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My Experience With Glass Burning Fireboxes

November 13, 2008

I just finished creating a glass-burning fireplace in my showroom. This project started when I received some literature in the mail from a hearth-glass supplier, Firecrystals.

Not only did they sell glass, they sold in about a gazillion colors (that’s more than ten and less than 100). I had already had some positive experiences with Agio bars that had built-in glass firepit and several of our customers had inquired about doing glass in O. W. Lee’s firepit. I guess the stars and planets were in the right alignment because I was already looking for something to replace a log design that wasn’t producing like my other lines. I was ready to put something new in that burning firebox. Glass seemed the answer.

Of course, since I had very little experience with glass, I had to learn the new product from scratch. First of all, I had to find a pan that would burn when filled with glass. All of the log sets we use now have a pan that slopes from back to front. I knew that wouldn’t work. As it turns out, R. H. Peterson introduced their PB series pan this year. It is flat and rectangular and was developed especially for glass.

Okay. I had the glass source and the pan source. The next question was how to set up the fireplace. I talked with several retailers in the industry, by glass supplier, and my pan supplier. Only the glass supplier had any real experience. First, they suggested I paint the interior of the box black, which I did.

Second, they said it was best to fill the entire firebox floor with glass. I couldn’t decide whether to do that or just fill the pan with glass and put black lava rock around the pan. The second option would cost less. The retailer in me finally won out. Since glass is more expensive than lava rocks, a fireplace filled with glass would be a bigger sale than one using glass and less expensive lava rocks. If a customer wanted to save money, we could always tell them to use lava rocks and glass.

However, we knew we could save money on our display if we used a less expensive base for the glass. We filled the pan with the sand that came with it. Not only did that save us the cost of some glass, it made the flame more irregular . . . a good thing. We used black lava rock to fill in the area between the pan and the firebox walls. That provided us with a 1” inexpensive base. We used the least expensive clear glass on top of the lava rock and sand to create a layer about 1” thick. Finally, we created a 1” thick layer of expensive multicolored rock on top of the clear. All in all we used about 20 pounds of lava rocks, 10 pounds of sand, 20 pounds of clear glass, and 20 pounds of multicolored glass.

Here are pictures of the fireplace showing what it looks like when it is not burning:

and when it is.

The pan retails for about $150 depending on size. If your customer decides to use glass for every layer in the fireplace, a 24” firebox will take about 80 pounds of glass. Glass runs from about $3,50/pound to as much as $13/pound with an average of $4. The total would be about $470 which is no more than the price of a good set of ceramic logs with manual burner. If your customer uses a layer of lava rocks, sand, clear glass, and then a layer of more expensive glass, they could get away with about 40 pounds of glass or about $200.

In addition to setting up the fireplace, we bought a pound of each of the 34 colors of glass Firecrystals sells. We then purchased an inexpensive cylindrical shaped vase to display the glass in. We set these vases up on two “floating” shelves we installed above our burning fireplaces. It looks pretty good if I say so myself. Let’s hope I am not too far ahead of the curve.

Yours in confused retailing, Bruce