Glass Fireplace Flue, Really?

Why not a glass fireplace flue? Wouldn’t that look cool? High temperature glass exists that could withstand fireplace flue temperatures, so what if your new, high-end, modern home had a nice, custom fireplace with a see-thru flue? I don’t mean see-thru, I mean transparent. This is possible, and apparently it’s been done.

 Bertrand Goldberg, the mighty Chicago architect, designer of the iconic Marina City, designed a fireplace that had a glass flue in one of his early residences way back in 1941, so not only has it been done but it was done over 70 years ago. The idea challenges the basic properties of fireplace design, but advancements in materials and the sheer properties of glass make this concept not just doable but also a possibly efficient design. Think about it; a fireplace inside the house so the flue stays warm, a double-layer cylinder of glass where air insulates the inner glass and keeps flue temperatures high, inside the double glass you could push air so condensation doesn’t build up and you could see the circular motion of the smoke and heat rise within the flue. You would see it take off, sputter, heat up, cool down, but you will also see it soot up. Maintenance would be an issue for sure.

 Let’s take this one step further. Let’s create all of the internal components of the fireplace, hearth to ceiling, including the smoke chamber and curved breast all out of high-temperature glass. Let’s create the interior walls of the fireplace, where the firebrick goes, out of glass as well as the exterior shell, facing, out of glass. Air is a great insulator, so let’s keep the inside hollow and circulate calculated amounts of air through the assembly, let’s use warm air. We could keep the inside of the hollow, constructed fireplace structure clean and keep temperatures at a minimum by circulating the air with the help of a testing lab. It might be best to burn a gas log set of some kind to avoid extreme temperature changes. I’m sure glass doesn’t appreciate the shock value of wood-burning very well, but think about the possibilities. You could have a completely transparent fireplace and see all the inner workings of a fireplace from the floor to the ceiling.

Yes, building code violations are hurdles with the transparent fireplace design, but simply getting a glass flue on a masonry fireplace approved and past a local jurisdiction may be very possible with the right testing if you do your homework. With the right client, the right budget and the right design, Goldberg’s glass fireplace flue could absolutely be replicated if not improved on. Any takers?

 by Dane Batty

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4 thoughts on “Glass Fireplace Flue, Really?

  1. carl spadaro

    Glass flues would be a decoratively advantageous in ultimate architectural design. However if it were glass and clean that woul have some reflective allure. But, with a wood burning situation the soot and condensation would cause more serious problems than a high efficiency gas burner. Of course this also causes condensation problematic results. Cool to heat situations cause condensation and that requires the need to evacuate that water column accumulation.
    Volcanic chimney solutions serve 2 purposes; the first the right mix of a high percentage of volcanic pumice in the chimney material result in very high insulation in a thin materail skin matrix. Equally the volcanic material offes the soltuion of absobtion of any water creation while reducing the need for draninage; as the material acts as a drain and evaporation process.

  2. Two Foot/Ten Foot Post author

    Hi Carl,

    There are a host of challenges in such a fireplace concept, and you are correct condensation is a big one. This idea is not for the client committed to wood-burning but rather for the client’s vacation home (intermittent use) with a custom gas feature. Although condensation from natural gas will have to be dealt with the more stable temperatures would make gas the natural fuel choice. The presentation of glass (flue, fireplace or feature) and gas can be spectacular and would make sense as a design solution.

    I am familiar with Isokern products and have specified them in projects in the past and would again, especially your lightweight models for upper stories. They have great qualities.

    Thanks for the feedback!

  3. Roger

    Very cool idea, but from our experience so far……probably not workable. We have just finished EPA certification on our Kimberly Stove project. We have been playing with glass cook tops, and would like to try a stove made completely of glass, however keeping glass clean (even on the top of our extremely clean burning new stove) is problematic at best. As the gasses rise and cool, this problem gets worse. It takes a minimum of 800 degrees F. for this glass to “bake clean” and even at that temp there will be a whitish film left, after so many cycles of heating and cooling, you would not see anything. That’s IF you can sustain 800 in the flue gas temp, which generally means you are not burning clean enough to keep the glass clean.
    thanks for sharing, and if you do work something out let us know….it would be cool….or hot

  4. Two Foot/Ten Foot Post author

    Hi Roger,
    I agree it wouldn’t work on the surface, but if we land a client that demands such a product I’m sure there is a way with a sizable budget!
    I would steer the glass fireplace design toward a killer glass air wash system that constantly washes the glass fireplace with air, but still it would get dirty and need to be maintained constantly. So perhaps only certain aspects of the fireplace could be of glass?
    Just fun to think about. I’ll look for your Kimberly Stove with the glass cooking top – fun to explore the limits!
    Dane

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