How to Choose a Fireback: Steel or Iron?

Stainless Steel Reflective Fireback

What is a Fireback?

A fireplace fireback back is a simple and historic innovation that dramatically increases the amount of heat your fireplace emits into your home. The back wall of a fireplace absorbs and retains a great deal of heat. A fireback instead radiates that heat outward to warm the home. In addition, by protecting the back wall of the fireplace from the intense heat of the fire, a fireback prevents decay of the fireplace masonry. Find out how to choose a fireback that suits your needs and style.

Cast Iron Firebacks

Fireplace firebacks were, in generations past, always made of cast iron. They take in the heat of the fire and send it back out into the room, much like an old-fashioned iron radiator. Cast iron fireplace firebacks are made in a wide range of sizes. They can accommodate any kind of fireplace, from that of a small apartment to the large hearth of a colonial mansion.

 Fireback in fireplace

Cast iron firebacks are often cast with a decorative motif, such as a wildlife scene, a commemorative pictorial, or even a coat of arm. Cast iron firebacks are sturdy and do their job well, but because they are solid cast iron, they are very heavy.  Their weight makes it a challenge for some people to move and place them, and shipping tends to be very costly as well.

Stainless Steel Firebacks

In the early 21st century, stainless steel firebacks emerged, literally shedding new light on fireback innovation. Because their surfaces are more reflective—sometimes polished to a mirror surface— they add an additional element of brightness when sitting behind a fire. Stainless steel firebacks are much lighter than those made of cast iron, so they are easier to ship, deliver, install and adjust. They are also more affordable, being priced at about half the cost of similarly sized cast iron fireback. Stainless steel firebacks are so effective that they are not recommended for gas fireplaces, because the heat can be magnified so much as to damage gas valves.

stainless steel firebacks

Stainless steel firebacks are simple and modern, and fit well in contemporary houses. The mirrored finish can significantly increase both the heat and the light reflected back into the home.

The most recent addition to the world of firebacks are black stainless steel firebacks. They have more of the aesthetics of the cast iron firebacks but some of the weight and cost advantages of the stainless steel firebacks.

black stainless steel fireback

How to Choose a Fireback

All three types of firebacks are designed to make the fireplace put out more heat. For those with wood fireplaces, the choice mainly comes down to style. For gas fireplaces, cast iron is the safe choice.

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Tom has been writing for the blog since 2011 and has loved sitting in front of the fireplace since he was an itty-bitty boy.

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3 comments on “How to Choose a Fireback: Steel or Iron?
  1. Nice productive information posted on Cast Iron Fireplaces got quite a lot of knowledge about this please do continue sharing.

  2. frank says:

    I have a wood burning fireplace with air tight doors, it is a queen air model with blowers. I have never thought that I get the heat I should get from it, especially burning mostly hedge. Would a fireback help me generate more heat and thus burn less wood?

    • Tom says:

      I think it would be a good idea to talk with the manufacturer of your fireplace and blowers. They may be able to help with this specific model.

      In general, a cast iron fireback can store heat and radiate it back into the room, even for a while after the fire goes out.
      A stainless steel fireback reflects some of the heat back into the room while the fire is burning. Neither a cast iron nor a stainless steel fireback would cause the fireplace to burn less wood. A stainless steel fireback may put some additional heat back into the room if the doors to the fireplace are open. There’s no way to predict how much benefit your would get from a fireback, although it should help.

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