Essential Guide to Fireplaces

Essential Guide to Fireplaces

For many, stoking up the woodburner or switching on the gas fire was an optional extra – a way of adding an ambient focal point when the family came to visit or making the home cosy on those wintry and grey days. Not so now. Today, the function of a fire or stove in a typical British home is one vital to creating warmth and atmosphere; an essential component of a heating system from which we demand not only high performance and efficiency but cost effectiveness and quality design. Today’s home maker wants top results for their money.

Step forward modern wood burning, gas and electric fireplaces, equipped with the latest technology and stunning aesthetics to satisfy a range of tastes from the traditional to the contemporary; country inspired or urban chic.

If you are considering a fireplace or would like to upgrade your current appliance, this article will act as an introduction to the many options available to you.

First Steps… Wood, Gas or Electric?

One of the first things to deduce before you consider design is: ‘what type of fuel can I burn?’

If your property has a chimney breast, you will most likely be able to install a wood burning fire, a stove or a conventional flue gas fire but before you embark on either, ensure that the chimney is checked thoroughly by a qualified professional for safety and suitability. For those modern homes without a chimney – about one third of the UK’s housing stock does not have a built-in chimney, there are other options to suit your needs. Installing a balanced flue system in your property ensures you can burn gas fires efficiently. Otherwise, if you have a plentiful supply of wood, fitting a twin-wall pipe system can enable you to enjoy the flames of a real log fire in your home. Whatever flue outlet you have available, there are numerous models of fires and stoves to choose from.

The Benefits of Wood Burning

An increasing number of people want to make a difference to their carbon footprint and burning wood in a modern stove is a carbon lean way to create heat for the home especially if you have purchased your fuel from a local and well managed supply.Logs should be seasoned for 2 years or more to achieve a moisture content below 20% With wood fuel competitively priced, or even cost-free to those who have their own coppice, this option is an extremely effective way to save money! But a very big draw to wood burning is the stunning focal point it naturally creates and the, possibly unparalleled homely ambience it produces in abundance. That distinctive, comforting smell is for many the scent that captures the imagination and conjures the very concept of cosiness and being at home.

For optimum results, we recommend logs should be seasoned for two years or more to achieve a moisture content below 20%. This will not only give twice the output of freshly felled timber but help avoid a build-up of tar in your flue. Furthermore, if you can obtain hardwood logs this is better still, as they will have a greatly increased value compared to softwoods for the same volume.


Many stoves, fires and fireplaces are designed to burn smokeless fuels, peat/turf briquettes and logs as multi-fuel appliances. Multi-fuel stoves have a riddling grate which allows ash to be riddled into a built-in ashpan to create the optimum conditions for efficient combustion as smokeless fuels burn better on a raised grate that allows air to be drawn in from underneath. Woodburners have a fixed grate and no ashpan, since wood burns best on a bed of ashes. Choosing a multi-fuel stove, fire or fireplace over a woodburning only one provides you with the option to select the cheapest and most local fuel source available as well as continue to take advantage of some very high efficiency rates.

Quick and Convenient Gas

Gazco Reflex 75T Multi-sided

Gazco Reflex 75T Multi-sided

The popularity of gas continues to rise and with the breadth of styles of both stoves and fires available in today’s market, it is easy to see why. While it is still possible to achieve that classic inset gas fire look with a coal fuel effect, a decorative front and a frame, there is now the option to insert a cassette into the wall to create a ‘hole in the wall’ look around which you can add a frame or leave to create a ‘frameless’ aesthetic – particularly effective when accompanied with fireplace surround tiles. Fuel effects have also become more varied and life-like – choose from chunky logs and highly realistic coals to contemporary white stones or even, coloured glass beads for an injection of colour. Gas is also a plentiful resource and reasonably priced with many British homes hooked up to natural gas that is piped directly into the house. Should you find however that you do not have access to natural gas, many appliances are able to work with LPG or bottled gas. Furthermore a very attractive feature of many gas fires and stoves is their ability to be remote controlled, providing the ultimate in convenience and relaxation. From standard controls to operate the basics such as turning the fire on and off and altering the flame height, to thermostatic remote handsets that allow you to set your preferred room temperature, you can even set the time that you wish your fire or stove to come on at, thus bringing your gas appliance into the sort of timetable that would normally be exclusive to your central heating.

Go Electric

Gazco Skope 110W Trento Electric Fire

Gazco Skope 110W Trento Electric Fire

It may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you are considering a stove, fire or fireplace but modern electric appliances have come on leaps and bounds recently. Enticing flame effects are becoming more and more lifelike and manufacturers have started to incorporate low energy or LED bulbs to decrease running costs. From stoves to ‘hang on the wall’ fires or fireplaces, electric appliances really are suitable for all so in the absence of a chimney or flue, they are ideal – simply plug in and away you go. Other benefits of electric fires and stoves include the option to use the flame effect independently of the heat output which means no matter the temperature outside, you can enjoy the charming and alluring visuals inside!

What happens if I live in an Urban Area?

Legislation to control smoke, the Clean Air Act was introduced in the 1950s and 1960s and gave local authorities the power to declare a ‘Smoke Control Area’ in their vicinity. The Act was put in place to deal with smog caused by the widespread burning of coal for domestic heating and by local industry and included the control of emissions of smoke, dust and fumes. Today, many large towns and cities in the UK are designated Smoke Control Areas as a result of the Act.

The good news is that there are now appliances that are approved for use in Smoke Control Areas which means those living in built up areas do not need to miss out on having a solid-fuel appliance. Stovax has a wide range of products that have been approved for use in designated Smoke Control Areas; your local retailer will be able to help you with selecting the right appliance for you.

Many stoves now go much further than meeting smoke control zones requirements and are designed for future, tougher Ecodesign manufacturer standards. These ultra-clean burning stoves feature the very latest combustion technology for low emission solid fuel heating. Stovax is proud to offer the largest range of Ecodesign Ready stoves and fires in the UK.

The following website will be able to inform you about Smoke Control Areas and if you are affected:

Learn the lingo…

What is Cleanburn technology?
Cleanburn is an innovation in heating appliance technology that results in a highly efficient output, less smoke and a cleaner environment.

It works by introducing pre-heated, secondary air into the firebox to burn the excess hydrocarbons in the smoke. This, in turn, provides not only a ‘cleaner burn’ (i.e. less soot particles going up the chimney/flue and into the atmosphere) but also generates twice the heat output from your fuel.

What is Airwash technology?
Many Stovax stoves have Airwash as standard. This technology drives a constant airflow along the window of the stove door making sure that the flames, smoke or combustion particles do not come into contact with the glass as a result. This means the glass stays cleaner and clearer so you can enjoy a fuller view of the beautiful flames and glowing embers.

Heat Shields
Where available, a heat shield is an extremely effective device that enables a reduction in the distance between the appliance and any combustible materials to just 100mm. This increases the installation possibilities of these fires, particularly in rooms of smaller proportions.

Stove or Fireplace…

Before visiting your local retailer, have a think about the space into which you wish to introduce your appliance. Is it a cosy inglenook in a country cottage or a clean white wall of a new build; a grand Victorian townhouse renovation or a terraced 19th century home? Whatever your starting point, there are a number of options available in terms of frames, surrounds, mantelpieces and fronts but firstly, would you prefer a stove or fire?

A solid fuel, gas or electric stove has a timeless quality, will be highly efficient and can have a modern or traditional style. There are even models with built-in cook tops.  You may also wish to opt for a (solid fuel) boiler stove to replace an existing oil or gas heating system, provide hot water for showers and power your home’s radiators. This is a wonderful way to control your heating bills – indeed for the more rural consumer for whom wood is free, this is an enticing option and provides the ultimate cost saving!

Fires on the other hand can offer you a wealth of options. If you would like a period feel, a Classic Fireplace with a wood or stone mantel, cast iron front, hand piped tiles and decorative fire basket will finish your room beautifully or provide an eye catching and character building focal point. Alternatively, you may need a cassette fire to complete a sleek, modern interior, with the latest aesthetics and room for a flat screen TV above! Solid fuel and gas fires are available as open or glass fronted appliances; can be brought out into the room and placed on a special bench for impact or built into the wall to create space; personalised with a wood, stone or glass frame and even enjoyed from multiple spaces as double fronted appliances beautifully linking two rooms with warmth and stunning visuals.

Framing Your Fire

Your selection of frame or surround can be the cherry on the top of your stove, fire or fireplace choice.

Alexandra Insert in Matt Black with Claremont mantel

Alexandra Insert in Matt Black with Claremont mantel

Stone has been a traditional mantel material since the medieval times, whilst marble has been used for more than 300 years and continues to be a well respected choice of mantelpiece material with its classic appeal and longevity. To suit our modern sensibilities, stones have become lighter and without the very obvious veining; this has helped to make them easier to introduce into existing decorative schemes. Limestone is also a good choice, and has a gentle warmth in hue that contrasts somewhat with the clean look of marble. Limestone also has natural variations and it can be exciting to find evidence of small fossils in your mantelpiece!

Wood, being a softer medium offers many possibilities in terms of design. It can also be stained or painted to your specific taste. From rich woods to a more simply designed offering painted warm white, a wooden mantelpiece can offset a traditional period fireplace or a modern gas appliance with equal aplomb.

Cast Iron
Cast Iron’s ability to diffuse heat makes it a popular choice for stoves and was also a commonly used material in the Combination Fireplace which dates from around 1895. The metal has wide styling potential, making beautifully intricate detailing a reality.

Glass, steel or a combination of the two, the material possibilities for a fire’s frame are extensive and can really maximise the visual impact of an appliance. Shaped, curved metal frames, or sleek black reflective glass frames will secure a contemporary feel and make the most of the swirling flames and glowing embers within the firebox.


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