Summary: Learn how to restore a fireplace, unblock a fireplace, install a fireplace, fit a fireback and lay a hearth.
A fireplace can provide an attractive focal point in a room as well as enabling you to install a fire in whatever style you choose. Before you get to work opening up an old fireplace, consult a surveyor to make sure the renovation will not cause any structural damage. To discover the size and condition of the original fireplace, remove the vent on the wall of the chimney-breast. Uncovering the hearth will also give you an idea of the size of the original surround.
Open fires give off toxic fumes, so it is essential the local authority Building Control Officer inspects the work. A certificate of approval will be issued if the work has been completed to a satisfactory standard. Failing to gain certification may invalidate your building insurance.
Chimneys need to be swept regularly. For a list of registered chimney sweeps in your area contact the National Association of Chimney Sweeps (NACS). Details are available on their website http://www.chimneyworks.co.uk/
The National Association of Chimney Engineers (NACE) can provide contact details of qualified chimney engineers who will inspect your restored fireplace. For further information visit http://www.nace.org.uk/
If you are planning to install a solid fuel or gas-effect fire, you will first need to fit a clay or metal fireback. The fireback should come in two parts: the fireback and a lintel that sits on top of the fireback to form the throat of the fireplace. This lintel has two purposes. Firstly, it supports the brickwork of the chimney breast; secondly, the channel it creates causes the air to flow smoothly up the chimney, thus avoiding turbulent air movement which can result in smoke coming back into the room.
Measure the width of the opening to determine which size fireback you will need. For an irregularly shaped or sized fireplace you can order a bespoke fireback.
Fireplace surrounds come in all manner of styles - Victorian cast-iron surrounds, tiled, stone, brick, and wood surrounds in rustic, ornate, or contemporary designs. The surround may come as a single unit or in pieces.
If, when you light the fire, smoke does not rise up the chimney try warming the chimney with a blowtorch or heater, as cold moist air acts as a blanket to smoke. If this does not work, call a professional sweep to unblock the flue.
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