If you like movies of the Old West, one of the things that stands out when the spacious houses are shown is the fireplace. How often have you seen the hero in the spaghetti Western leaning on the fireplace mantel contemplating his next move?
Fireplaces also were seen inside even the smallest cabins, mostly because the residents needed some heat, and a fireplace was the only way to keep warm.Today, although they can cost several thousand dollars, fireplaces mainly are for cosmetic purposes because people rely on their furnaces for heat. But it is nice to sit next to the fireplace on a snowy evening and enjoy a fire.
Building a fireplace is best left in the hands of experts, either stonemasons or brickmasons, although some people have tackled the job themselves to save large amounts of money.
One such stonemason is Ken Jorgensen, who lived in Jackson, Wyo., until five years ago and moved to Salt Lake City to continue his trade. His stonework credits are lengthy in that tourist-oriented community.
A prefabricated firebox (they used to be laid by hand with fire brick) is installed first, and the wall partitions are heavily reinforced to hold the weight of the fireplace rather than have the weight on the floor.
Jorgensen starts his work with rock from the mouth of Weber Canyon, cobblestone, flagstone, moss-covered slide rock or algae-covered rock from Wyoming. He demonstrated his trade in an expensive house in the Shenandoah Subdivision at 6400 South and 1600 East built by Paul Hamilton.
When necessary, the rock is split by hand to expose the interesting patterns inside, and he uses a carbide-tipped chisel to trim the edges.
Starting at the bottom and using dry cement mix so when it dries out there is little shrinkage, Jorgensen lays the stone for the hearth. In this particular house, the split Weber River rocks hold up a flagstone hearth.
From there he picks out the rocks and starts a pattern. He doesn't want all of the large rocks on one side and neither does he want all one color on one side. That means he thinks several rocks ahead. In some instances a wooden mantel is screwed to the wall so he works his way up to and around the mantel, finishing off the top, many times at the ceiling.
It takes Jorgensen about three days to complete the average fireplace, which is 8-feet wide and 91/2-feet tall. Of the more than 700 fireplaces he has done in the past 20 years, the biggest was a 14-foot-by-25-foot number in a hunting lodge in Afton, Wyo., that had waterfalls on both sides.
Another fireplace artisan is Gary Fulton, who calls himself a brickmason because he lays brick fireplaces that can have borders and protruding bricks on which the homeowners can display flowers, pictures or knick-knacks. Fulton said he often does borders on fireplaces and likes brick because it is neat and orderly.
He also installs the prefabricated fireboxes and the clay flue liners, everything to make the fireplace decorative and safe.
Closely related to the traditional fireplaces are gas-burning fireplaces, wood-burning fireplaces, gas free-standing stoves and gas logs, such as the ones distributed by Bernco Distributors, 755 W. 800 South. Con Reilly, president, said gas logs are becoming increasingly popular because of the pressure to eliminate emissions from wood-burning stoves.
Reilly said that in the near future one of his suppliers will have a wood-burning stove approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. Most of the ones in use today aren't EPA-approved.
Stephen Fry, a salesman for C&F Distributors, 1090 Pioneer Road, said another popular item is steel prefabricated fireplaces that have mantels and prefabricated fireboxes. They also include a prefabricated chimney system.
Fry said most of the mantels used on fireplaces today are oak, mainly because when they are stained, the grain is very attractive. When a fireplace is being installed, a mounting strip is included and the mantels are nailed to the mounting strip.
Many old prefabricated fireplaces weren't efficient, but some recent models are 30-35 percent efficient, and new styles are coming out that are 60-80 percent efficient, Fry said.