How to Replace the Firebrick on a Heatilator Fireplace

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Things You'll Need

  • Safety glasses

  • Work gloves

  • Cold chisel

  • Hammer

  • Drill

  • Screwdriver

  • T-, Z- or other brackets and hardware, if needed

  • Refractory mortar

  • Mortar bag

  • Trowel

  • Joint striker

  • Damp sponge

Heatilator offers multiple types of fireplaces and a variety of designs ranging from more traditional wood-burning fireplaces to gas and electric units. These prefabricated units include molded firebrick panels that line the firebox, serving to insulate adjacent materials from high temperatures while also reflecting heat into the surrounding room. Over time and with use, panels deteriorate and may occasionally require replacement. Although small hairline cracks do not affect safety or performance, larger cracks, unsightly discoloration or missing mortar warrant attention.


Step 1

Remove the broken or old firebrick panels. The panels are generally held in place with brackets and spaces between panels may be filled in with refractory mortar. Use a cold chisel and hammer or scraping motion with a screwdriver while wearing work gloves and eye protection to break up the mortar enough so that the brackets used to hold the panel in place are accessible. Unscrew the screws and remove the brackets. To access a broken back panel for replacement, side panels may also require removal.


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Step 2

Clean up the firebox walls where the panel was removed. Make sure all mortar still attached to adjacent panels is removed and all loose debris or mortar cleaned from the site.

Step 3

Inspect the hardware pieces or brackets and screws that were used to hold the brick panel in place. If the hardware is still intact and was not damaged during the mortar removal process, it may be reusable. Otherwise, use replacement T-, Z- or other brackets and screws as needed.


Step 4

Inspect the back surface of each replacement refractory panel to make sure that it is completely smooth. Scrape any excess material off with a regular screwdriver to ensure a proper fit.

Step 5

Slide the refractory panel into position. If the side panel has a tapered edge, this edge should be placed toward the front. Make sure that the front edge is even with the front edge of the column or against the surround. If the specific fireplace unit has two side panels, one atop the other, the bottom panel should be installed first. When placing side or back panels, lean the top of the panel in toward the center of the fireplace and position the bottom edge first.


Step 6

Fasten the panel or panels in place using the same type of bracket and fastener that was removed earlier. If multiple fasteners are required for multiple panels, install the brackets as needed to hold the panels, but wait until all panels and fasteners are in place to tighten brackets.

Step 7

Prepare mortar for the spaces between panels. Heatilator cautions against using any mortar other than its mix, as other mortars may stain the brick panels. Fill a mortar bag with the mortar.


Step 8

Squeeze mortar from the bag into joints between panels and between panels and finishing edges. Work slowly and carefully from the top down for vertical joints. Make sure that the mortar is flush with or higher than the surrounding panels. Let the mortar set for a few hours.

Step 9

Strike the mortared joints with a joint striker to remove excess mortar once the mortar has set enough so that it is fairly firm.

Step 10

Clean unwanted mortar off the brick faces or other surfaces with a damp sponge.


Some Heatilator units may not use refractory mortar between panels or may have heat-resistant caulk in some spaces instead of mortar. As long as the original material or material removed was intended to be used, replace it as it was.


Handle refractory panels carefully, as dropping them can seriously damage the panel. It is advisable that two people work together when handling and placing the panels. Allow the mortar to cure for at least 72 hours before operating the fireplace.


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