Making fires work

Despite being increasingly popular among homeowners, fireplaces are still seen as a challenge by many housebuilders in new builds. Tim Pockett of stovax examines the practical options.

With the popularity of woodburning and solid fuel heating growing in recent years, stoves and fires have become a common sight in town and country homes alike. Gas and electric fires have also benefited from the increased desirability of solid fuel appliances, with many homeowners seeking the fireplace aesthetic without the additional considerations of fuel storage and chimney sweeping.

Offering visual appeal as well as a localised heat source which, unlike central heating, maintains its relevance outside of winter, the fireplace has become firmly established in the top five must-haves for buyers looking for their perfect home. With those in the property industry claiming a stove can increase a home’s value by up to five per cent, it’s worth considering including a fireplace in your builds.

Flueing options

Planning a fireplace into a build is much easier if you know the flueing options available, which is by far one of the most important considerations. In addition to the obvious chimney breast, there are other ways to install solid fuel and gas fires to be installed.

The kind of fire specified will determine what kind of flue is needed, if any is needed. Stoves and fires that burn wood, solid fuel or gas will undoubtedly need some form of flue, such as a conventional brick or stone chimney, or a prefabricated system. Capable of drawing the combustion gases from the property, a conventional flue will need to rise above the roofline in order to circulate the combustion air and facilitate the appliance burning properly. For solid fuel appliances, clay, pumice or concrete liners can be used to form the flue or flues in the chimney stack, but also twin skin flexible stainless steel liners and single skin rigid liners can be added later, should an existing leaking chimney need attention.

An alternative to constructed chimney stacks, prefabricated solutions are available for solid fuel and gas appliances. Wood burning and solid fuel flue systems have the advantages of off-site production, uniform insulation and easy, speedy installation, and can even be added after the build has been completed.

Prefabricated flues are typically constructed from a series of weather-proof, twin walled stainless steel pipe sections and feature a mineral wool insulation which improves draw. Similar systems are also commonly available for conventional flue gas fires, increasing building and product options. Suitable for external or internal applications, prefabricated flue systems can either run through the property or up the exterior, offering a versatile solution for most builds, whatever the development stage. Flues that run internally and terminate through the roof can be fitted with a pitch appropriate flashing as well as a storm collar to ensure the roof is not compromised.

While suitable for some areas, shiny stainless steel flues can sometimes be subject to colour restrictions imposed by local planning departments. To get around this, some manufacturers offer durable powder coating in almost any colour, enabling the flue system to meet any such restrictions by allowing it to blend in visually with the surrounding structures and landscape.

Some sealed gas appliances can be installed without a conventional flue, should a chimney stack or prefabricated flue be unworkable. Balanced flue models are completely sealed from the room they are installed in, minimising internal draughts and increasing heating efficiency. Designed to use a twin-wall flue pipe, which draws air from outside the property via the outer pipe and expels gases using the inner pipe, balanced flues can exit horizontally through an external wall or vertically through the roof, allowing for suitable fires to be fitted in almost any room. Taking advantage of this type of flue, specially designed slimline gas fires can be inset into a cavity wall by removing the internal leaf, allowing for cost-effective installation without a surround or faux chimney breast being constructed to house the fire.

Solid alternatives

Should gas or solid fuel be beyond the scope of the project, electric stoves and fires make a great visual alternative and are a viable option for dwellings where there is no provision for any type of flue, such as a flat. Recent advances in LED technology have meant that these types of appliances offer flame-effects on par with their wood and gas burning counterparts, and thanks to their design, many electric fires allow for the visuals to be enjoyed without the heat, for all year round enjoyment. Premium brands offer versatile options, from authentic cast iron stoves to statement landscape fires with immersive mood lighting systems.

Due to their lower heat output, inset electric fires can be installed with plasterboard surrounds, making them easy to integrate into most rooms or living spaces, whether it’s a faux chimney breast and mantel or something more contemporary. Wall hung models present an even easier option, and can make a great finishing touch to a feature wall–adding a visual focal point and depth, without additional building work.

The best place to go for build-specific advice regarding fireplace options and installation requirements is your local expert retailer, who will have the knowledge to help you integrate a stove or fire into your project.

Tim Pockett is communications executive at stovax Heating group