Looking for options to add or replace doors for your fireplace? You've come to the right place. Here's an overview of what you need to know about fireplace doors. This guide will cover the types available to you and explain how to find one that fits your fireplace. It will also provide some basic installation tips and safety precautions.
Fireplace doors offer a stylish way to protect your home from flying embers and sparks to improve the overall heat efficiency of your fires. However, you can't just slap on any doors you want. Installing the wrong doors is a major safety hazard. So, whether you are replacing old doors or adding doors to an open fireplace, these guidelines will help ensure you make the right selection.
Masonry vs. Prefabricated Fireplace Doors
Choosing the right doors starts with determining what type of fireplace you have. Masonry fireplaces are built on-site at your home and are usually constructed from stone or brick. Prefabricated fireplaces (also known as slide-ins) are factory-built fireplaces. They are installed in a framed opening in your wall.
Fireplace Doors for Masonry Fireplaces
Doors for on-site masonry fireplaces come in a wide array of styles and customizable options. Since the openings on masonry fireplaces vary from home to home, the doors are designed with a mounting frame that accommodates a range of sizes. The width of the frame covers the gap between the glass doors and the edge of the masonry.
The idea is for the opening of the fireplace to be slightly wider than the glass doors (so you can't see the edge of the masonry through the glass). It should also be slightly smaller than the width of the surrounding door frames. This ensures there is no gap between the outside of the frame and the edge of the masonry.
As mentioned, masonry fireplace doors come with several options. In addition to bi-fold and cabinet style doors, there are also models with sliding barn-door glass panels. The tempered glass panels come in a variety of colors and tints and you can even select mesh curtain or panel add-ons.
We'll talk about the use of air-limiting gasket doors later on in the article, but this is yet another option for masonry fireplace doors.
Standard vs. Custom Masonry Fireplace Doors
Standard doors are the most basic and cost-effective option. Designed to fit a range of pre-set sizes, they typically have bi-fold doors and feature a limited number of color and style options.
Custom doors, on the other hand, come in a wider variety. Each door is custom made to exact measurements. You can choose an arched, bi-fold, cabinet-style, or barn-door style, depending on your preference and the shape of your fireplace. Other style options include finishes on handles, metal overlays, glass colors, and mesh screen types. The possibilities are endless, but not surprisingly this custom option is more expensive and may take longer to receive (4 to 8 weeks on average).
Fireplace Doors for Factory Built Fireplaces
Unlike masonry fireplaces, prefabricated fireplaces usually require model-specific doors. In most cases, your only option is to find doors made by the same manufacturer as the fireplace to get doors built that will fit. This ensures that the doors match your fireplace in terms of size and mounting style. It also guarantees the right amount of airflow to keep your fireplace safe.
Typically prefab doors come in two configurations: bi-fold and cabinet-style. Compared to masonry fireplace doors, the style and color variations are limited. You often have to settle on what the manufacturer has available for your fireplace model.
What if I can't find fireplace glass doors for my fireplace model?
So what happens if you need to replace doors on a model that has been discontinued? And, what if you can't find any fireplace doors made specifically for your fireplace model?
If your fireplace has been discontinued, check with your manufacturer to see if they offer a retrofit kit. These kits allow you to purchase new doors and retrofit them to your discontinued model.
There are also universal door kits available. But, be careful if you decide to go with this option since there are limitations and restrictions. Doors in these kits are used mainly for aesthetics. Most manufacturers require universal doors to be left open when operating the fireplace. This is because the doors are not fine-tuned to your specific model and could restrict airflow, creating a safety hazard. You'll also want to check with your insurance company. Some insurers refuse to provide coverage on fireplaces outfitted with universal door kits.
How To Use Fireplace Doors on Wood Burning Fireplaces
When operating your wood-burning fireplace, the doors can either be fully open or fully shut. So, which is best? It depends on your intended goal, but here is a list of pros and cons for each option.
Fully Open Doors
Increased flame visibility
Reduces wear and tear on the doors
Lower heat efficiency since the draft causes heat loss to the chimney
Requires more fuel to sustain
Fully Closed Doors
Keeps sparks and flying embers contained
Prevents objects or small children from direct access to the fire
Improves heat efficiency by radiating more heat into the home
Requires less fuel
Provides supplemental heat to reduce heating expenses
Decreased flame visibility
Higher firebox temperatures
May require more frequent maintenance
Increases soot buildup on doors and overall wear and tear
Add-Ons: Air-Limiting Gaskets
Air-limiting gaskets are allowed for use on masonry fireplace doors ONLY. Prefabricated fireplace doors have tempered glass that is prone to shattering under intense heat. This makes them unsuitable for air-limiting gaskets.
NOTE: If planning to close the fireplace doors during operation, we recommend keeping them open during the first 15 minutes. This allows the radiant heat of the fire to heat the glass panes gradually.
What Are Air-Limiting Gaskets?
Standard fireplace doors (both for masonry and prefab models) have a small gap between the glass panels to let in air from the room. This keeps the glass and flue temperatures a little lower.
However, some masonry fireplaces are equipped with glass that is safe at high temperatures. In that case, it is possible to outfit the doors with air-limiting gaskets that reduce the amount of air the doors let in from the room. The limited airflow allows the fire to burn more efficiently, creating more heat while using less fuel.
But there's a catch. It isn't safe to operate closed, gasket-fitted doors unless you have a combustion air source. So, what's a combustion air source? Usually, it's a pipe that runs from your fireplace to the open air outside. The dedicated air source helps keep the burn from rising to dangerous temperatures. In older fireplaces, it's not always feasible to connect a pipe from outside. For these, there is another option. Older models use air inlet vents in the doors to provide combustion air. These vents are typically located in a riser bar that sits directly beneath the main door assembly.
How To Use Fireplace Doors on Gas Fireplaces
Leave your fireplace doors fully open when operating a gas-fueled masonry fireplace. This includes units with vented or vent-free gas log sets or gas burners.
When using gas fuel, fireplace doors are really just for aesthetics and should only be closed when the fireplace is not in use. Closing the doors during the operation of a gas-fueled masonry fireplace may cause the flames to become erratic. In a prefabricated model, it can lead to overheating, which can damage the gas burner or gas logs.
Important Codes and Regulations
Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. (UL) is the organization responsible for developing the safety standards and certification for prefabricated fireplaces. To achieve certification, prefab fireplaces and their components undergo rigorous testing. This ensures they are safe and meet the required codes.
In particular, the UL127 code outlines the minimum safety standards for the operation of prefab fireplaces. It also details the warning language that fireplace manufacturers must use in relation to doors and other components.
It is possible, however, that your fireplace manufacturer does not make doors for your type of fireplace. In cases where manufacturers do not make doors, they may still approve the use of universal doors.
While this scenario is rare, it is possible only if the manufacturer had its fireplace tested with universal doors. It is also possible that the manufacturer did not undergo UL testing with doors at all. So, if your fireplace does not come with the option of UL-certified doors, it may not be safe to add them. You should read the manufacturer's instructions carefully. You can also check with a fireplace professional to make sure you choose a safe option.
The UL127 code states that prefabricated fireplaces must always be operated with the doors either fully open or fully closed. If you prefer to have the doors closed during operation, we recommend you allow the glass doors to warm up first. This means you'll need to keep the doors open when starting a fire, closing them after 10-15 minutes.
The International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) governs the safety and use of both prefabricated and masonry fireplaces. The IECC works with the U.S. Department of Energy to establish standards, codes, and regulations for fireplaces.
One noteworthy change in the IECC is the revision made to the 2012 regulations. The amended 2012 code eliminated the need for gasketed doors on all masonry fireplaces, as required in the 2009 version. The 2009 gasket-door requirements sparked confusion. It also proved to be a safety hazard since not all masonry fireplace doors could withstand the increased heat.
The newer 2012 regulations were less rigid. They stated that, if using gasketed doors, the fireplace must have a combustion air inlet. Now, all fireplaces under EPA regulations must have a combustion air inlet of some sort. As noted above, this could mean a pipe that pulls air from outside the home to supply the fire, or a vent panel called a riser in the base of the door.
How To Install Fireplace Doors
How To Install Fireplace Doors on a Factory-Built Fireplace
Prefab doors have two main installation options depending on the type of doors:
Bi-fold doors with spring pins or unit-mounted springs. These doors are easy to install and rely on the existing holes in the fireplace front and the center guide attached to the fireplace.
Universal fit or cabinet-style doors. These are the most difficult to install. Most cabinet doors arrive already attached to the frame. But if not, simply follow the manufacturer's instructions to attach them using whatever brackets or fasteners are provided.
Attaching the frame of the doors to the fireplace opening usually involves drilling. You'll need a drill to create pilot holes in the proper locations on the frame. After this, you can fasten the frame to the fireplace opening.
Always make sure to read all the instructions before beginning the installation process!
How To Install Fireplace Doors on a Masonry Fireplace
Masonry fireplace doors consist of a mounting frame and attachable doors with hardware. The mounting frame runs along the perimeter of the fireplace opening. It can be either 3-sided (if the fireplace sits directly on the hearth) or 4-sided (if the fireplace has no hearth).
The mounting frame holds the weight of the doors and may include insulation strips to seal the small gap between the frame and the front of the masonry.
The door kit will also include mounting hardware for the doors and frame consisting of clamps and/or brackets.
As mentioned above, there are a wide variety of options for fireplace door styles. So, you may run into one or more of these challenges:
Challenge 1: Installing fireplace doors with an uneven hearth
The hearth in front of the fireplace elevated higher than the base of the fireplace
In this case, you may have a difficult time finding doors to fit because there is not enough clearance. If you have this kind of hearth, or a different type of irregularly shaped fireplace opening, consult one of our professionals. They'll help you sort through your custom options.
Challenge 2: Installing fireplace doors on a stone surface
An uneven surface around the masonry fireplace opening
If the brick or stone is uneven, there will be gaps between the mounting frame and the front of the fireplace. One option is to trace an outline of the frame and use a grinder to smooth down the edge that the frame will sit against. Note: that this is NOT recommended for material like slate that splits or shatters easily.
If grinding is not preferred, another option is to spread (screed) a thin layer of refractory cement along the edge to create a smooth surface.
The final step for installing a masonry or prefabricated fireplace door is to adjust the glass door spacing. If your fireplace is not perfectly square and level, the doors may hang at slightly different angles. This will create an uneven gap between them instead of an even, parallel gap.
Thankfully, most doors are equipped with special adjustment screws to fine-tune the spacing. Follow the directions within the installation manual to locate the screws and adjust the glass panes as needed. Make sure you use extra caution to prevent the glass from slipping out of the frame and breaking.
Glass fireplace doors are usually shipped in a typical parcel shipment. That is unless they are wider than 48 inches or weigh 85 pounds or more. Larger units must be shipped via LTL freight.
The doors are obviously fragile, so they are packed with care to prevent any damage. Even with all the careful packing, it is important to inspect the shipment as soon as it arrives. You'll want to make sure there are no damages (including scuffs or marks on the glass) or missing parts. If you do find anything wrong, contact the manufacturer immediately.
How To Clean Fireplace Glass and Wood Stove Glass
Keeping the glass clean is essential to seeing your cozy fire inside the fireplace. First, wait until the glass and fireplace are completely cool. Then, use a water-based fireplace cleaner and a cotton cloth to wipe away the ash and soot. You can also use a mixture of vinegar, water, and wood ash from the fireplace to clean the glass.
But, DO NOT use any ammonia-based cleaners.
Fireplace doors make a great addition to your fireplace, both for aesthetics and for added heat efficiency. Just make sure you do your homework to find the right doors.
If you have a prefab, factory-built fireplace, you'll want to find doors made specifically for your make and model of fireplace. If this isn't an option, you may be able to find a retrofit or universal door kit. But remember, if unsure, seek a professional opinion to ensure you stay safe.
Masonry fireplaces have more glass door options. Try not to underestimate the difficulty involved when working with uneven masonry or non-standard openings. Also, research the type of doors you are getting to make sure you have the proper air combustion source.
In the end, the main goal of all this planning and research is safety. It's best to have beautiful doors that function properly for years to come. So, it's worth the extra time upfront. As always, our NFI Certified Techs are more than happy to answer any questions you might have!
Depending on your unit, there are a few places the manufacturer information may be located. The first location would be a metal plate that is on the left or right side of the smoke shelf bracket, right at the top of the fireplace front opening. The next place would be just on the inside of the opening, behind the fireplace screens on the left or right side. The last location would be in the void space underneath the fireplace floor. This can be accessed either through the front of the unit's louvers or through a removable floor panel underneath the bottom refractory.
Submitted by:Tyler M. - NFI Master Hearth Professional on August 3, 2020
My fireplace 3/16 inch glass panels slip out of the frames. What can be used to secure them? Fiberglass and glue kit?
The fiberglass tape gasket we offer is made for replacing the gasketing around the window of a wood stove and this material is much thicker gasket than what would be used in the frames of wood fireplace doors.
Do you have any glass doors made by Fireplace Manf. Inc, for model 36ECM?
Sorry, those doors are no longer being made (for a while) and we no longer have any in our inventory. You can try and find someone with new/old stock or use an aftermarket enclosure kit like the Princeton Doors.
I currently have a majestic part no mbd42-brs and I would like to replace the whole front with a more modern looking one in a different color do you have any suggestions as I bought one at home depot and it did not fit please advise
Unfortunately, we do not carry parts that would be a suitable replacement for the front of your unit. I apologize for any inconvenience.
I am looking at your glass doors with the slide screens inside for a masonry fireplace. I was told that you couldn't have a fire burning and close the glass doors without buying a more expensive glass. The PDF manual for the doors say to close them when exiting the room or retiring for the night. Can the doors be shut while the fire is in normal burn or must they be open until the fire goes down?
The glass doors can indeed be closed while the fire is still burning, however we recommend to cease adding fuel at least an hour before you intend to close them. The doors will be warm enough to prevent thermal shock, which could lead to breakage.