Reinstating a fire

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lee197960_0
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Reinstating a fire

Post by lee197960_0 » Wed 4th May, 2022 1:28 pm

Hello all, hoping for some advice as currently I have no prior knowledge of fireplaces, maintaining them (or even lighting them).

We have an original fireplace that is missing the front pieces, I have always felt this was a bit of a shame. What with the way of the world currently and the fact both myself and my better half work from home part of the week it occurred to me that we could have the chimney swept, reinstate the missing pieces and use the fire to provide some warmth during the day. An old house in the north east with single glazing (to the front of the house) can get pretty cold in January! Especially during the day.

After educating myself with google I have established that I need a replacement front/fret, ash pan & grate. However I have a question:-

My fireplace (picture attached) doesn’t have anymore at least a cast iron back/insert. Has this been removed or does not every fire have one? There are only fire bricks which have been painted black (at least that’s what I presume these are). Do I need to replace/add this before I could light a fire?

Another question has come to light after speaking to friends. I appreciate that an open fire is not as efficient as a log burner but apparently warm air from the fire can suck cold air from around the house (front windows are particularly draughty). Could anyone with a real fire enlighten me as to what kind of benefit I might feel in the room? It’s of an average size, not big, not small, high ceilings. I’m not expecting to heat the house more just to take the chill off for a few hours in the day before the heating comes on in the evening.

Thanks in advance.
Lee
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Cubist
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Re: Reinstating a fire

Post by Cubist » Wed 4th May, 2022 2:14 pm

Hi Lee,

Its a nice idea and, to my mind, its a good one where one can, to keep such enhancements to ones home in period character. On this occasion though I feel that perhaps your proposed solution may not be optimal for a number of reasons. Not least among these the cost/benefit argument, the time, effort and mess involved in laying/lighting/maintaining a fire for a few hours on occasional days in the week. With those thoughts in mind I would suggest that you consider using a 'coal effect' gas fire, or electric - assuming there is a gas/electricity source near to the fireplace. Many of these are based on 'period' designs that will not look out of place and are easy to use and maintain.

Cheers,
Steve

Easrow
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Re: Reinstating a fire

Post by Easrow » Wed 4th May, 2022 8:02 pm

We reinstated our fire place when we moved in. When I say reinstated I mean we fitted a new to us, old fireplace after removing the concrete the previous owners had filled it with and got rid of everything. I would suggest you get the chimney sweep to come out and check over everything before you go lighting anything. You just don't know why it was dismantled in the 1st place and could even be leaking fumes into the house up the flue out of site. We use ours on occasion but as you mentioned it does suck the air from in the house and you will definitely feel this in some areas. It takes a while for the fire to make any real difference to the room temperature and it really eats the wood so needs constant attention. Once the fireplace itself gets hot it starts to radiate heat. Then there is the extra dust it creates. Still, I love having the fire. The smell, sound, look, feel, and it is cheaper than gas at the moment.

plasticpigeon
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Re: Reinstating a fire

Post by plasticpigeon » Wed 4th May, 2022 9:48 pm

THe firebricks are probably original, not every fire had a cast iron back. I have found that burning wood is just for effect really as it doesn't really warm the room much and will get burnt up in no time. Coal or smokeless coal is much better but it probably has to be going for an hour or two to make much difference. I have found there is a bit of a draught if you sit on the floor but no so much higher up. I light mine at christmas really as it isn't really a very practical heat source. Looks lovely though with the original tiles and copper hood.

paulc
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Re: Reinstating a fire

Post by paulc » Wed 4th May, 2022 11:34 pm

Another issue with burning wood is the tendency for some types to spit out embers. Coal can also spit if bits of stone have got mixed in with it.
A small stove reduces the risk of embers flying everywhere and is much more efficient than an open fire. Something like a small Godin could look quite nice in your fireplace. Or if that is out of budget, a Salamander Hobbit might fit.

CliffordPope
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Re: Reinstating a fire

Post by CliffordPope » Thu 5th May, 2022 9:11 am

Our "heating" comes entirely from a log-burning range in the kitchen, and occasional open fires in the sitting rooms. We use entirely wood, partly our own.

A proper open fire is the only kind that gives instant warmth from scratch when you come in with frozen hands. If you've got it all prepared in advance then it just takes a match and in seconds you have a blaze you can warm yourself over. As it settles down it heats up the stonework and starts to warm the room.
The cheerful blaze and the lovely crackle are warming in themselves!
Move your chair back as you warm up.

Yes, it will suck in cold air. You need a "snake" to put along the foot of the door, acrylic magnetic double glazing cuts out sash window draughts, and best of all with a wooden floor is a sliding vent as close to the side of the hearth as possible so that it draws air from the side rather than across your ankles.
It's quite easy to get the room very stuffy if you forget to open the vent.

I don't think you need anything more for yours than the grate thing for the logs to sit on. It is a bit small though, more like a bedroom fireplace, intended for coal. I'd be tempted to pull out the bricks etc and just put in a free-standing basket. There's a science to the design of the chimney "throat" and the size of any cowl, and you might need to experiment a bit to get the best draught. To speed up getting it going the old newspaper against a shovel trick works the best.

Test for draught first with a bit of lighted newspaper. There should be a good draught up the chimney. When you do the first test lighting burn something really smoky and then go round and look and smell in all the rooms above and in the roof. Perhaps sweep the flue first! It's quite easy and not that messy in the traditional way with a set of rods and a brush on the end, like Bert in Mary Poppins.

plasticpigeon
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Re: Reinstating a fire

Post by plasticpigeon » Thu 5th May, 2022 1:26 pm

CliffordPope wrote:
Thu 5th May, 2022 9:11 am

I don't think you need anything more for yours than the grate thing for the logs to sit on. It is a bit small though, more like a bedroom fireplace, intended for coal. I'd be tempted to pull out the bricks etc and just put in a free-standing basket. There's a science to the design of the chimney "throat" and the size of any cowl, and you might need to experiment a bit to get the best draught. To speed up getting it going the old newspaper against a shovel trick works the best.
Looks like a pretty standard sized turn of the century insert to me!

CliffordPope
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Re: Reinstating a fire

Post by CliffordPope » Thu 5th May, 2022 1:37 pm

plasticpigeon wrote:
Thu 5th May, 2022 1:26 pm


Looks like a pretty standard sized turn of the century insert to me!
Exactly - it's pretty standard for coal-burning. But you need more space for logs because they burn more quickly, come in less convenient compact sizes, and really need to be set back a bit more in the grate or they are liable to fall out.

lee197960_0
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Re: Reinstating a fire

Post by lee197960_0 » Thu 5th May, 2022 5:34 pm

Hello all and many thanks to everyone who replied.

It has certainly given me something to think about. I'd never considered how the time implications in setting a fire or the fact it might need a few hours to get up to temperature. I also had never considered a freestanding fire basket but can see this might be an option also. The Godin is certainly a beautiful stove (thanks paulc) although probably a little out of my price range.

CliffordPope
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Re: Reinstating a fire

Post by CliffordPope » Fri 6th May, 2022 8:56 am

lee197960_0 wrote:
Thu 5th May, 2022 5:34 pm
. I'd never considered how the time implications in setting a fire or the fact it might need a few hours to get up to temperature.
I think if you live with open fires you have to change your notion of exactly what "getting up to temperature" means. In a standard house with central heating you just set the room stat at say 21 degrees and that's that - everywhere in the room and all the furniture etc will be at 21.
But with an open fire that is never the case. You have to accept that the temperature is on a gradiant. Near the fire it will be lovely and toasty hot - in fact you can do proper delicious real toast on a toasting fork and eat it straight away dripping with hot butter and honey! - but further away it gets cooler. It accommodates people with different requirements in the same room - one person might need to move back from the fire, but someone else might come in from outside and want to warm up, so toasts himself for a few minutes close up before moving back.
It all seems normal to me - I've always lived in houses like that, and can't stand the uniform stuffiness of central heating. An open fire isn't just a nice ornament you "turn on" as an addition to the real heat - it is the central feature of the room. No sane person can indulge in a nice warm cosy doze in front of a featureless radiator or on a bit of underfloor heating.

a twig
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Re: Reinstating a fire

Post by a twig » Sat 7th May, 2022 10:28 am

Morsø do a great range of small Woodburners. We installed a 1412 Squirrel in our place and it is brilliant but they do smaller sizes as well. No connection other than a satisfied customer

https://www.stovesupermarket.co.uk/prod ... ning-stove

88v8
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Re: Reinstating a fire

Post by 88v8 » Sun 8th May, 2022 10:17 am

That's a very nice Art Nouveau fireplace you have there... the poppies...

This was ours, in the dining room of our previous house. I had the oak surround made.

Image

The cast-iron insert was all complete and original, but had a gas coal fire, installed by me back in 1986 when it could just be a gas burner that one lit with a match, no H&S nonsense.

See those brass vents either side of the fireplace? I put those in, they communicate with the airspace under the suspended floor, so no draughts around your feet. A fire must have air, if you stop the air coming in the fire won't burn at all well.
This one took an hour or so to get really really warm, it has to heat the metal surround so the whole thing radiates heat. If you keep your fire lit all day it will heat the whole room, that's what it was designed to do, after all it wasn't just an embellishment, it was the heating!

Here's a bedroom-sized fireplace that gives you a notion of what sort of basket and front yours might have had.
https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/334433379996 ... SwdxFidvq0

That has an open front and basket. To burn smokeless coal, an open basket would not be ideal. Preferably it would have a front with an air control, easier to regulate. Something like this https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/134110146614 ... SwgjdidoYO but that was a later design.

You'll need to go around salvage yards to find something that fits your fireplace. Make a template of the grate area and take careful measurements.

Nothing quite like an open fire. Here's the one I put in our library.

Image

Image

That was a new insert, in an old surround.

This is the only time we lit it, just before we sold the house. :(

Image

Ivor

lee197960_0
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Re: Reinstating a fire

Post by lee197960_0 » Mon 9th May, 2022 1:18 pm

Wow Ivor, beautiful fires! :D Thanks for the information also, interesting and informative.

Thanks to everyone that took the time to reply.

MatthewC
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Re: Reinstating a fire

Post by MatthewC » Sat 14th May, 2022 8:30 pm

I installed an open fire in my lounge, and a woodburner in the kitchen/diner. The open fire is lovely but if you want heat radiated into the room, the woodburning stove is far better, in my view.

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