Are you in the market for a new fireplace grate or just looking to learn about them? You've come to the right place. There are many different fireplace grates out there, and there are a few factors to consider when picking the right one for your hearth. This article will help you find the right grate to fit your needs.
What are Fireplace Grates?
Fireplace grates are the metal log or fuel holder that sits directly on the fireplace hearth, holding the logs up to improve the flow of oxygen to the fire. As the fire burns, the ash falls through the grate onto the hearth floor and gives your fire a clean and healthy output by allowing the ember bed to keep burn temperatures higher.
Why Get One?
Fireplace grates are a great addition because they improve the lifespan of your fireplace, provide a better quality burn, and lighten the workload of maintaining the fire. How do they do all this? We'll explain.
When logs or coal sits on a fireplace grate, you get an efficient fire with more pleasing flames. That's because, as we mentioned earlier, a grate improves oxygen flow to your fire, which makes your fire easier to start. And when you keep the fire off the floor, you also help draft the smoke directly into the chimney, rather than into your house. In some cases, you can fix a smoky fireplace with a grate. A fireplace grate will also keep the heat off the floor of your fireplace which in turn adds to the lifespan of your hearth.
A grate will also make your fireplace cleaner and easier to maintain. Each grate has small gaps or holes between its bars, allowing only small sections of logs and embers to fall through. These small pieces will burn down to a fine ash, allowing you to quickly and easy scoop them away for cleaning. Also, grates have upturned ends, meaning logs are always falling toward the fire and not out of the fireplace.
But I Already Have a Grate
So you've bought a fireplace and the manufacturer provided you with a grate, right? Well, this is common. Factory grates are usually low cost models that offer very little log control. In some cases those models do have upturned grate fingers that keep logs from accidentally escaping the fireplace, however, they don't come with rear fingers in most cases. Which means your logs will roll off the grate and hit the back wall of the fireplace. These impacts can cause the liner of the fireplace to crack.
There is one advantage though; factory grates are attached to grate retainers that keep the grate in place. So when you move the grate upward, you can easily remove embers. But remember, factory grates are usually of a simple design and usually only work well for artificial logs. If you plan on burning cordwood, an upgrade is definitely in your future.
Before You Buy
Now before you purchase a fireplace grate, there a few things to keep in mind. You'll need the right size grate for your hearth. And you need to determine what type of grate would work best for you. Once that's finished you should learn about the brand you're going to put your trust in. But never fear, we're going to do all that right now, quick and easy.
The Right Size
Measuring for your fireplace grate is a simple process. If your fireplace or stove did not come with a grate, the following steps can be followed to determine which size grate you require:
- Measure the width at the front and back of the opening.
- Measure the depth.
- Subtract 6 inches from each measurement.
With your measurements in hand, you can start your search for a grate that matches your numbers. A properly sized grate will allow at least a 3 inch buffer zone on all sides. If the numbers or one set of numbers don't fit exactly, go smaller. See, easy.
Standard Steel Bar Stock Grate — These are also called open grates, and these steel bar stock units are considered your low-cost basic model. They have no ember mesh but consist of square steel bar grate fingers welded across support legs.
Stainless Steel Bar Stock Grate — Following the same design of the standard bar grate, this version trades carbon steel for 304 or 430 grade stainless steel. This type of grate can be used indoors or outdoors. They are ideal for outdoor applications where both fireplace use and weather team together against grate longevity.
Diamond Cross Section Steel Grate with Ember Mesh — With this style, you'll see larger steel bars forged into a diamond cross section which increases tensile strength, and prolongs the lifespan of the grate. The cross-section steel grate have an expanded mesh tray welded to the bottom of the grate. This mesh can hold coals close to your fuel logs keeping the temperatures high for a better burn.
Cast Iron Basket Grates — These basket grates are designed to work similar to an ember mesh tray. But instead of a mesh grid, this grate has small openings in the base which allow embers to drop through. This puts larger coals closer to the fuel. A basket grate is excellent for wood burning or coal appliances, and most are single piece designs so there are no welds or fasteners that could fail.
Purpose Built Self Feeding Grates — Alright, so what's a "self-feeding grate"? They are any grate designed to keep logs or coal moving to the center. These grates have a steep concave design, so the fuel is always centered, keeping the fire compact and hot. Usually, self-feeding grates are cast iron, but there are tapered steel bar grates as well that perform the same function.
The Best Brands
Uniflame — If you can't spend too much, look at Uniflame. They have a wide range of sturdy fireplace grates that won't break the bank.
Panacea — This brand has been around for more than five decades, crafting a variety of fireplace products. Many people throughout the years have put their trust in a Panacea grate.
Pleasant Hearth — Not only does Pleasent Hearth make fireplace grates, but they also make doors, screens, and much more. The company tests their products to meet the standards in durability and quality. If you're looking at purchasing more than one fireplace accessory but don't want the hassle of searching here and there, Pleasent Hearth may be for you.
Vestal Manufacturing — In business for more than 65 years, Vestal Manufacturing crafts a variety of fireplace accessories made from cast iron and steel bar. US-based, this company puts its focus on quality above all else.
Pilgrim — This manufacturer currently crafts one of the nations best selling fireplace grates. A product from Pilgrim is built heavy, with strong welds, and smooth seams. Pilgrim is so confident in its product they offer a lifetime warranty with purchase.
When you order your fireplace grate, expect the package to come parcel. While grates are heavy, they ship based on their dimensions. When you receive the package, carefully check your grate for damage. If you find something, report it immediately. That's because some manufacturers only cover issues found shortly after purchase.
Caring For Your Fireplace/Lifespan
Now that you have your grate it's crucial to care for it. But first, the lifespan of each grate differs, and we'll go into that here.
- Standard use fireplaces should see steel bar stock grates last about three seasons before you need to replace it.
- If you've got a diamond cross-section steel grate, it should last about a decade.
- Cast iron basket grates will last you anywhere between 5 to 7 years if you're using wood, with coal, expect it last 2-3 years.
- Self-feeding grates will last between 4-5 years.
Now that you know how long your grate should last, it's up to you to make sure it hits those expectations. But there is one note: if your fireplace sees heavy use, check your grate for damage at least once a week. Now that's out of the way, here are some general care tips for your grate.
- When cleaning, knock off chunks of ash first.
- Use a wire brush to clear away smaller ash clumps.
- Dampen a rag and rinse any remaining material you find. (Only use water, as cleaning agents may leave a residue that can be poisonous when it burns off.)
- Let it dry.
Beyond that, be sure to check the owners manual and warranty information for anything special your grate may require.
You know how to find the right grate for your fireplace, how to accurately measure for your grate, the best brands to look into, and how to take care of your grate. You are all set to browse our top selection of fireplace grates with the knowledge you'll make the right choice. Here are some helpful links to get you started: