How The Fireplace Works

A constructional hearth is normally a concrete slab 125mm deep which runs beneath the fire out into the room. A decorative hearth lays upon the constructional hearth at or above floor level. Hearths must be constructed of non-combustible material to comply with building regulations.

A chimney works because the gases inside are hotter and therefore less dense than the air in the room. Because the air pressure inside the chimney is lower, air is drawn from the room and moved up the chimney along with any smoke and combustion gases. This is why it is important to have sufficient ventilation in the room to allow the chimney to 'breathe' properly.

Preparation and Fuel

Your chimney will dictate what fireplace you can have and also what type of fuel you can use. If your fireplace hasn't been used for a while, or you are thinking about knocking through a bricked-up recess, discuss your options with a specialist fireplace retailer or a chimney sweep who will be specially trained to advise you. They will also check that your fire has a flue (i.e. a working chimney) and whether it is an original Class One or Class Two flue as this will determine whether you can have a gas or solid fuel fire.


So you have the fireplace, you have decided on the choice of fuel and you are ready to enjoy the warmth of an open fire. But before you strike a match there are a few other things to check.

Check Ventilation
All appliances, whatever fuel they burn need to be able to 'breathe' in and out. To function properly they need a constant and sufficient flow of air, so if your home has draught-proofing or double glazing you may need an air-vent or airbricks in an exterior wall of the room. If you already have vents or airbricks, ensure they are not blocked or covered.

Sweep Chimney
Has it been swept? Chimneys need to be clear of all obstructions, such as birds and animal nests, leaves, building debris and even cobwebs which can build up when the fire is not in use. Even if you use smokeless fuels, you should have the chimney swept on a regular basis:

Smokeless fuels
- At least once a year
Bituminous coal
- At least twice a year
- Quarterly when in use
- Once a year

Having your chimney swept regularly helps prevent chimney fires and reduces the risk of dangerous fume emissions from blocked appliances, flueways and chimneys. Most Chimney Sweeps also issue a certificate of sweeping for each chimney cleaned.

Fire Making

Pre-Warm the Chimney

Before lighting your first roaring fire of the year you may need to warm the chimney so that it will work properly. A warm flue enables the smoke and products of combustion to vent more easily. Simply light one Bryant & May Firestarter Match and some kindling or paper and let it burn itself out. If the smoke from the warming fire is carried in to the room or elsewhere in the home extinguish the fire immediately, open doors and windows and seek expert advice from your chimney sweep.

When you have completed these checks, you can light your first fire but remember to keep the fire low for the first four or five hours to allow for expansion and settling.

Step 1
Start with a bed of newspaper. Roll sheets into long strips, then fold or concertina the paper to form a compact knot shape. Place a few of these knots in the basket and add a firelighter.

Step 2
Next take some small sticks of kindling wood and arrange them in a tepee shape around the newspaper. Add just a few pieces of coal or small pieces of wood ensuring that you allow space for air to circulate within the fire.

Step 3
Strike a long stemmed match and set the newspaper and kindling alight. As the kindling starts to burn, gradually add more coal or wood around the base ensuring that air is allowed to circulate.


As with any feature in your home, you might want to dress it with accessories. There are many styles and designs of fireplace accessories, all of which have distinct practical uses as well as being decorative:

Fire guard
Essential for preventing sparks coming out of the fire and for keeping children and pets out of the flames.

For adding coal or wood to a fire. Keep your hands clean and at a safe distance from the flames!

Coal Scuttle
If you are using coal, a coal scuttle is a practical way to store enough coal for immediate use.

Companion Set
Comprises hand brush, shovel and fire poker. It is useful to keep all items close to the fireplace, so that they are on hand when you need them.

For keeping a handy supply of aged, dry wood on hand. Keep it at a safe distance from the fire.

To be used sparingly and with care! Whilst a quick prod can enliven a fire, it can also destroy the carefully_constructed pyramid and reduce air within the fire.

Safety Tips

Always seek expert advice before reactivating and using an open fire.

Ensure there is proper ventilation in the room

- Have the chimney swept regularly whatever fuel you use, to prevent the build up of soot or ash.

- Never leave an open fire unattended without a fireguard.

- Keep hair and clothes away from flames.

- Always use a securely fitted fireguard whenever children/animals are at home.

Tips for enjoying your open fire

- Light the fire with matches, firelighters, paper and kindling.

- Build the fire gradually and don't over load it. Leave air pockets in the pyramid.

- Empty and check the ash can every day. A build up of ash reduces the ventilation under the fire and makes it less effective.

- Do not throw household rubbish on an open fire.

- Keep fuel to hand in a scuttle or basket, but not too close to the flames.





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