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How to Raise a Fireplace Lintel

Fireplaces are a wonderful element in any home. The warmth and atmosphere they help create is truly unmatched. 

You may have plans to make some changes to them. You could be wondering whether it’s possible to raise the fireplace lintel. If yes, how do you do it? 

In this article, you will find answers to the following:

  • Can I raise a fireplace lintel?
  • How do I make a fireplace opening taller?
  • How high should a fireplace lintel be?
    • What is the standard sizing of the fireplace opening?
  • How to raise a fireplace lintel
    • What you’ll need
    • Step-by-step guide

Can I raise a fireplace lintel?

Lintels act as support beams that provide structural integrity to the above chimney. It may be a wooden, concrete or steel lintel or an arched brick lintel. In any case, you can raise a fireplace lintel but it will be best to get it done by a certified chimney technician or builder.

Chimney technicians or builders must be familiar with fireplaces and better equipped to carry out such tasks. 

While the process isn’t so complicated in theory, it’s a task best suited for professionals with engineering knowledge. During the entire process of removing bricks and moving the lintel, the above chimney structure is left vulnerable. Therefore, it must be temporarily supported and propped up at all times until the restoration is complete. 

Also, stone properties differ considerably from the rest. Stone doesn’t have the tensile strength of brick to support the chimney above. Hence, in case you wish to move the lintel higher in a stone property, you should consult a professional well acquainted with handling such jobs. 

How do I make a fireplace opening taller?

You can make a fireplace opening taller by moving the lintel bar a few inches up the chimney breast. 

The important thing to keep in mind is that fireplaces are designed to create an optimum environment for wood-burning. The dimensions of a firebox and the surrounding structure are decided upon by designers to create the perfect setting for the fire to burn most efficiently along with the removal of the smoke and flue gases.

The total size of the opening, mainly the width and height of the lintel bar, needs to be carefully considered before beginning this project as they play a pivotal role in the overall structural stability of the chimney.

Changing the dimensions of the opening should, therefore, be approved by a builder or chimney inspector. They will be able to check that the new height of the opening is still optimum for wood burning and doesn’t give way to smoke moving into the house instead of being drawn upwards. 

How high should a fireplace lintel be?

The height of a fireplace lintel is determined by the height of the opening and the overall size of the entire fireplace and chimney structure. 

The standard height of a fireplace opening averages between 24 and 29 inches. The lintel should be placed at the top, across the length of the opening, with an offset of 4-6 inches overlaps on each side. 

If you wish to install stoves, the lintel height should be at least 37 cm above the top of the stove to provide enough clearance for installing the two elbows of the stove.

What is the standard sizing of the fireplace opening?

The standard fireplace opening averages between:

  • 24 – 36 inches in width, running up to 48 inches;
  • 24 – 29 inches in height, running up to 32 inches;
  • about 16 inches in depth, running up to 18 inches. 

The firebox has a trapezoidal profile with the front face converging towards the rear wall. To give you an idea, the rear wall of the firebox rises vertically up to 14 inches and then begins to slant towards the opening. The side walls are also vertical. The rear of the firebox should be 11-23 inches wide at a maximum of 33 inches.

The bottom of the damper, which is a small mechanism used to seal the chimney when the fireplace is not in use, should be at a minimum of 8 inches above the top of the opening. If it’s not situated at or above 8 inches, you may have to deal with smoke in your room. 

How to raise a fireplace lintel?

Preferably, you should contact a chimney technician or builder for this entire project. But if you wish to take the DIY route, check whether the changes you’ll be making comply with local and state building regulations for fireplaces. 

Building regulations have specifications for fireplaces to reduce the risks of hazardous incidents triggered by smoke or fire. It will save you a lot of inconveniences to get this step out of the way before beginning work. 

Building regulations ensure that fireplaces have:

  • Proper ventilation – improper ventilation can cause smoke and other flue gases to mix into your indoor space, giving rise to unpleasant conditions. 
  • Structurally sound chimney and flue – chimneys could be blocked, or of the wrong size, or be in need of renovation. It’s best to get your chimney inspected from time to time anyway. 

Finding out the nitty-gritty details of the regulations would be a hassle. You could use the help of an experienced professional for this. 

Now it’s time to make preparations to raise the fireplace lintel. Let’s get started!

What you’ll need

You will need a few tools and the necessary personal protective equipment to keep yourself safe. Dust and rubble are an inevitable part of the project so better secure yourself well. 

You will need the following:

  • Safety goggles and gloves
  • An SDS-type drill with a chisel attachment and hammer function
  • A masonry chisel and hammer if you don’t wish to use drills
  • Mortar – traditional sand and cement or rapid set mortar
  • Spirit level to check the alignment of the lintel bar

You will also be removing a lot of bricks to move the lintel. So, keeping a bucket or container to collect the bricks will come in handy. 

Step-by-step guide

Before you move on, make sure the gas or electric fire lines are disconnected from the supply. If you currently have a small open fire, chances are you might have firebacks and back boilers. A back boiler is a metal box with two pipe connections to a cylinder.

If in doubt, contact a plumber to handle the back boiler, as mishandling it could lead to spillage. It’ll be a safer alternative to remove these two.

Also, don’t forget to protect your nearby belongings. Relocate whatever you can from the vicinity of the area and cover the rest. Now, let’s get down to the actual process. 

  1. Go with a chisel and hammer pair or the drill with the hammer function for this.
  2. Start with gently chiseling away at the plaster from the top of the opening (on any side) and work your way upward. 
  3. Soon enough, you’ll find the lintel towards the top of the opening. Keep chiseling around the corner brick area of the lintel bar until you can safely remove it from its position. 
  4. Remove the bricks until you reach your decided height where you want to place your lintel bar.
  5. Then, remove a brick or half a brick on each side at that level to make space for the lintel. 

(If the fireplace opening is more than a meter wide, you will need acrow props to support the exposed brick area. Acrow props are used to support lintels and load-bearing walls while new openings are constructed. A fireplace opening less than that can be supported with a makeshift tower of bricks or timber cutoffs during the lintel installation.)

  • Apply a layer of mortar on each side of the opening where you must have removed the half bricks. Slide your lintel into position and check to ensure it’s straight using a spirit level. Keep your lintels supported from underneath using a pillar of bricks or timber rods until it’s set. 
  • Once it’s set, apply plaster over the exposed brick and mortar and apply paint. 

Your renovated fireplace is ready for use!

Takeaway

A raised lintel can dramatically enhance the size and look of your fireplace. Don’t shy away from it fearing the hassles of construction. Be it a DIY project or one that professionals help you with, raising the lintel of your fireplace could turn out to be a really worthwhile project. 

NOTE FROM the author

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