How to add a working fireplace or stove

Includes advice on what to consider when choosing your fireplace, choosing a surround, fitting a woodburner or multifuel stove and tips on fire safety

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A freestanding fire basket is the simplest form of grate. The Byron basket, two sizes available – (W)46cm and (W)56cm – costs £411 and is teamed with the Nash statutory marble surround, opening 102x102cm, from £3,466, all from Chesney’s

Choosing a stove or open fire

  1. Solid-fuel fires and stoves require some form of chimney and/or a flue that meets Building Regulations, along with a hearth made of a non-combustible material that is of adequate size and thickness. Visit for more advice.
  2. Fuels that emit smoke cannot be burned in smoke-controlled areas, so you may need to use a smokeless fuel. Or consider a stove that uses a secondary combustion system to produce a clean burn that is exempt from Regulations. Ask your local authority which fuel types are permitted in your area or visit
  3. Consider whether this is your sole form of heating or simply a supplement to central heating. Stoves boast efficiency levels of 75-85 per cent, which means a maximum of 25 per cent of heat is lost through the chimney. When it comes to open fires, the opposite is true, with most operating at just 15-20 per cent efficiency, although this can be increased using modern-day convectors.
  4. Choose a style that most reflects the age and décor of your home and remember to take accurate measurements of the hearth and opening before buying any fire or stove.
  5. Open fires can be messy, so be prepared to clean the grate and hearth regularly. Stoves are a cleaner option, but you still need to clean out the ash. In both cases, you will need somewhere to store fuel.


How to choose a fireplace

Reclaimed fireplaces

Reclaimed fireplaces predominantley date from the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian eras, although earlier and later periods are available. Popular fireplace designs include the cast iron combination grate (all-in-one fireplace and mantel) and cast-iron inserts, such as Victorian arches and Georgian hob grates, or simple freestanding baskets, both of which are usually teamed with a wood, marble or stone mantel.

When buying any period fireplace, check that all parts are present, are in good order and that the grate is not distorted or cracked. As these are one-off pieces, size can also be an issue, so take careful measurements. Most reclamation yards and specialist dealers offer fully restored items, but, if you are considering buying an unrestored surround don’t forget to factor in restoration costs.

Reproduction fireplaces

Available in a range of period-inspired designs, fireplace reproductions can be bought as suites (grate, mantel and hearth) or individual sections and bespoke pieces made to any scale. Grates range from a pair of dogs and freestanding basket that sit on a hearth, to inserts that fill the opening. Large baskets and dogs are used for logs, while smaller baskets and inserts can be used with all fuels.

Look to match the style of grate with your mantel and check which fuels are permitted in your area as this can affect your choice — wood prefers to burn on a bed of ash, while coal and smokeless fuels should be held above the ash to allow air underneath. If you are looking to increase heat output, try a convector, which uses a heat exchanger to harness heat lost up the chimney and double efficiency.

Can I fit it DIY?

Installing a working fireplace is a job for a professional as the chimney, flue and hearth must meet current Building Regulations.

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Fit a multi-fuel stove

What are they?

Made from traditional cast iron or modern steel, multi-fuel stoves have an adjustable grate that allows you to burn wood, coal or smokeless fuel. As well as providing an efficient heat source, some models also heat your water and radiators.

What type should I buy?

As well as choosing a style to suit your home, you need to buy a stove with the right heat output. Most suppliers will work this out for you, but for a rough estimate, measure the room in cubic metres and divide this figure by 14 to give you the number of kilowatts needed. Choose a model that uses clean-burn technology for better efficiency and one with an airwash system that keeps flames and gasses off the window, resulting in fewer tar deposits.

Can I fit it DIY?

Stoves produce tar build-up in the chimney, which can cause a fire, so must always be installed by registered member of HETAS, an official body for solid fuel domestic heating appliances, fuels and services.

Install a woodburner

What are they?

A wood-burning stove is one of the greenest ways to heat your home as timber is not only a replenishable fuel, but also carbon-neutral, unlike fossil fuels. They are usually flat on the bottom to enable the wood to burn on a bed of ash, and because timber burns slower in a woodburner than a multi-fuel stove it should not require filling as often.

What type should I buy?

There is a wide range of modern and traditional designs on offer and you need to choose the correct heat output. If you live in a smoke-controlled area, you must use a clean-burn model that is exempt from the regulations. Always check the log size capacity of your stove and consider an airwash system for glass doors.

Can I fit it DIY?

As with multi-fuel stoves, you must get a registered installer to fit one.

How to make sure your fire is safe

  • Inspect the hearth to ensure heat can’t spread through the floor.
  • Ensure your stove or fire meets Building Regulations and use a HETAS-registered installer,
  • Buy in a fireguard to keep embers from landing on the floor.
  • Fit smoke alarms and have a fire extinguisher nearby.
  • Have your chimney and flue checked for damage before you install a new stove. Go to a registered member of the National Association of Chimney Sweeps,
  • Inspect hearths for heat damage and sweep chimneys annually. You can check for blockages inbetween professional visits by using smoke matches to see if the smoke is being drawn up the chimney correctly.
  • Don’t use petrol or paraffin to light a fire and only burn the type of fuel recommended.