Choosing an Outdoor Fire

Aiming to embrace outdoor living this summer and make the most of your garden? An outdoor fire can really help to make the garden the place to be after the sun goes down and the temperatures drop. Let’s face it, the cold is generally the first thing to chase us indoors! However, with so many options on the market it’s hard to know which one best suits your garden and lifestyle.

Read our handy guide to choosing a fire for your outdoor space.

Choose Your Purpose

Do you simply want to keep warm or are you dreaming of toasting mallows? Are you creating an atmosphere, purchasing for heat or a bit of both? For many, you can’t sit or eat outside without the atmosphere of a real burning fire.

Both outdoor fireplaces and fire pits have the ability to create incredible ambiance and coziness for an outdoor space, and are a natural focal point around which the overall spatial design can revolve – but they do this in very different ways.

Clay chimineas tend to retain heat more than their cast iron alternative but an outdoor gas fire can be adjusted to suit your needs depending on the temperature without having a naked flame.

A fire pit whilst a beautiful feature isn’t for everyone. The picture-perfect idea of sitting around one, toasting marshmallows and sharing tales into the night takes planning and preparation. An outdoor gas fire simply needs switched on and requires little attention.

Installation, Style and Space.

Stylish clean lines or rustic charm? It’s essential before you start shopping to choose your style and work out how much space you have, this will help narrow down your search. The installation and associated costs of the different types of fire feature can also be very different.

For example, an outdoor fireplace unit, requires an enclosure or wall that will house it. This can take on a number of forms: a chimney-like structure, a wall that divides or encloses the space, or you can even just create a low box that is slightly larger than the firebox. You can create a mantel or a very minimal, flush enclosure. Whatever you do, you must ensure that the materials you use are weather and rot-proof in addition to meeting any combustible clearance requirements of the fireplace you select.

The costs associated with building an outdoor gas fireplace can include running a gas line and hooking up the fireplace (depending on the model), the cost of the fireplace burner itself, and the labour and materials for the aesthetic elements that you choose to build the fireplace out with.

Fire pits may also be quite involved in their construction if you opt to have one custom-built, but like outdoor fires, there are also many smaller, self-contained options available.

Choose Your Atmosphere

Any wood burning fire with an open flame will have your clothes smelling like a bonfire, metal fire pits or (the slightly less smoky) chiminea. For some people smoke can be an irritant if you sit too close to the fire, so many end up sitting further away and needing a blanket defeating the purpose. A gas fire, however, won’t give off any scent, just warmth. 

Storage and Maintenance

A chiminea needs to be taken in during winter as they can crack with frost. Like any wood or multi-fuel fire, both fire pits and chimineas require regular maintenance and cleaning to ensure they are working efficiently. 

Whilst some outdoor gas fires require you to connect the fire to a permanent gas connection, many have the option to connect to and house a gas bottle and as a result these fires are entirely portable. This ensures optimum enjoyment of your garden or patio when you require and the ability to easily wheel it into the shed or garage when the kids decide on a footy match in the back garden or you’re off on holiday. 

Make More of Your Garden

Whatever style and design you opt for, an outdoor fire immediately adds atmosphere and appeal to any garden. Producing comfort radiating warmth meaning you can stay out much later making the most of your outdoor space.

Fireplace Styling

Looking to refresh the styling around your fireplace and wondering what’s on trend this year? We’ll give you a hint, it’s all about you and anything goes!

2019 saw fireplaces getting the spotlight they deserve from interior designers, placing extra emphasis on integrating beautiful and functional fires as the center of the home. This theme continues into the new decade and we take a look at the styling trends set to make your fireplace a focal point.

Soft and Subtle.

Warm pastel hues are returning once again in the new decade. Soft peachy corals, golden yellow tones and terra cotta—colors that feel soft yet grounded in earth tones. Subtle texture, like a tiled backsplash around a hearth and knitted cushions keeps things interesting.

An over-sized mirror fakes an extra window by establishing a bright focal point reflecting light and warmth. Great for smaller rooms.

Modern Nature.

The combination of natural materials and man-made has been a long growing trend and it’s not going anywhere yet. Think concrete and leather, slate and steel, wood and chrome, marble and linen. Your hearth and it’s accessories.

Rediscover the beauty of exposed brick with its history rich feel and warmth, consider teaming this bright contrasting colours such classic blue to add a contemporary edge.

A solid wood beam mantle adds rustic character, keep your interior palette minimal with geometric prints for a modern vibe. Equally, abstract art and geometric print tiles, teamed with natural materials, bring this seasons popular Scandinavian look directly into your home.

Styled log storage, painted in an accent colour, can add a whole new dimension to your fireplace.

Off Trend is the New On Trend

2020 is set to see the trend of mixing old and new styles grow even further. Deck out your mantel using an eclectic mix of vintage and new finds in various materials, like wooden frames and an artsy ceramic jug. Go for high crafted pieces, created by small designers. It’s all about authenticity and investing in what you love.

Your fireplace can wear neutral and bright hues equally so go ahead and try something new. Bright and bold colours lend themselves to being mirrored in the rooms accessories.

A monochrome interior showcases both architectural features and your fireplace. Decorate neutral walls with artwork in the same colour scheme to accentuate the contrast.

2020 is about showcasing your personality through your home and creating spaces that tell your story. Whatever your style, whichever your fire, have fun and make your interior your own. Whether you choose to jump on a trend or opt for a classic fireplace, you can’t go wrong with either. They add instant appeal and visual interest to any space and home.

To discuss your options with one of our experts, contact Living Fires today!

Spring Cleaning Your Stove

Everyone loves to curl up next to a roaring fire on a chilly night, but the fire isn’t warm and cozy if you haven’t regularly cleaned your stove. Fact: a safe and clean stove is a warm and cozy stove. So, how do you spring clean your stove and keep it maintained? Lucky for you, we’ve compiled a step-by-step guide to help make sure you keep your wood-burning or multi-fuel stove and chimney liner or flue in good shape so that when there’s a cold snap, you’re all set to throw in some fresh firewood and light it up.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Spring Cleaning Your Wood-Burning or Multi-Fuel Stove

  1. Before starting, make sure that you have given your stove time to cool down completely. It is important for your safety that your appliance is cold to the touch as you may need to remove several internal parts of your stove. Always consult your stove’s instruction manual for guidance. If you regularly clean your fireplace after you allow a fire to burn, make sure you wait at least three days because that’s how long the coals stay warm for – warm enough to ignite another fire in fact.
  • Begin with the firebox. Start with removing all the excess ash using a dustpan and brush, then disposing safely. Once removed, use a vacuum cleaner to really get the last of all the ash and debris out. Using a brush head attachment can be particularly useful to get into all the nooks and crannies inside and to also clean in and around the grate.
  • Wipe down the inside of the stove with a brush or scraper. Vacuum the inside of the stove again to collect any debris you have loosened.
  • Use a wire brush to clean the grate and any related parts. This is a good time to check the grate to ensure it is in a good condition.
  • Now turn your attention to the firebricks and clean these with a soft brush, this will leave your firebricks looking clean and ready to go. Get inside again with your vacuum to hoover up any leftover debris that you’ve removed. Again, take this opportunity to check your stove’s firebricks for any damage. While everyday wear and tear is common, check for any chips or cracks that may have occurred. While small chips or cracks can be repaired using some Fire Cement, firebricks that are broken or have large cracks will need replacing.
  • You can now return each of the internal parts of your stove. 
  • The inside of your stove has been cleaned and checked over, now you can start to look at the door. Check the door glass for signs of damage by removing it from the door and cleaning thoroughly with some specialist glass cleaner or warm soapy water. This will remove any soot and tar build up that has occurred and leave it looking sparkling clean (some elbow grease may be required here!) Please note that there are two types of stove glass cleaner: one for printed stove glass and one for plain door glass. Please ensure you use the correct option for your stove. If your door glass has cracked, it will need replacing, but if your glass is still in good order, once clean and dry, it can be put back into the door.
  • This is a good opportunity to check the rope seal in the door of your stove; rope seals can become worn and/or loose over time. If this happens, then smoke can seep through and out into your room. If it is old or worn, you should replace it. A good way to test your rope seal is to take a piece of paper and shut it in the stove door. The seal between the door and stove body should be tight enough that the paper will not move when pulled and the door is closed. If there is any movement and the paper can be moved or slid out completely, then you should either re-glue the rope seal using a rope sealant or replace the rope seal altogether.
  • Check the door catch and hinge pins. If they are stiff, lubricate them with a little oil.
  1. Finally show some love to the exterior of your stove: Finish with a sparkle! Use a colloidal black cleaner or a dampened soft cloth (for enamel surfaces) to clean and smarten the exterior of your stove.

Extra Spring Cleaning Tips

Sweeping Your Chimney: If you are burning wood, ensure your chimney is swept at least twice a year; this can be reduced to once if you are only using multi-fuel in your stove. We recommend late Spring and early Autumn. You should book your chimney sweep to attend just before you want to begin using your stove on a regular basis again; this is particularly important if you haven’t used your stove for a while. Whilst visiting your chimney sweep will thoroughly inspect your chimney stack and flue before undertaking a good clean with rods and brushes. They will also identify any potential hazards or repair requirements in your chimney or flue. Any recommendations made will be put in writing for you to act on.

Once the sweep has finished, you’ll receive an Industry Standard Certificate of Chimney Sweeping that should be kept for your records.

If you need to find a local approved chimney sweep please visit the NACS website.

Check Your Alarms: If you have any kind of wood burning or multi-fuel appliance in your home, you must fit a carbon monoxide alarm in addition to your smoke alarm. These should be checked and tested regularly to ensure they are working correctly. We highly advise installing a carbon monoxide alarm as this will detect any odourless, and potentially lethal, gasses that may be leaking into your home.

Storing Your Firewood and Building A Perfect Stove Fire

It’s no secret that not everyone who has a wood burning stove installed knows how to build a fire. Gone are the eras when every household had an open fireplace and everyone grew up taking their turn to start the daily fire. That’s why we’ve written a simple guide on how to store your firewood and how to build the perfect fire. Even if you’re not a complete beginner, these are some great hints and tips for everyone.

Storing Your Firewood

  • Keep your logs as dry as possible. Do everything you can to keep your firewood from getting wet or damp. Many of our stoves and fireplaces come with a specially designed log storage area. Keen these clean and dry to prevent moisture build up especially if close to floor level. We also have a great range of freestanding log storage options. Even when storing logs indoors, you should still ensure you wood moisture levels are below 20% to optimise burning in your stove. Investing in a ‘moisture metre’ can be a reassuring way to quickly and easily assess the suitability of a log before you put it on the fire.
  • Never stack your logs on the ground. As your firewood needs constant air circulation it needs to be raised, an old pallet makes an ideal base. These can be cut to size to suit indoor log storage areas.
  • Make sure your logs are under cover. If you’re storing your log supply outdoors this is particularly important. If you use polythene to cover your logs keep one side open as logs need to breathe to avoid sweating.
  • When building your log stack, start at the outer edge and work inwards, keeping the logs level, and avoid sloping in or out. In larger store areas corners should be created with one layer being laid at 90 degrees to the next, similar to the brickwork on the corner of a house.

Creating The Perfect Stove Fire

There are many ways to light a fire, and plenty of opinions on how and what to do. You may already have your method down to a tee, but if not, read on for an easy step-by-step guide to lighting your wood burning stove quickly and efficiently.

  • Preparations. As previously mentioned, make sure your logs are dry and fully seasoned before you bring them indoors (if storing outdoors) and use a good mix of species, as they will burn at different rates (Read ‘Selecting Your Firewood’ for more information on this). Having a plentiful supply of firewood to hand is essential, especially on a cold, wet night. Keep a basket full of kindling wood close to the fire so that it’s ready for use at a moment’s notice.
  • When building a fire in a wood-burning stove, start by opening the Air Controls fully to ensure the fire gets the air supply it needs to establish properly. There is an indicator at the top of many appliances to show which direction to move the control from closed to open. On some models the control is below the door.
  • Now get set to build your fire. Choose some small to mid-sized seasoned logs. Place the medium sized logs on the fire bed with enough space between them for air to circulate.
  • Now place some smaller logs across the larger ones below. Try not to lay all the pieces in the same direction. This will start to create the fuel stack in your stove, which when ignited from the top will create the draw the needed to get going. This is known as the ‘Top Down’ technique. This method is designed to speed up the time it takes to for the flue to warm up, increasing the draw and getting your logs burning beautifully and cleanly.
  • Place an Eco firelighter in the centre of your stack. This will help the larger logs ignite when the fire burns down to them.
  • On top of your logs, stack kindling in a similar fashion, crisscrossing each layer. You will need around 6 to 8 pieces of kindling for a standard stove, but if your stove has a tall firebox a few more layers can be added. Place another Eco firelighter on top of your kindling stack.
  • To create the best possible conditions for the for the fire to burn, ignite the firelighter on top of the kindling. Leave the stove door slightly ajar to allow plenty of air to reach the flames.
  • Once the kindling has started to catch, close the door. Your stove’s air controls should be fully open to allow as much combustion air in as possible.
  • Wait for the logs to ignite and once they are burning well, set your stove’s air controls to normal running mode.

Refueling

  • Open the controls fully.
  • Rake the embers over the grate to establish a glowing fire bed (if the fire bed is low add a small amount of kindling wood to help re-establish the fire.
  • Place new logs in an open arrangement to allow oxygen to easily reach every part of the fire. Compact loading will make the wood burn slower; cause the fire to smoulder and produce more smoke.
  • Burn the new logs at high output for 3-5 minutes before slowly closing down the air controls. Do not close the air controls until the fire is burning well.
  • Refuel little and often for clean, efficient burning.

Useful Tips

  • Experience will establish the setting to suit your needs.
  • Ensure your logs are well-seasoned and dry. Hardwood logs also have around twice the burning time of softwoods.
  • Do not load logs above any log guard that is fitted, or any secondary air outlets in the back of the firebox.
  • A bright and clean firebox indicates the stove is burning well.

Selecting Firewoood For Your Fire Or Stove

The glow of a wood burning fire is a welcome sight on a chilly evening. The flickering flames, the cracking and popping of burning bark and the delightful smell of wood-smoke all help to forget the gloomy darkness outside. To help you achieve the best fire, we’ve put together some top tips on selecting what firewood to burn.

How to Choose Your Firewood

First things first, don’t even think about throwing just any ol’ log on the fire! We’ll explain why below. It’s important to remember that not every piece of timber makes good fuel. 

Hardwoods such as beech, oak, ash, birch, and most fruit trees are the best burning woods that will give you a hotter and longer burn time. These woods have the least sap and are generally cleaner to handle.

You should never burn salt-saturated drift wood, non-local wood or discarded woods that you’d usually take to the tip like coated, painted, or pressure-treated wood. Burning any of these can release toxic or harmful chemicals into the air.

You should also never burn green wood. Before burning any freshly cut wood it needs to season, this basically means dry out this process takes a minimum of six months. Freshly cut wood, called green wood, is loaded with sap (mostly water) and needs to dry out first. It’s hard to light and once you get it going, it burns very quickly and produces a lot of smoke. If you’re unsure if the wood you’re about to purchase is green, ask the seller when it was cut. You can also check the bark: firmly attached bark that’s still sticky with sap is a bad sign.

Softwoods such as pines and firs should also be avoided. These can burn very fast, don’t leave a lot of coals and produce a lot of smoke which, in the long run, would be damaging to your flue or chimney.

If purchasing from a supplier, be careful what size of firewood you buy. Any logs over 5 inches in diameter will need to be cut or split before burning. Whilst this can be great exercise, you will need room to chop and an axe. Also, be aware that kiln-dried logs are more expensive to buy, but they are not necessary for most wood burning stoves or fires. Another tip is to always look for the ‘Woodsure Ready To Burn’ label. This certification means the wood you are buying has a low moisture content, so you can be sure that the logs that you are burning are right for your stove.

Whether you decide to buy from a supplier, or source your own wood, the key is to only put good quality, clean, seasoned firewood in your stove or on your fire that is dry to the touch.

A Guide to How Different Hardwoods Burn:

The following is a short guide detailing how different hardwoods burn. With different aromas and burn speeds, it is important to consider this when selecting your wood to achieve the fire you desire.

Ash: Ash wood produces a steady flame in fires with a good heat and burns well. It will burn successfully on its own, so does not need to be burned in a mix of different species. Traditionally claims an ash fire is fit for royalty and said to be one of the best woods for burning.

Oak: Oak is the slowest wood to season, at approximately 2.5cm a year and ideally should be seasoned for a minimum of two years. Because of its density, it is slow to burn as firewood and is best used in a mix of faster-burning logs. It can help to keep the fire going on longer nights.

Birch: Birch makes excellent firewood, producing a good heat, although it burns relatively quickly, so in a fire, it’s best to use it in a mix of slower-burning woods, such as elm or oak. The bark on birch can be peeled off and used as a natural firelighter.

Beech: Beech is a superb burning firewood, although it has a high water content so needs to be dried well; ideally, it should be seasoned for three years before use. It does not need to be burned in a mix.

Cherry: Cherry burns slowly with a good heat output in a fire and gives off a lovely aroma. Needs to be well seasoned, again strips of the bark can also be used as natural firelighters.

Sycamore: Sycamore burns in a fire well when seasoned with a moderate heat output. It seasons very quickly, usually within just one year.

How to pick the right stove for you

Thinking about installing a stove in your home but unsure which fuel-type is right for you?

Here we look at one of the biggest questions when it comes to choosing a stove and how to pick what’s right for your home.


Like many house features, there are several factors to consider when planning for a stove
and the biggest question of all is what fuel do you want to burn or would you rather the
convenience of an electric model? Gas, wood-burning or multi-fuel? If you want to heat your room, and your stove isn’t purely for aesthetic purposes, then the type of fuel you chose will influence the style and choices available to you.

Our handy guide is broken down into fuel categories, helping you chose a stove that’s not only an eye-catching focal point but functions for your home too.


GAS and ELECTRIC For a fuss free flame, a gas or electric stove is always a winner. Modern designs are virtually indistinguishable from a wood or coal burning fire. Gas and electric stoves provide flames, or a flame effect, and heat, without the mess and storage requirements of other fuels. Electric stoves are an easy, plug in choice for home without a chimney or flue.


WOOD-BURNING
Are you concerned about having heat during power failure? One of the benefits of solid fuel
fires is they can operate during power cuts, when you need the heat the most. Up to 80% of
the heat generated by a wood-burning stove goes into the room and they continue to
radiate heat after the fire has gone out so you stay warmer for longer. Wood-burners are
the current favorite and can even be installed where there isn’t a fireplace.
Although burning all types of wood from hardwood logs (these give out most heat) to
softwood, there is a lot to learn what you can and can’t pop in the stove. Some wood can
release toxic gases and cause a build-up of resin in the hearth and flue. Look out for the
‘Ready to Burn’ logo when purchasing wood. This scheme is backed by the government and
it identifies that the logs contain no more than 20% moisture to reduce smoke and
emissions which contribute to air pollution.

MULTI-FUEL
Multi-fuel stoves are easy to clean and offer the greatest flexibility, burning a variety of
authorized fuels such as coal, wood and smokeless fuel. These stoves have a grate inside
them for the fuel to sit on, making them ideal for coal, which needs air to reach it to burn
efficiently. Wood on the other hand, burns best when sitting on a bed of ash with air circulating from above. Because of these differences, a multi-fuel stove may not be optimised for burning both fuel types at the same time.


TOP TIP

From 2022 all new wood-burning and multi-fuel stoves must meet new Ecodesign
legislation. This requires stoves to run at an efficiency of at least 75% and to have low
smoke emissions. Look out for the SIA Ecodesign Ready Label when making your selection.

SAFTEY FIRST
Whichever fuel you choose to burn (with the exception of electric stoves), they can all
produce carbon monoxide, so make sure you stay safe by fitting a carbon monoxide
detector in the room where your stove will be.