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Guide to choosing a fireplace

Guide to choosing a Fireplace
Buying a fireplace can be a daunting proposition but choosing your fire can be exciting as a fireplace can make or break a room. The fireplace you choose should be timeless and appeal to your tastes that never change, not current trends. A fireplace is a fixture which is hard to change and so you should bear in mind the speed at which trends will change.
To help you make this hard decision, we have written up a guide that takes you point by point, through the decision-making process. There are a number of important issues to consider:

(i) The chimney

To install a solid fuel fire, a flue of at least 7" diameter (class 1) is needed. This applies to gas fires also, but with gas fires you can now find appliances that will work with 5" and pre-cast flues. Your flue size can be measured by a chimney sweep. You should also check that the chimney is not capped/blocked and is in a safe condition.

A chimney sweep will ordinarily open a bricked up fireplace and smoke test to isolate any leakages. The flue is the most important component of a fire and if the area of the fireplace opening is more than eight times the area of the flue it might not draw properly.

Without proper smoke or fumes uptake into the chimney, the smoke and gases can leak into the room. If you do not know a recommended sweep in your area, contact the National Chimney Sweeps Association on 01785 811732.

There are many possibilities for dealing with chimney problems and we are very happy to discuss the various options available with you.

(ii) The chimney breast

You may or may not have a chimney breast in your home. If you do, its width will dictate the maximum shelf length possible for your fireplace. Indeed use the maximum width if you have a narrow breast in a sizeable room, however you should never allow the shelf to be wider than the breast.

(iii) Hearths

Solid fuel fires require a non-combustible sub-hearth of 500mm(20”) to the front and 150mm(6”) either side of the burning area. Regulations state that the superimposed hearths needs to be only 300mm (12”) to the front. Prestigious Fires recommends at least 40-50mm (15” – 18”) for practical purposes of safety. Fenders serve as a practical barrier to the fire and are a very useful addition. If using solid fuel we also recommend that hearths should be sectional to avoid heat cracks. For gas coal effect fires the superimposed hearth requirements are the same as above. Thought should be given as to whether hearths are to be raised or flush: to cover the full width of the mantels base or extend only to the middle of the leg. Both carpets and wood flooring – whether existing or proposed- require careful consideration regarding dimensions and timing of fitting.

Prestigious Fires can advise here and also on various materials which can be used for hearths.

(iv) Room size

It is easy to underestimate how large a fire your room can take. High ceilings and large pieces of furniture affect the impact of a fireplace and it is surprising how a seemingly large fireplace blends in to the balance of the room.


Having determined the physical limitations you can focus on the aesethic aspects.

(i) Personal Taste

Obviously personal taste is something that cannot be advised. Our only comments would be to choose a style that you have always like and ignore current trends. Trends appear and disappear rapidly and you don't want to be stuck with a style that was popular 5 years ago.

(ii) Trends

Trends change and earlier designs may be re-cycled or modified, and new styles emerge. A fair generalisation would be that the more bizarre and extreme versions are less enduring – as exemplified by the now generally disliked brutalism and austerity of Sixties design. With the advent of central heating many fireplaces were ripped out or boarded over, but very quickly they returned as excellent centerpieces giving warmth, light and character to a room.


(i) Listing

Many buildings are now listed – Grade 1 being the most stringent, grade 2 less so. Listing brings legal obligations which restrict the ability of the owner to freely remove, alter or replace the original fabric of the building, including fireplaces. If your house is listed you need specialist advice, such as that offered by Prestigious Fires in deciding the appropriate treatment of existing fireplaces or the suitability of proposed replacements.

(ii) Faithfulness to period

The main fireplace eras, stylistically, are Tudor, Georgian, WilliamIV, Victorian and Edwardian. The others are very restricted in terms of examples (e.g. Queen Anne, Jacobean etc.) It may be ideal to choose a setting faithful to the period of the house but many designs have been re-cycled and re-interpreted through time and there are usually several suitable options. There are lots of interesting books which can help you in your search, and this is an aspect which most people find exciting and informative. There has of course - in recent years - been a lot of interest in contemporary interiors and energy efficient fires and in this respect Prestigious Fires has invested a lot of thought in to choosing items that we feel are both durable in design and function.


(i) Solid fuel

The incredible heating capabilities of both wood burning stoves and multifuel stoves combined with the large choice of design options have resulted in a large number of households choosing to go for a 'real fire'. Consider which stove is right for you - Steel stoves heat up quick and start giving off heat right away. When the fire in the steel stove cools down so does the stove. A cast iron wood stove can take a couple hours to heat up, but when the fire dies down the cast iron will radiate out heat for hours. If its an electric fire you are looking for go to "All you need to know about wood burning stoves".

(ii) Electric fires 

We are all familiar with electric fires. These appliances are easy to install and require no specialist skills. They are available in various formats and are used where no gas connection is available or no live flame is desired. The latest models use low energy LED's to create the flame effect, and require little energy throughout the year to create the desired effect. Most are available with heaters built in. When used as a heating appliance, an electric fire will be more expensive than a high efficiency gas fire per KW of heat into the room.  If its an electric fire you are looking for go to "All you need to know about electric fires". 

(iii) Bioethanol fires

No chimney? No gas ? No problem. Thats our motto for bio ethanol fires. These are a relatively new development for the UK. We were one of the first selling ethanol fires within the UK. These fires burn bio ethanol derived from the fermentation and distillation of crops.  When burned correctly, the emmisions from an ethanol fire are very low. In fact, they are installed as a flueless appliance, although some ventilation has to be provided to the room when the fire is burning. These fires are incredibly versatile and can be used both indoors and outdoors in situations where a gas fire couldn't be installed or would be too expensive to be installed or an electric flame effect is undesirable. This sector of the market is changing very rapidly as technology improves and legislation catches up. We have a range of the best bio ethanol fires and burners currently available on the market including our remote control bio ethanol fires. The heart of any ethanol fire is it's burner. When comparing ethanol fires concentrate on the burner. If you want to know more about ethanol fires and why you should buy from us go to "what is a bio ethanol fire".

(iv) Gas fires

From traditional outset gas fires  to ultra-modern contemporay gas fires, these fires all have one thing in common - you need a gas connection! Fairly obvious. Nowadays, you don't even need a chimney. So long as you have an outside wall and either natural gas or lpg, a balanced flue gas fire can be installed in a variety of styles with or without a remote control and without the need for a chimney. If efficiency is your main concern, there are a myriad of high efficiency appliances available. If you are sure you want a gas fire, go to "All you need to know about gas fires".
(v) Gel Fires
These appliances shouldn't be confused with bio ethanol fires. Although the main constituent of gel fuel is bio ethanol, other additives are included to thicken the fuel. These additives when burnt leave behind a residue which over time builds up in the burning trough. Eventually the burner has to be cleaned or thrown away.  As well as causing a residue, the gel fuel smells when burnt. The fire industry is slowly turning its back on gel fires, in favour of ethanol fires for these reasons. We offer similar appliances to those available on Gel Fire sites, but ours have been converted to use cleaner burning bio ethanol. If you want Gel Fuel type fires go to "All you need to know about bio ethanol fires".


(i) Budget

Most people have an intended budget without considering the previous criteria, whereas the right approach is to explore all the aforementioned aspects first. Having dovetailed the fireplace to your own particular needs, you should then select the best available option within your price range.

(ii) Investment

A glance at estate agents particulars will confirm that fireplaces constitute a noteworthy feature which both enhances the sale-ability and desirability of a property. A properly selected and installed fireplace will handsomely repay the investment with both pleasure and increase the value of your home.