The Cosy Home guide to fireplaces

Could anything be cosier than a real fire? There’s something very comforting about a fireplace, and it provides a focal point for the room as well as a source of heat and light. As humans, we’re drawn to fires and if you have one, on a cold, wintery nights your guests will make a beeline for it.

Setting and lighting the fire provides a sense of closure to the day, and lighting it during daylight on an unpleasant, blustery day gives a real sense of self indulgent and luxury. If you’re thinking of changing your fireplace, whether you opt for an open fire or a wood burning stove is partly a matter of personal choice, but there are also some technical factors you may need to take into account. Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons.

Wood burners can be a safer choice if you have children or pets

A traditional method of heating for centuries, open fires score highly in terms of atmosphere. They are relatively inefficient compared to wood burners, as a lot of heat goes straight up the open chimney. If you’re planning on your fire providing a lot of the heat for the room, this may be a problem – but you may also have a radiator and want the fire more for atmosphere. Open fires also tend to be a lot easier to light and keep going – wood burners can need a bit of a knack! (Let’s remember that you can’t toast marshmallows or bread on a wood burning stove that easily, either…!)

An open fireplace is always a strong focal point for a room, and helps create an atmosphere of light and movement

Wood burners, on the other hand, are a lot more efficient as the heat is enclosed. They are also more controllable, and once the doors are shut can be left to burn safely when there’s no-one in the room as there’s no chance of anything falling out onto the carpet. They are easier to keep clean, and you won’t have to keep raking them as regularly as you would with an open fire, and they also produce less dust and debris in the rest of the room. As wood burners are more efficient, they also tend to burn less fuel and therefore be cheaper to run.

Wood burners protrude much farther into the room than an open fireplace, so if your room is narrow or small you may not have room for one. The efficient nature of a wood burner may also mean that it makes the room too hot, so you might find yourself in the bizarre situation of having the fire lit and all the windows open! Wood burners do come in a range of different sizes so be careful to choose an appropriate size for the room.

If you’re replacing an old open fireplace, new regulations dictate that you’ll have to have an air brick fitted if you don’t already have one. Open fires need a lot of ventilation to burn safely, or they may smoke badly or even produce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. Fitting an air brick which connects directly with the exterior of the building allows the fire to ‘draw’ properly and ventilate, but also means bashing a hole in your wall! This isn’t a huge job but needs to be taken into account when you’re planning your budget.

Both open fires and wood burning stoves will require the services of a sweep once a year to clean the chimney and the flue respectively to help prevent soot build up and keep everything running safely.

All images (c) Pixabay


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