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

 

Pablo Picasso’s Restored French Villa Sells Twice

Restoration Took 2 Years

Mas de Notre Dame de Vie in Mougins, on the Côte d’Azur was bought by the Spanish artist in 1961, and he lived and worked there until his death in 1973, aged 91.

The 15-bedroom property was left empty after the death of Picasso’s wife, Jacqueline Roque, in 1986, but went up for auction on October 12th 2017 following a two-year refurbishment project, with bids starting at 20.2 million euros (£18.7million). Source

Restored Original Fireplace

One of its living rooms leads out to a terrace with a fireplace, adjacent to the kitted-out kitchen with a utility, prepping kitchen, two cold storage areas, and a wine cellar with space for 5,000 bottles.

Pablo Picasso Antique Fireplace Restoration 2017Originally, the estate had 24 rooms, but the legendary artist extended several areas of the house to turn it into his dream home, including building a large studio with a terrace in the main building. 

Property Sells At Auction – Twice – To The Same Man

There was only one bidder in the courtroom in the southern French town of Grasse and his name is Rayo Withanage.
Mr. Withanage had bought the house just four months before in June 2017, when it sold at a previous auction for just over €20 million, bidding up from €18.3 million.
After that sale, though, he failed to arrange financing and lost the house to the bank. Source
With a starting price of €20.2 million, and nobody else competing it was picked up on October 12th 2017, by Mr. Withanage again.

Bank lawyer Maxime Van Rolleghem told AFP that the selling price was a disappointing bargain because “it is worth at least €30 million.”

The long saga of the 15-bedroom property and three-hectare estate started long before the Spanish painter bought it, when for decades it belonged to the Anglo-Irish Guinness brewing family.

Illustrious celebrities were frequent visitors, among them Winston Churchill, who liked to paint on the grounds of the sprawling villa.

Sophisticated Renovations

The property dates from the 18th century and has extensive views on the massif of Estérel and the Bay of Cannes It’s composed of various dwellings and during the most recent remodeling was enlarged with a number of sophisticated additions.

These included a renovated fireplace, new glass windows, a pool house, swimming pool, elevator, air conditioning, spa, garages, house for caretakers and various other annexes.

The only original space from the Picasso period is the studio in the main house that the legendary artist had created by opening several spaces and which still bears traces of paint but none of his works.

Pablo Picasso At His French Villa

Louis, Georgian, Regency and Victorian Fireplaces

How To Choose and Identify An Antique Fireplace

Owners of contemporary or older period properties often wish to re-introduce or retain the centrepiece of a fireplace in their chosen style or on the style of their original home. It is always worth putting a little bit of extra effort into researching the origins of the aspired style or original house and matching the new purchase or revamp of an old fireplace, stove, gas or electric fire, in keeping with or alternatively in direct contrast to the homes other decor and architectural features.

To do this sympathetically in a new build or in an older house, it is necessary to have a firm grasp and understanding of the historical style of the fireplace that would once have graced your chosen style or original period home. This article will outline a number of important historical periods and styles of fireplaces and briefly talk you through the differing styles and designs of fireplaces found in the market today either as originals or as accurate reproductions. Your local fireplace showrooms and suppliers can always be found using the search facilities at Fireplace.co.uk who will always be willing to offer expert and considered advice.

King Louis Fireplaces

The Louis or King Louis fireplace is named after the nineteen French Monarchs who ruled from the 1300s until the French Revolution of 1789. The Louis fireplace we are familiar with today should more correctly be referred to as Louis Revival fireplaces as they are the product of the efforts of 19th Century architects and designers to re-introduce styles which mimicked rather than faithfully reproduced the original designs of Louis XIV. XV and XVI reigns. The Louis Revival fireplaces popularised in the 19th Century and Victorian period were in general made in England and France and are a lot less elaborate in design than their original predecessors.

A typical Louis revival fireplace projects nine inches or so from the wall. The front is flat and box like with a wide rectangular opening for the fire dogs, grate or basket. The designs of the Louis Revival fireplaces were more elegant than their counterpart British marble fireplaces often being made by Italian craftsmen with additional detailing and finishing completed by French artisans. The Louis XV fire surrounds which are ever increasingly popular today with their graceful curves and swag designs are much more reminiscent of the revivalist period of the 19th Century than their original forbearers. In comparison with a Louis XI fireplace a Louis XVI fireplaces is squarer and more masculine in design striking a close resemblance to their English counterpart marble designs which have been popular for over two hundred years or more.

Georgian Fireplaces

The Georgian period 1714 to 1820 although technically the latter years of the period should be referred to as the Regency period marked a transformative period of economic and socio political change in English history. If those of us old enough care to remember our GCSE ‘O’ level history this period is marked by the agricultural revolution of which George III was a great proponent. It was a time where many of our great stately homes were built or remodelled and renovated from the newly found wealth of improved agricultural techniques and methods.

This period is littered with the great names of architecture as Cohen Campbell, William Kent and James Paine whilst John Nash will forever be associated with the late Georgian period we call the Regency style.

From the overtly ornate fireplaces of the Louis period the tradition was to carry on in the early Georgian period (1714-1760) with inspiration drawn from the earlier works of Inigo Jones influenced by the imagery of classic Greek Mythology. As with the architecture of the time Georgian fireplace designs were governed by strict rules of proportion and elaborately decorated with the images and styles borrowed straight from classic history. Designers’ like William Kent were commissioned to provide very grand and sumptuous fireplaces to form the centre pieces of grand stately rooms in the Palladian style.

Very conveniently for us the history of fireplace design falls neatly into two halves. The first half of the century characterised by immense huge, grandiose, and overtly ornate designs, whilst the second part of the century witnessed a transition to more subtle and classic designs which will forever be associated with Robert Adams and the fireplaces which still bear his name today. Adams introduced with some going as far as to say revolutionised fireplace design with a new more subtle elegance. Fireplaces became lighter and not so burly and heavily ornate in their design displaying finer and sharper low relief carving accompanied with the use of inlaid coloured marble in contrast to the statuary marble of the main body of the fireplace.

By the 1800s fire surrounds began to include roundels where the jambs and entablature met below the mantelshelf. The combination of reeding and roundels very quickly progressed into the late classic Georgian design which is so easily recognisable today. The next forty years of the Georgian period saw a more eclectic approach in design styles evolve. Fireplace surrounds in the better off homes began to reflect the new found interest in neo-Greek, Gothic, new-Egyptian and Jacobean styles of architecture. This could include gold-leaf Etruscan motifs or even Wedgwood ceramic plaques with swags, ribbons, lyres and urns. The end of the Georgian period is denoted by a return back to the more classical but equally more simplistic styles often characterised by Chinois Erie designs preferred by the then Prince Regent George IV.

The ornate and classic designs of the Georgian period did not necessarily percolate down through the social classes or more correctly stands. The land based farmers and yeoman who made up the bulk of the population at that time stayed true to the very much more rustic looking fireplaces which, were traditionally inglenook in design with large oak beams and are still very evident and commonly seen in older cottages of today.

Regency Fireplaces

The Regency period witnessed a much more austere approach to architecture and consequently fireplace design. Gone were the overtly ornate fireplaces of the Louis revival and Georgian period so beloved by the previous generation. To be replaced by much more rectilinear designs characterised by flatter leg with reeding as an insert or a singular or double Greek Colum supporting the fireplace header. The reeding decoration was often continued across the header or substituted with twin parallel lines or the ever popular Acanthus leaves or images from Greek and Roman mythology or history. Not only did designs change but fireplace proportions changed with the height becoming lower with the replacement of the corniced shelf with the rectilinear shelf.

Marble and in particular Statuary marble was a much sought after material and the material of the day for fireplace design and manufacture. However the onset of the Napoleonic wars and the prohibitive cost restricted its use to high status public rooms whilst other reception and less grand spaces relied on the innovative skills of highly skilled artisans to replicate a faux marble finish from cheaper and more readily available materials such as plaster.

The Regency period design has remained ever popular and influences many fireplace designs today from contemporary interpretations to faithful reproductions for restoration projects. The Regency period fireplace has proved to be easier to reproduce that it’s more elaborately decorated predecessors.

Victorian Fireplaces

Victoria’s reigned from 1837 until her death in 1901 and it is impossible in design terms consider this time as a single unified period. Up until the death of her Consort Prince Albert in 1861 designs were still heavily influenced by the classical features so prominent in Georgian and Regency designs. There was resurgence in Louis fireplaces at this time partially due to the availability of original fireplaces removed from the châteaux’s of the French nobility during the French Revolution.

The improvements in iron working techniques and ever increasing industrialisation and urban living created a need for a standardised fireplace that could be easily and cheaply manufactured. A niche cast iron was easily able to fill. It is also worth noting as a direct backlash to modernisation and industrialisation that the mid to late Victorian period was heavily influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement and the emergence of Art Deco designs.

Arts & Crafts Movement – Brick Fireplaces

The Arts and Crafts movement drew its inspiration from the 1450’s when fireplaces were only just beginning to be situated on the sidewall of Great Halls with the advent of the chimney. Fireplace designs were often constructed of brick or other locally sourced stone, large, well rounded and had an inglenook appearance. Bricks were often laid vertically, conventionally or in a herringbone pattern. Later designs included tiles arranged in a flowing pattern similar to those associated with the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the later Art Nouveau movement. Tiles often showed a pastoral scene or complex floral motifs. Rockwood Pottery who produced the early Arts and Crafts tile designs shared a close association with William Morris the founder of Morris & Co. We still live with the Arts and Crafts legacy often seen in mock Tudor houses, reproduction wall panelling and old brick fire surrounds.

Art Nouveau and Art Deco design

The work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh is either viewed as a modernist in style or providing the bridge between Art Nouveau and Art Deco design styles. Either way Mackintosh fused classical shapes with new industrial art and his work was in interior and fireplace design was exclusive to the particular design of a specific building in his believe the interior should complement the exterior. As a result most of his work was commissioned on a one off individual basis. Fireplaces were in is opinion, the “glowing focus with decorative symbolic interest” and should relate to the room and meet the individual personal needs of the owner. Due to the highly personalised nature of Mackintosh’s fireplaces today’s replicas tend to imitate his graphic style rather than personify his overall design style.

20th Century Modern Fireplaces

The turn of the 20th Century marked a period of an emergence of a plethora of fireplace designs. Still popular were the heavy neo Gothic styles of the mid – Victorian period but the emergent new industrial middle classes were turning to the more modernist powerful design form of the Art Nouveau movement. This new art form and design style lifted the mass produced and until then more utilitarian cast iron fireplace closely associated with the growth of town living and industrialisation into the modern era by adding sinuous relief designs and introducing the now so familiar tile sliders. This yearning for modernist designs which unified the twin aspects of work and leisure within the new social fabric spilled over into Art Deco design which became prominent in the mid 1920’s. The traditional middle class sought to gentrify their homes with mock Tudor influences and inglenook fireplaces in the William Morris style often introducing over mantles which would never have been part of the original Tudor design. Whilst the intelligentsia and more artistically inspired new middle classes were drawn to the Art Deco influences of the rejection of history for modernity, the sacrifice of decorative detail for function, and the adoption and adaptation of industry in its design.

Art Deco relied on traditional fireplace materials but the materials were used in a much more spectacular way. Avant garde was the order of the day Art Deco characterised by simple understated lines were highlighted by the use of reflective chrome, highly lacquered woods and tiles to create a thoroughly modern sense of design.

The austerity after the 2nd World War and the need to build houses to replace war damaged properties and the slum clearance program forestalled the fireplace industry as conventional fireplaces were replaced with their electrical counterparts. It wasn’t until the more affluent MacMillan period of the 1950’s that there was resurgence in the installation of the traditional fireplace in new build properties. Gone were the ornate Art Deco, Art and Craft designs replaced by tiled slab designs produced by National Fireplace Manufacturer’s Association founded in 1945. These new fireplaces were made to specification rather than design by the middle of the decade even the wooden fire surround had disappeared. The later advent of central heating saw many fireplaces ripped out and consigned to the landfill site. It is only since the late 1970’s onwards people have decided to or re-install the original design features back into period properties or reinstate the fireplace back into their homes as the heart of the home or as a much missed design feature.

When it comes to installing or renovating a closed off fireplace the options are endless, there are countless contemporary, and traditional designs for you to choose from. Read the original article here.

However, there are number of fundamental questions you need to ask:

  • What style fits in with property?
  • What is the interior design finish you want to achieve to complement your home?
  • Is the fire going to be a primary or secondary heat source?
  • Either way what heat output (BTU) do you require?
  • Not unrelated to the last question what fuel would suit the household and your individual lifestyle, wood, solid fuel, gas, oil, electric or a gel fire?
  • What external limitations affect your choice e.g. available flu or chimney, smokeless zone etc?

UK specialists in fully restoring antique fireplaces, sales of antique and reproduction fireplaces and stoves. Send a message via our Contact Form or call our highly experienced team for free advice on 0116 251 9592.

Britain’s Heritage stock of original antique fireplaces includes elegant carved Georgian Fireplaces and Hob Grates, Exquisite French Marble, Elaborate Victorian and Edwardian Fireplaces as well as distinctive Art Nouveau and 1930’s Art Deco . All fully restored to their original splendor.