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What Is a Fireplace Rack and Which One Do You Need?

A fireplace rack, also called a fireplace grate, is an instrument placed inside the firebox to keep the wood or coal off the ground. The main function of the grate is to hold the wood in place and prevent the logs from scorching the floor and walls of your fireplace. 

The rack prevents damages to the chimney walls and floors by keeping the burning wood together in place. By keeping the wood in place, a fireplace rack eliminates the need to readjust the fireplace. But that’s not all. 

What other benefits do you get with a fireplace rack, and how do you know which fireplace rack to get for your fireplace? Let’s go into detail.

What’s a Fireplace Rack or Grate?

A fireplace rack or fireplace grate improves the overall functioning and care of the fireplace. The grate has bars that allow the wood to sit tightly together without giving way while burning. This makes it easier to manage the fireplace without having to deal with burning coals or logs. 

A fireplace rack is a must-have instrument for every homeowner that has a fireplace in their home. Asides from keeping the wood off the floor, a fireplace grate also:

  • Improves the airflow making it possible to have stronger fires. Since the wood is off the floor, the grate allows air to circulate beneath the burning wood, leading to stronger fires.
  • Eliminates smoke problems in the home. Since the wood is elevated, the smoke and fumes go through the chimney rather than enter the home. Remember it’s the heat from the fire you need, not the fumes. The fumes can be dangerous if inhaled into the body system. 
  • Improves the care and maintenance of the fireplace. Since the wood is held together on the rack, you can worry less about burn marks on the floor and walls of your fireplace. This makes it easier to clean the fireplace when necessary. 
  • Makes it easier to light the fire. The increased airflow and elevated wood make it easier to light the fire.
  • Eliminates a major fire hazard. Without a fireplace grate, there is a chance hot logs will roll out of the fireplace into the home. As the logs burn up, the bottom logs can shift causing the entire stack to give way. When this happens, the hot logs at the top of the stack can roll out and start a fire.

For an instrument to be able to hold burning wood together without experiencing damages, the instrument has to be made from strong materials. So what materials make fireplace grates? Let’s find out.

What Are the Materials That Make Fireplace Grates?

Fireplace grates or racks are usually made from different materials such as steel and cast iron. These materials are always strengthened to cope with the intense heat of the fireplace. This makes the grate last longer without damages. Fireplace grates are usually made from one of the following:

  • Cast iron. Many fireplace grates are made from cast iron. There are different types of cast iron fireplace grates. Cast iron grates are differentiated by the weight of the grate and the size of the gap at the bottom of the grate. 
  • Steel. Some fireplace grates are made from hardened steel. Just like the cast iron grates, there are different types of steel grates too. Steel grates are differentiated by the thickness of the bars and the number of bars on the grate. Steel grates are more suited to burning wood. 
  • Fireplace grate heaters. Grate heaters give a whole new meaning to fireplace grates. The grate heater, also known as a fireplace heat exchanger, draws in air using a fan and then the fire heats the air while tubes return the hot air into the home. 

Traditionally, cast iron grates are used to burn coal, but there are improved models today that are designed to burn wood. So how do you know the difference? We’ll get to that in just a bit.

Fireplace grate heaters are made from steel tubing, and they can be used to burn both wood and coal. 

Now you know the types of fireplace grate heaters out there, but how do you know which to buy? Keep reading to know more.

What Size Fireplace Grate Do You Need?

The size of the fireplace grate you need is determined by the size of your fireplace. Fireplace grates come in different designs and sizes. Before you walk into the hardware store to buy a fireplace grate or shop online, you need to know the size of the fireplace grate that would fit in your fireplace. 

To know that, you need to measure the fireplace. Let’s check out how you do that.

How to Measure for Fireplace Grates

To measure for a fireplace grate, you need measuring tape, a sheet of paper to write on, and a pen or pencil to write. 

Start by measuring the front width. This is the width of the front or entrance of the fireplace. Then measure the width of the back of the fireplace and write down the measurements. Make sure to get as far back as possible to get the back width.

You should know that by looking at the fireplace, the front should be wider than the back. Your measurements should confirm that.

After you’re done with the width, measure the depth of the fireplace. This is the distance from the front or entrance to the back of the fireplace floor.

After writing down the correct measurements, you need to subtract 6 from them. Let’s assume the measurement for the front width was 42 inches. You need to subtract 6 from 42. That will give you 36 inches. This is the new front width of your fireplace. Do this for the back width and depth as well. 

The reason for subtracting 6 is to allow maximum clearance for the fireplace grate. The extra space will make it easier to insert and remove the grate while also increasing airflow. 

When you have subtracted 6 from the front width, back width, and depth, you can use the new figures to shop for a fireplace grate but that’s not all. Which fireplace grate is the best option for you? There is an expert way to find out below.

What’s the Best Fireplace Grate?

There is no specific fireplace grate that is the best for everyone. The best grate for your fireplace depends on the following factors:

  • Your budget. How much are you willing to spend on a grate? The heavier or thicker the fireplace grate is, the costlier the price.
  • The fuel you intend to burn. Will you be burning wood or coal? If you need a grate for burning wood, then you should go for a steel grate. The bars are specially designed to burn wood. For wood, buy the grate with the most bars. More bars equal more balance and support to the wood. If coal is your choice, then you should get a cast iron fireplace grate. For coal, ensure the gaps at the bottom of the cast iron grate aren’t too wide. You only need small gaps for air so the coals don’t fall to the ground. 
  • The size of your fireplace. The size dimensions of your fireplace determine the grate to buy.
  • Your burning routine. For daily use of the fireplace, you need a grate that is very thick, heavy, and strong. A light grate will get damaged quickly if used daily.

When you consider the following factors, you will find it easy to figure out the best grate for you. For instance, let’s assume I want to burn coal twice a week in my fireplace, and I have $80 to spend on a fireplace grate. 

This means a cast iron grate with small gaps and moderate weight will be the best fireplace grate for me as long as it doesn’t cost more than $80. I’m sure you get the gist. 

Need More Help?

You can always ask us here at Fireplace Tips, but you should know the other resources available to you! Here are the resources we recommend.

  • Chimney Safety Institute of North America (CSIA): The CSIA is your BEST resource for fireplace and chimney safety at home. They’re a non-profit governed by a volunteer board of directors dedicated to the education, training, and certification of chimney and industry related professionals.
  • Self-Sufficiency and Off-Grid: If you’re like me and passionate about off-grid and self-sufficiency, see my number 1 resource—Abundance Plus. Check out their Frugal Homesteading Course on growing 90% of your own food. Get 7-days free and 10% off with the code: TYLER10