OPENING UP AN ORIGINAL FIREPLACE

If you’ve been lucky enough to discover a bricked up or covered fireplace in your home, and you’re looking at opening up to develop the space, you’ll most likely be looking for some top tips on how to do this successfully. In this guide we cover everything from the mess expected to the range of finishing options available.

TO START

Before you get to work opening it up, it is wise to consult a surveyor to ensure reopening your fire will not cause any structural damage. If the wall has been completely rebuilt, you will need to call in a builder, and likewise if there is no lintel in place or the existing lintel is cracked, as the wall could collapse if you try to knock it through yourself.

If you believe the chimney has been removed, look in the loft for either a flue or signs – chopped-off bricks or a sooty strip – that one was once there. The flue and chimney must be reinstated if you intend to have a fully working fire.

You should also check to see if the hearth is still in place. You can do this by lifting the floor covering. The hearth is usually a concrete slab, about 12cm deep, which extends beneath the fire and out into the room. If it is missing, or too low it will need to be rebuilt. To comply with Building Regulations a hearth needs to be raised above floor level; it’s a simple job to form a new one directly on top of an existing in-situ concrete hearth, or you might opt for a marble or slate hearth.

Note: It must be emphasised that any structural tasks such as adding a hearth or reinstating chimney breasts, need to comply with Building Regulations.

OPENING UP

It’s safe to say this isn’t a mess free job and we advise protecting floors covering and covering and furniture that can’t be relocated to another room. There is potential that astounding volumes of soot and dust will be generated when opening up a fireplace — engulfing everything nearby in a thick, black coating.

The following instructions are for those who have the expertise and choose to carry out the work themselves: 

Start by carefully chopping off the plaster from the assumed centre of the fireplace, working outwards, and the outline of the opening will become apparent. It should be spanned by a lintel, which must be left in place.

Starting one course down from the underside of the lintel, remove a full course of masonry the width of the opening. This should then reveal a space with a fireback where the fire once burned. If the fireback is in good condition, it can be left in situ. Minor cracks in the fireback can be repaired with fire cement, although more extensive damage will need specialist attention.

Once the outline of the structural opening, together with its lintel or arch, is visible, all the masonry within the outline can be removed, leaving a square opening to take the fire or stove of your choice

BEFORE INSTALLING A NEW FIRE OR STOVE

Before you can begin using the fireplace there are a few essential checks to undertake. These include:

  • Damaged arches or lintels will need repairing and the chimney must be sound and clear of any obstructions.
  • Before installing a new appliance, bring in a chimney sweep to clean and inspect the flue.
  • Have the condition of the lining checked and a smoke test carried out.

MAKING IT YOUR OWN.

From the exposed brick to traditional Victorian cast iron inserts, the options to finish your uncovered fireplace are endless. The style you go for really depends on the age of your property and the overall look you’re aiming to create. A large opening might be perfect for a wood-burning stove for example. 

LET US HELP.

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. Let us help you from site assessment, through Building Regulations to choosing your final appliance. 

Our expert advisors are on hand to guide you through your project to achieving the flames you desire. 

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