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How to Choose the Right Feature Fireplace for Your Home
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A fireplace is much more than a functional heat source for a room; it should be a beautiful feature that enhances the look and feel of the space. It provides a focal point that can anchor a room, adding personality and character. Sadly, fireplaces in period homes are not always in the best condition, that is if they still exist. Many have been removed and the cavity filled in. Others may have been altered at some point and now look woefully out of date. And as for modern homes, many have no fireplaces at all.
The good news is that if you want to reinstate or install a working fireplace in your home, it can absolutely be done. What’s more, there are many options available to give you a solution that not only looks stunning but can be a practical source of heating that works in tandem with your central heating. But where to start? No doubt, you will have many questions regarding heat output, fuel sources and installation in addition to deciding on the best style of fireplace for your home. Let us guide you through the key choices you will need to make.

Which type of fuel?
Before you get carried away with the type of surround and colour scheme, the most fundamental decision you need to make is about the type of fuel you want to use. Do you like the traditional approach of a real fire with wooden logs that don’t further impact on your utility bills? Would you prefer the mess-free convenience of a gas fire while still retaining that ‘real flame’ cosiness? Or do you like the plug-and-go ease and energy efficiency of an electric fire?
Opinions vary widely on which is the best choice, and much of it will depend on the particularities of your house in terms of architectural style as well a personal preference.

Is there a chimney breast?
If your property has a chimney breast, your chimney is sound and the flue is in good working order, you could have an open fire, a wood burning stove or a conventional flue gas fire fitted. Do make sure you get a chimney sweep to make a professional assessment in terms of safety and suitability before you do anything else. While brick chimneys are compatible with any sort of fire, there may be limitations on what you can install with pre-fabricated and pre-cast flues prevalent in modern homes. Your local fireplace specialist should be able to advise.
A gas fire installation should be a relatively straightforward job for a CORGI registered engineer to run a gas pipe into the opening if there isn’t one there already. To create the look and feel of a real fire, look for sophisticated gas fires that come with a realistic looking fuel bed of logs, coals or pebbles with added crystal embers or ash effects, and stunning natural flame visuals. And if you’re not sure your property suits a classic fireplace look, there’s also the option to insert a cassette into the opening for a contemporary ‘hole in the wall’ look.
If there is no chimney breast or flue to work with, you won’t be able to fit a solid fuel fire or log burner. However, all is not lost because both gas and electric fires remain viable options.

Stove or no stove?
Around 1.5 million British homes have a traditional log burning stove and, recent reports notwithstanding, many homeowners believe that burning wood in a modern stove is an excellent way to reduce their consumption of fossil fuels and lower their carbon footprint, especially if the log supply comes from a local, sustainable provider. Multi-fuel stoves provide a greater choice of fuel sources, including smokeless fuel, and they also tend to be more energy efficient.
Stoves come in a great range of styles to suit any interior and environment. From traditional freestanding cast-iron woodburners to contemporary and minimalist styles including balanced-flue designs and flueless models, having a stove these days can be whatever you want it to be. If all else fails, you can always plug in an electric stove to give you enough warmth and a cosy look without the bother of building work.

No flue? No problem!
About a third of the UK’s housing stock has no built-in chimney, so if you have your heart set on a real-flame gas fire, it will have to be a balanced flue fire or a flueless gas fire. A balanced flue fire will be glass fronted and vented through an exterior wall at the back, making them both safe and energy efficient. Flueless gas fires burn incredibly cleanly, and they work by using a catalytic converter that turns harmful carbon monoxide into harmless carbon dioxide and water vapour, releasing them back into the room without the need for a flue.
The other obvious alternative for a room where there is neither a chimney, flue or suitable outside wall available is an electric fire. There’s a wealth of attractive designs on the market, they’re easy to install just about anywhere, they’re safe and clean and 100% energy efficient. Since there’s no fuel to burn, they don’t have a real flame, which may be an issue. That said, the latest models have sophisticated visual effects via LED bulbs, mirrors or a digital screen to give a realistic illusion of a real burning fire.

Traditional vs contemporary fireplaces
When it comes to choosing the best style of fireplace for you home, it really does come down to personal preference. A classic fireplace is bound to look fabulous in any type of home and if this what you’re after, it’s worth getting inspiration from architectural salvage and reclamation yards where you could also find a bargain to upcycle yourself. For new purchases in a traditional style, there’s no shortage of suppliers. Visit your local fireplace specialist to see what’s on display and start asking questions – you’ll be sure of a warm reception.
Your choice of fireplace surround is key in achieving the right look in your home. A cast iron surround is typically associated with period properties, particularly Victorian and Edwardian homes, and the metal can be kept black or painted in a colour of your choosing. Wooden fireplace surrounds are also a traditional choice, and often at a cheaper price point.
Reproductions or less ornate, modern designs are widely available from DIY stores. Stone and marble fire surround complement classic interiors as well as modern room schemes. From the luxury of original marble fireplaces to limestone and granite or sleek, streamlined stone and plaster designs, find a design you love – or appreciate your home’s original features – and use it as the focal point for your room design.
Adding the wow factor to your home can also be done with a contemporary fireplace – you don’t have to go all Victoriana to make a statement. On the contrary, there are contemporary gas fireplace surrounds in minimalist designs and uber modern materials such as granite, polished steel or glass. And if that’s still too fussy for you, how about an inset fire without a surround or hearth? Embedded in a wall, these fires look sleek and modern, save space in smaller rooms where floor space may be limited, and they can create a truly eye catching feature.

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