a pound of 3/4 inch is more than both 1/4 and 1/2 inch fire glass. Most use 3/4 inch for outdoor fire pits.
- Other sizes and shapes - While searching for fire glass, you'll no doubt find more than the sizes mentioned above. Manufacturers differ in what they make. You'll find glass cubes, droplets, and more, all in different sizes as well. It's up to you to find the right fit, but remember the larger the size of your fire glass, the less dazzling the effect.
What varieties of fire glass are available?
There are many varieties of fire glass available out there like fire gems, diamond nuggets, fire jewels, and fire jewelry. But, in this section, we will highlight the manufacturing process used to make the three most common types: classic, tumbled, and cut.
Once classic glass (also known as rough or crushed glass) is shattered, it goes through a machine to tumble it. This tumbling removes sharp points, and edges that can cut you.
Like classic glass, this gets put in the tumbler. The only difference is that it sits in the tumbler for longer than classic glass. Some manufacturers use sand in their tumbler, which removes all edges and sharp points. Tumbled glass has a look between the rough glass and beaded glass. Tumbled glass typically isn't available in 3/4 inch size.
This is glass cut into rectangular or square shapes. After it's cut, it's also tumbled. Because of the manufacturing process and the unique looks, cut glass is more costly than classic or tumbled glass.
When can you use fire glass?
What heating units work best with fire glass? This question has a simple and yet complex answer. But, for the sake of brevity, let's state the facts first.
Simple fact #1
Do not use fire glass with any wood burning fire pit, fireplace, stove, etc. If it burns wood, keep your glass away from it. Wood burning units create much higher temperatures than electric or gas burning units.
While fire glass will not melt on a gas or electric unit, it will melt in a wood-burning unit. And, you do not want melted glass inside your wood-burning fireplace. We cover the dangers of burning fire glass in wood burning fireplaces in the "Safety" section if you would like to know more.
Simple fact #2
You can use fire glass with certain electric and gas-burning units.
Now that simple facts are finished, let's explain when to use fire glass for those appliances. For some fire pits fire glass can lay directly over the burner. In other outdoor fire units the fire glass sits around the burner. The reasons vary but you must check your users manual for your fire unit to determine the proper way to utilize your fire glass.
The most accessible products to use fire glass with are electric fireplaces. The manufacturers craft electric fireplaces with trays up front to hold fire glass. This tray is often separate from the electrical equipment, which makes it easy to add or remove glass.
Fire glass use with gas appliances works a little differently. Gas burner manufacturers often specify the size and quantity of fireglass to use and indicate how much fire glass you should use to cover the burner. When using a gas appliance, use the owner's manual to prevent issues from improper use of fire glass.
Gas fire pit burners can be equally sensitive. Some manufacturers do not allow glass on the burner at all. For those units, fire glass is an accent. Other fire pit burners have a higher gas flow that can power through any size fire glass without the worry of a blockage. To know for sure, you need to check your owners manual.
How much fire glass do you need?
We know what you're thinking. "All this information is well and good, but how much fire glass should I buy?!" The answer can be a little complex when it comes to outdoor burners and fire pits. But, for indoor gas burners, gas fireplaces, and electric fireplaces, it's easy. The manufacturer states the recommended weight, square foot/cubic foot amount, and size of fire glass needed for each unit. Check your manual, and the information is right there.
For outdoor appliances, it's a little more tricky. Fire pit burners sit above the backer/support pan. The support pan holds the glass, and this is where the complexity lies. An elevated burner assembly 3 inches above a support pan that measures 2 feet by 8 feet will hold a wheelbarrow full of glass. That's a lot of money, which is why there are substrates.
Substrates sit below the burner assembly, creating an elevated platform to place the fire glass. It gives the illusion of a completely filled fire pit but for a fraction of the cost. One common substrate is lava rock. Think of your lava rock and fire glass as a sponge cake. The fire glass is the beautiful, tasty icing. The lava rock is the sponge that holds the icing up.
There are many online fire glass calculators out there from various blogs that will tell you how much glass you need. But, those calculators don't take into account what extra accessories you have or fire glass density. So, those numbers can be inaccurate.
For accurate numbers, determine the depth of fire glass your burner manufacturer says is okay. Often it's anywhere between 1 and 4 inches. If your burner assembly is deeper than 4 inches, fill the rest with the substrate of your choice. Lava rocks or silica sand are great.
Then your best bet is to use your fire glass manufacturers, online calculator, like the one at American Fireglass.
And remember, when using the online calculators, put in the depth that you want your fire glass to cover (again probably anywhere between 1-4 inches). Not the full depth of your unit or you'll get a whopping amount of fire glass recommended to you. Some fire glass calculators take substrate (lava rock) depth into effect. American Fyre Designs notes that on its webpage, for example.
Some fire glass calculators will only tell you how much media to put in their brand of outdoor fire units. For instance, Real Fyre glass calculator determines how much glass you need for Real Fyre burners.
If there was an easy-to-use formula to determine the correct amount of fire glass you need, we would share it. But, there isn't. There are too many manufacturers, with too many accessories, that make a large variety of shapes and sizes of fire glass to create an accurate formula. And while it's frustrating to move from site to site, it's the best way to determine how much fire glass you need without breaking the bank.
What are some alternative fire media options you can add?
Along with fire glass, you can use alternative media and substrates. One we mentioned earlier was lava rock. Lava rock is great to sit under your fire glass. But, some media can add to the ambiance of your fire glass like decorative stones, ceramic spheres, cones, and even cannonballs. There's no shortage of media out there to supplement your fire glass.
These decorative sets work best when set around the burner. Some items like the cannonball can be quite heavy. Placing a heavy object on the burner is not ideal because that could block the flow of gas or damage the burner.
The choices in substrates are numerous as well. The most common are lava rock and silica sand. Both work the same. Lay enough sand or lava rock to cover the entire burner if allowed by the manufacturer (check the manual). Hide the burner from view without overfilling. Then place the fire glass on top.
How should you clean your fire glass?
Taking care of your fire glass may be time-consuming depending on how much fire glass you have, but at least it's super simple. There are no special tools to buy or a task that you have to put on the calendar. When your fire glass starts to lose its luster, take these steps when you see fit.
- Dust the fire glass. If you use your fireplace only during the winter, your glass may gather dust during those spring and summer months.
- Clear away debris. Your outdoor gas fire pit may catch some sticks or leaves after a bout of harsh weather. Get rid of that debris before turning on your fire pit again.
- Wash it. The natural process of time may leave your glass looking a little less shiny than before. If that's the case, create a 50/50 mix of water and vinegar. Remove the fire glass from your appliance and dip into the mix for a short while. Remove it and let it dry. Your fire glass should look like new.
What are some other uses for fire glass?
After you have the perfect fire glass set up, you may have some extra leftover. If you are the quintessential DIY-er, you shouldn't let that extra fire glass sit there. Here are some ideas for those leftovers.
Landscaping - Fire glass comes in all kinds of colors, so you know it's better looking than mulch. The right color will give your yard or garden a great accent.
Aquariums - You've got a lovely home, why can't your fish have the same. Add some fire glass to your little buddy's tank. The glass will not harm him and is a great alternative or addition to the ordinary aquarium gravel.
Potted Plants - Like your garden, you can dress up your potted plants as well. Fire glass will make your plants pop, and there's an added benefit too. The glass will reflect light so the heat will not evaporate all the water sitting on the topsoil.
Stepping stones, flooring, and countertops - If you're a craftsman not afraid of getting dirty with some concrete, fire glass opens up a lot of opportunities. Putting some fire glass into your countertops, flooring, or even your outside stepping stones is a fantastic way to bring some sparkle to the home.
Who are some top manufacturers of fire glass?
- American Fire Glass - AFG supplies high-quality fire glass in a large variety. With AFG, you'll find the most unique forms of fire glass on the market. American Fire Glass products have been featured on HGTV, Bravo, A&E, and more.
- Fire Gear - With Fire Gear, you'll find fire glass, mixed media, along with affordable substrates. While the variety of their fire glass isn't as wide as American Fire Glass, Fire Gear does offer inexpensive lava rock and other media.
- Kingsman - If you have a Kingsman unit, you won't find anything better for you than their fire glass accessories. With Kingsman, you will find their beautiful Zircon collection of glass media. They also make the cannonballs mentioned earlier.
- Real Fyre - If you're looking for affordability and variety, Real Fyre is for you. They offer a large selection of colors, but their size selection is limited. You'll find that Real Fyre offers "nuggets" and "gems" as the staple of their lineup. These are more substantial bits of glass tumbled and polished until smooth.
- Empire - This company offers some of the most affordable fire glass on the market. The glass does not provide size information on its crushed glass, but it does on its other media. When you need a lot of glass check with Empire.
How will your fire glass ship?
Fire glass will usually ship via parcel. Those who buy single bags of the glass don't need to worry about a freight shipment. The bags don't weigh hundreds of pounds, so a parcel shipment is ordinary.
Fire glass can come via freight if bought as a package with a burner or fireplace — also, volume. If you intend to buy huge amounts of fire glass, maybe for multiple linear units outside a hotel or restaurant, expect a freight shipment.
How do you use fire glass safely?
Previously in this article, we touched on some safety tips here and there. Now we are going to take a real look at what you need to watch for when using fire glass.
Never use common glass in place of fire glass. Fire glass is treated and tempered to withstand the heat of your fire appliance.
Common glass will pop or explode, which could harm you or others. It will melt and stink. This melted glob of glass can ruin your fire pit or fireplace.
Do not stick fire glass in a wood-burning fireplace, stove, or fire pit. Yes, fire glass can stand the heat of gas and electric fire units but not wood. The heat released by burning wood is too high for fire glass, and it could melt the glass.
Handle with care. Fire glass is tumbled to get rid of sharp edges, but there are so many bits, one or two could still cut you. Use gloves when you need to handle large amounts of fire glass.
Don't use when wet. Turning the burner on when your fire glass is still wet will cause the fire glass to pop. Let the glass dry before turning on your burner. It's recommended to cover your fire unit to prevent it from getting damp.
Helpful Links and Professional Support
Fire glass is a stand out media for your fireplace or outdoor fire appliance. It's sure to draw eyes, attention, and questions. This article gives you the foundation to answer those questions and a starting point at choosing the fire glass set up right for your home.
If you want to know more or look at the fire glass selection we have available, check out the links below. You can also speak to a certified specialist who can answer all your fire glass questions at 1-800-203-1642.
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Outdoor Fireplace Glass Q&A with the NFI Certified Specialists* Please Note: All customer questions are answered by our NFI Certified Specialists free of charge!
from Little Rock, AR asked:
August 14, 2014
Can fire glass be used with a bio-ethanol burner?
Unfortunately, there will be limitations for this kind of installation. Ethanol burners are generally stainless steel fuel trays with no screen over them. Fire glass could be used in the area around the burner, but there are not separation screens available through the manufacturers we work with that would allow you to cover the burner. Also, testing has not been performed to evaluate the effect of the biofuel byproducts contacting the glass. It is possible that soot or other byproducts could be released.
on August 14, 2014