A brick lintel is a fireplace lintel made from brick. Brick is an excellent material for lintel construction because it is sturdy, contributing to the overall stability and strength of the fireplace, and it is fire resistant, in addition to being attractive, which can be important in fireplace designs where the lintel is exposed. It is possible to retrofit an existing fireplace to install a brick lintel, and an existing lintel which has been damaged can be repaired with new brick and chimney mortar.
The purpose of a lintel is to create structural support which compensates for the opening in the wall created by the fireplace. A lintel stretches horizontally between two support columns on either side of the opening, framing the fireplace. Lack of a lintel could make the area above the opening unstable, which could lead to structural collapse and potential failure of the chimney. Also known as a mantletree, a lintel can be made from a variety of types of material.
When brick is used, the lintel is commonly formed in the shape of an arch. Arches are highly stable architectural shapes when they are built correctly, with a brick lintel redistributing the pressure created by the weight it is supporting to the support columns, reducing the risk of collapse. The brick lintel may be plastered over for aesthetic reasons, and it can also be covered with a mantel, depending on the design of the fireplace.
In some cases, a brick lintel may be supported with a chimney bar, a piece of metal which takes much of the weight. Chimney bars may be used when an arch is not desirable or feasible, or when there are concerns about the ability of the lintel to support the weight independently. Chimney bars can also be installed when a fireplace is retrofitted for safety and strength.
Brick comes in a range of styles and tones. While red brick is classic and is a common choice for brick lintels, it is also possible to use bricks in a range of other shades, including yellow, and people can mix brick types or use a blend of brick and stone. As with other structural supports, it is important to make sure that a brick lintel is made from high quality materials, including mortar which is labeled as safe for use in chimneys. The fireplace should also be regularly inspected to confirm that it is in working order.