How To Restore An Antique Fireplace

Antique Fireplace Restoration

Britains Heritage have been restoring fireplaces for over 30 years. Our expert and friendly fireplace team are ready to answer all of your queries – we’re waiting to speak to you on 0116 251 9592.

How To Restore An Antique Fireplace

Gone are the days when homeowners would routinely plasterboard over or brick up a fireplace in order to give a more modern, streamlined look to a period property.

Some old houses once had a fireplace in every room, a setup that’s admittedly not always desirable these days in bedrooms and bathrooms, even as ornamental objects. However, in our principal living spaces we are now much more likely to regard a fireplace as a prized original feature.

The rise of clean, highly efficient solid-fuel stoves and gas fires (as opposed to inefficient, smoky open fires) is a further argument for creating a beautiful focal point in the room – one that can also keep you cosy and warm.

If you are considering restoring an antique fireplace there are some legal implications to consider – as well as from a builder’s perspective. Has the antique fireplace been renovated previously? It is legally safe and sound for burning wood? Have you thought that a gas insert may be a better decision?

Britains Heritage Victorian Fireplace Restoration Project 2018

Restored Victorian Fireplace with Tiles Iron Fire Grate AntiqueHere you can see the original Victorian tiles show this fireplace in it’s original stunning glory. Featuring an iron fire grate this entire surround is ready to buy in our Leicester Workshop.

Professional inspection

Breathing new life into an old fireplace will usually involve multiple stages of work, from recreating/enlarging the opening to installing a new hearth and flue liner. Some are more DIY-friendly than others, but as Building Regs apply, people often farm out the whole project and find a local retailer-cum-installer for their chosen appliance.

Establish what fuel you want to burn (gas or solid), since that will point you in the direction of who can do the work. “First speak to your local retailer, who will arrange for a site assessment. They’ll be able to check whether the chimney is in good condition, or whether it might need lining to get it into working order,” says Dave Saunders, Stovax’s technical standards manager.

This Shillington model reproduction from Capital Fireplaces has art nouveau inspired tulip details to give your scheme a period feel
Charnwood’s Skye woodburner adds additional heating and a cosy focal point to a modern living space

This typically involves a smoke test to establish whether there are gaps in masonry joins or damaged flue pipes. If significant leaks are happening, a new flue will be needed.

There are different requirements for gas or solid fuel. For example, a woodburning stove has to be used in tandem with a twin-wall flue to cope with high temperatures.

Don’t buy a stove without first uncovering the builder’s opening (the original cavity where the fire goes). You’ll need to know its size to make sure the stove fits and leaves enough clearances to conform to Building Regulations rules surrounding the distance the appliance can sit from combustible materials.

Repairing an existing fireplace

If you’ve just moved in to a new home and have inherited an existing fireplace that you want to get working again, “at the very least you will need to have the chimney swept before it is reused,” says Dave.

A chimney sweep can clean and inspect the flue and advise on any repairs. If an unused chimney has been sealed up on top of the stack, it will need to be opened again. Find a sweep via the HETAS website or a trade body such as The Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps.

Period fireplaces create a characterful focal feature. The Georgians favoured classical-style stone or marble surrounds, with a plain aperture containing a firebasket.

Victorian and Edwardian houses typically had one-piece cast iron fireplaces (with the surround and insert combined), or cast-iron inserts with surrounds made of stone, marble or timber. Tiled inserts on the cheeks (or sides) add a further decorative element.

Typical issues with period fireplaces include layers of overpainting, damaged tiles, cracked hearths, disfigured firebacks and missing or harmed metal components. Some of these issues can be tackled by a competent DIYer, such as removing paint with chemical stripper (the Victorian Society recommends avoiding a heat gun, because it can crack old metal).

If your cast-iron fireplace just needs a cosmetic spruce-up, buff it with a specialist polish such as Liberon paste, or cover it with matt black fireplace paint specially formulated for higher temperatures. You’ll need to call in the professionals for missing or damaged metal components. A restorer should be able to recast features such as hoods and grates.

Stonework can also be cleaned, restored and resealed, usually in situ, while new hearths (in standard sizes or custom-made to your dimensions) are widely available online, or try your local granite/marble yard.

If a fireplace is very dilapidated, you may be better off starting again, with a good-quality replica or a reclaimed model (restorers often also deal in good-quality salvaged examples).

Exposed brickwork

If you want a bare-brick fireplace with no mantel – a clean, minimal setting for a woodburning stove – don’t expect to find perfect brickwork lining the original opening. It’s often a mess, using offcut bricks and rough mortar, because it was intended to be covered with a fireback.

Slotting in a made-to-measure brick-faced chamber will restore a neat finish – but many opt to render it, or line it with a non-combustible board such as Thermalux.

How to uncover the builder’s opening

  •  Any property with a typical chimney breast (with alcoves either side) will have a fireplace inside – even if it’s been blocked up.
  • If there is a vent, remove it and have a look inside with a torch – this will give you an idea of the size of the opening, and the condition of the chimney. With the vent removed, you should also be able to tell what material has been used to conceal the fireplace (usually brick, plasterboard or a sheet of timber).
  • If you open up the chimney breast, first cover everything with dust sheets, remove skirting boards and uncover the hearth.
  • Sometimes there’s a subtle line left behind on the wall, giving a useful indication of the size of the original opening.
  • Plasterboard/timber coverings can be prised out with a wrecking bar; bricked-up apertures can be knocked out with a hammer and chisel, starting from the area around the vent.
  • The builder’s opening will be spanned by a lintel or brick arch at the top, which must be left in place. Damaged lintels will need to be replaced; wooden versions (even undamaged ones) should be swapped in favour of a non-combustible equivalent.

If you like the look of an open fire in a traditional setting but want efficiency, too, look for gas fires with a glass screen that completely covers the aperture, which can be paired with a period mantel. Gazco’s Reflex 75T or Capital Fireplaces’ DL500 are both good options.

Meeting regulations

“If you want to install a new or replacement appliance, you must use a registrant of a competent person self-certification scheme,” says Bruce Allen, CEO of HETAS, which deals with solid-fuel fires such as woodburning stoves.

“Alternatively, contact your local authority building control department and seek a building notice, which gives you permission to undertake work covered by the regs. This can be the most expensive option, with fees payable to the local authority – something that can be avoided if you use a scheme member like a HETAS registrant.”

The regs must also be adhered to if there are going to be structural alterations, including replacing the lintel above the aperture. If you are decommissioning an old gas or electric fire, this needs to be done by a qualified pro. Source

 

Is Your Antique Fireplace Good To Restore?

Can You Restore An Antique Fireplace

Before the permanent shift in energy use and the way homes were heated, the fireplace was the key component in most rooms. Some historical homes have many different fireplaces, and even though they might be beautiful, many are no longer functional.

For those who love the idea of restoring an antique fireplace the center of the room once more, they are faced with many logistical roadblocks. Has the fireplace been renovated before? It is safe for burning wood? Would a gas insert be a better option? Can the fireplace itself be restored?

Our friendly and experienced team are happy to answer all of your queries over the telephone on 0116 251 9592.

Here’s what you need to know about fireplace restoration and use in old historical homes.

Retrofitting Antique Fireplaces

Not all fireplaces in older homes were made to burn wood. Sometimes new developments in fuel sources meant the previous homeowners had to change the fireplaces to be connected to the first central heating systems or that the space for burning logs was changed to hold a space for a coal stove.

If you truly want to restore the fireplace to be wood burning once more, it’s important to know if the space was ever retrofitted previously. The soot from burning coal may coat stone or brick and weaken it, so a few decades of coal burning in the past might mean an old chimney will need some additional TLC.

For fireplaces that had at one point been connected to antique central air systems, there might be holes in the brick or old pipes running through the chimney that will need to be removed. These holes can sometimes be plastered over, so it’s important to carefully strip the chimney and fireplace down to bricks to assess its condition.

Fireplace Structural Enforcements and Safety

After you’ve successfully gutted and prepped the old fireplace, it’s time to make repairs and get it ready for actively burning again.

Choose Your Fuel or Insert Type

If you want to burn wood again, consider a wood burning insert with doors to go in the fireplace opening. These are much more energy efficient than open wood fires that actually draw heat from the room, and they still provide the ambiance of a fire with glass doors.

You can also buy Victorian fireplace inserts that keep the original style of the fireplace. Not all fireplaces in old houses were open flame. Many had cast iron faces with decorative plates that were much more effective at heating the home. These stove styles are still available today, with modern updates to improve effectiveness even more.

Gas fireplace inserts are also a popular choice as they are low maintenance; there is no ashtray to clear or doors to clean. If you really want the old, open-fire look (no doors in the way), you might also consider gas logs. These logs can be remote controlled so you don’t need to light them, and they produce realistically cheery flames.

Prepare for Repairs

Read our FAQ on Repairing and Restoring Old Fireplaces

The type of burning or fuel you hope to use will inform the type or extent of repairs you need to make. For older brick chimneys, you may need to repoint crumbling mortar and get the chimney lined and insulated before it is safe to burn wood or any other fuel. Without fixing structurally compromised brick, you risk the safety of your home.

Lining and insulating are essential because they provide a heat barrier and a heat-resistant surface to reduce the dangerous buildup of creosote and other harmful burning byproducts. Chimneys are easier to clean and maintain if they are lined.

Older chimneys may be unlined or they may be lined with clay tiles and smooth mortar. Usually, these tiles are cracked with age and the mortar is no longer effective. Without the liner, the brick and mortar of old chimneys gets weaker with each fire, simply because of the intense heat and corrosive creosote.

New liners are made with new clay tiles (the most traditional option), cast-in-place concrete (just as effective as tiles, but less costly to install), or inserted metal liners (common with gas and alternative fuel inserts). The type of flue liner you need depends on the state and shape of your old chimney.

It’s much easier to install gas inserts in a fireplace space because these simply need to be vented with a metal flu liner instead of a fully restored chimney, which can be less costly. Be sure the insert is installed properly so that you don’t experience drafts from the outdoor venting when the fireplace is not running.

Safety Tests

After restoration and installation, you should make sure that you run several safety tests. Ask your fireplace professional to check for flue leaks and heat loss. You’ll also want to measure emissions in the room to make sure you’re not at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning or smoke inhalation.

To keep a newly restored fireplace in good shape, you should be committed to cleaning. Wood burning fireplaces need the most attention, since creosote can build up quickly, especially if your fire is not burning hot and your wood fuel is not as dry or clean. Have your fireplace inspected and checked for safety annually.

For more information, contact us on 0116 251 9592.

Antique Fireplaces – Reproduction Styles

Antique Fireplace Designs With A Modern Twist

When it comes to modern fireplace design, a lot of people are selecting options that give the look and ambience of a standard log fire, but with the added convenience of being gas fired. Of course, this isn’t going to be a suitable solution for everybody, as rural locations are often without a gas connection, but for anybody living in a more urban setting, a gas fire is a terrific idea.

Gas Fireplaces and Mantel Surrounds

All the gorgeous good looks of a working fireplace, but with none of the mess. What could be better or more modern? Nothing, when natural slate trims and a slimline mantle is included to finish the whole installation. Our Epsom Slate Mantel Surround is a great example of how homely yet contemporary a fireplace can look.
Antique fireplaces fireplace restoration victorian aga repair edwardian damaged UK

Fireplace Restoration UK Nationwide

Do you already own an antique fireplace and want to breathe new life into it? You may already have a room in mind that you would like to to feature.

Britain’s Heritage are renowned experts at restoring and repairing fireplaces and aga cookers, our door to door service means that even if you aren’t local to us in Leicester we can arrange to pick up your fireplace and carry out the restoration and respraying in our workshops and deliver it right back to your doorstep.

Send a message via our Contact Form or call our highly experienced team for free advice on 0116 251 9592.

Contemporary Fireplace Ideas


When an extremely contemporary fireplace design is the only thing that will do, flush-fitting inset options are absolutely the way to go and because they look so incredibly beautiful, they are often mounted in such a way as to replace a television as well. We certainly don’t think there’s a TV programme that can compete with the good looks of a style such as this one!

In terms of fireplace ideas, modern inset boxes are really rising in popularity right now and though they will incur specialist fitting fees, they are more than worth the investment. Negating nothing in the way of heating potential, while creating an absolutely incredible focal point, these long, lean and dramatic designs are adaptable enough to work in a new build home or even a rustic property that could use a little updating.

Original Edwardian Cast Iron Fireplaces with Tiles

Antique fireplaces fireplace restoration victorian aga repair edwardian damaged

Any modern living room with fireplace potential can be brought to life and warmed up no end, even if the space seems a little awkward or weirdly shaped. A great example of original an Edwardian fireplace will be the centre of attention in the room. This example features original green and white tiles.

So many people seem to be labouring under the misconception that to have a fireplace, a proper hearth and central position is needed, however even the most unusual walls and rooms can be made to accommodate a terrific statement fireplace such as this.

Luxury Fireplace Mantels Antique Reproductions

marble Antique fireplaces fireplace restoration victorian aga repair edwardian damaged UK

Fireplace mantels are a fantastically traditional motif that heritage homes love to showcase but they are in no way mandatory! Here, we see a Georgian period  marble contemporary fireplace, the overarching sense of luxury and showmanship isn’t lost at all, thanks to a decadent marble surround being included.

Fitting flush to the wall, the marble here adds in a sense of traditional glamour and really frames the fire itself, just without a shelf for displaying trinkets and accessories. By using a small coffee table as a display stand instead, the fireplace itself has been kept simple and sleek, which allows the functionality to shine through. We feel warmer just looking at it, so who actually needs a mantle these days?

Rustic Meets Modern Fire Baskets

Fire Basket Antique fireplaces fireplace restoration victorian aga repair edwardian damaged UK

No rustic or country home is complete without a gorgeous fireplace, but that doesn’t have to mean that a dirty hearth and messy grate have to be tolerated. Modern Fire Basket designs are absolutely mastering the art of combining effective heating with stylish aesthetics and, as an extra touch of genius, can even be likened to hearty woodburner styling too.

This amazing fireplace has all the charm of a woodburner but has been finished in such a way as to offer a contemporary feel that really livens up what looks to be a lovely country property. Set into a dedicated chimney breast, this steel or brass basket creates such a neat and ordered aesthetic but still manages to be the cosy heart of the home. Contemporary meets rustic; who knew that such a thing could exist and work so well?

Antique Room Accessories Of Interest

While the installation here is not a fireplace per se, adding an original wall light fitting does give a good idea of how stylishrooms can be elavated with accessories.

Things have come a long way since old fashioned designs, but sometimes only the original retro feel of a Georgian, Edwardian or Victorian fire surround, brass lamps or grate will do.

Check out our Antique Special Offers here

Brass lamp pretro vintage antique

Some content of this article was taken from this source. All images copyright Britains Heritage 2018.