The passion for wood
The first consideration is what fuel to use. For the past two decades, wood has been the most popular choice for anyone installing a new fire or stove. It is perceived as a sustainable fuel; it looks beautiful when it is burning; modern stoves are highly energy-efficient, and they can be installed either in the existing chimney or as a freestanding appliance, with the flue being routed through the roof or on the outside wall.
Most wood stove manufacturers produce modern, efficient stoves that can be installed into an existing chimney or in freestanding locations around the home.
If the stove is larger than the existing chimney aperture, the installer creates a larger ‘inglenook’ chimney opening to accommodate the stove, giving a rustic look to the living room.
If you would prefer to install a wood fire insert into your existing chimney, there are many compatible models to choose from. The standard aperture for a Class 1 chimney is 40cm wide, although this can be expanded up to 55cm, if required. Fires that fit those dimensions are known as wood fire inserts and usually have a maximum heat output of 4.9 kW, making them compatible with Defra regulations for urban, smokeless zones.
For larger wood fires up to 1m wide, it is necessary to construct a false chimneybreast. This is normally made from a heat-resistant material, which conceals the flue and creates an interesting architectural feature in the home.
The convenience of gas
Although wood stoves and fires are very popular, there are still many people that prefer the convenience of gas fires as the solution to transform their existing fireplaces. Today’s advanced gas fires generate a flame picture that is the equivalent of a real burning wood fire. They are also almost completely maintenance-free and more energy-efficient than most wood fires.
Conventional flue gas fires are designed to slot easily into existing chimneys with minimal building work. The chimney needs to be cleaned before installation with the addition of a chimney liner for safety and higher efficiency.
The fires are glass-fronted, with subtle air inlets that draw air from within the building for combustion. This means that additional ventilation points need to be installed in the living room to facilitate good air circulation.
Balanced flue gas fires, on the other hand, need to be connected to an outside-facing wall using a concentric flue. This draws air from outside the building for combustion and expels waste gases at the same time. The result is safe, comfortable and efficient heating with a lovely flame effect.
The installation of a balanced flue gas fire normally requires the construction of a false chimneybreast to house the fire and conceal the flue. The exceptions to this rule are cavity wall gas fires. These models are installed neatly inside the wall cavity with terminals on the outside wall. A slimline fire surround completes the picture, resulting in a lovely fireplace that takes up very little space in the living room.
The inspiration of design
Designer gas fires are at the premium end of the fireplace market. These contemporary models include two-sided, three-sided and see-through tunnel fires that can be viewed from many locations around the home. You can even have a freestanding gas stove that makes an impressive statement.
They have realistic high, dense flames that replicate the effect of a real fire. They can also be controlled by smartphones and tablets, which allows you to adjust the flame pattern using a simple graphic display.
As they are balanced flue gas fires, they can be installed almost anywhere around the home, whilst special extended flue systems allow for multiple fires to be installed in high-rise buildings and other similar locations.
Bioethanol – the green solution
Many people are seeking alternative, green fuels to replace wood, gas or electricity as primary sources of home heating. One option that is becoming increasingly popular is bioethanol, an odourless, colourless liquid derived from renewable plants such as grain crops and hay.
Bioethanol fires are available in a surprising range of sizes and designs, including built-in, table-top and freestanding models. Essentially, any style of fire or stove that is available in wood or gas is now also available in bioethanol.
Fires fuelled by bioethanol are 95% energy-efficient, release water vapour with no harmful emissions and most require no chimney or flue, so they are the natural choice for a sustainable future.
So, when considering the best option to transform your fireplace, first evaluate what is best for your home. Do I convert the existing chimney, create a new form of chimney, or opt for a completely freestanding model? If I’m going to burn wood, where will I buy it, how will I store it and how will I maintain my stove? If gas is my preferred option, do I want a classic fireplace with a fire surround or a more contemporary model? And finally, should I consider an alternative fuel such as bioethanol? Whatever your conclusion, there are many options available with which you can create the fireplace of your dreams.