Fireplaces make for a cosy addition to any home, where the variety of brickwork and designs available mean that you can choose a model to compliment your existing interior. A fireplace can be made up of a whole range of different materials, both synthetic and naturally sourced, where each consists of a number of components and aesthetic features.
In order to function correctly, a fireplace must have a specialised lining and firebox to support efficient fuel combustion, where a lined chimney system is also required to allow smoke and debris to leave the property safely. These basic elements are then complimented by surrounds and mantelpieces, where design and decor options are various.
Read on for an in-depth look at the various components of a standard fireplace, and an overview of the building materials often used in fireplace construction.
A fireplace typically consists of a collection of interior and exterior features, designed to keep the fire burning whilst making for an aesthetically pleasing instalment in your home. Components generally include:
Firebox – Where fuel is stacked for combustion, usually housed inside the wall and made from non-combustible metal or firebrick
Mantel – More commonly known as a mantelpiece, this provides a frame for the fireplace opening, often with descending supporting legs
Surround – This is a collective name for all the parts that make up the fireplace around the firebox
Hearth – The stone flooring panel directly in front of the fireplace, designed to prevent debris from entering the room
Back panel – An external decorative piece fitted between fireplace opening and the surround
In order to create a functioning fireplace, high quality and durable materials must be used. These come in a variety of forms, including natural and man-made rock types, which are used to build the surrounds, mantelpiece, back panel and hearth. Materials include:
A common building resource, limestone is a sedimentary rock type typically composed of calcium carbonate. It is extracted from natural rock faces using various blasting methods, where the rock is then sorted for quality and sliced into bricks. Most limestone is soft in composition, meaning it is easy to utilise for a range of building purposes, where it’s usually grey, white or yellow in colour.
A more luxurious building material, marble is a metamorphic rock type, which forms through the metamorphism of sedimentary rocks, which crystallise under conditions of great heat and pressure. It is usually extracted from the earth using diamond tipped drills, where it is then sorted for quality and polished. Marble with fewer colour elements and veining is generally rarer and therefore more expensive. Pure marble has a hard, granular texture, and is generally a pink or white hue.
An alternative to traditional marble, the micro version consists of quarried marble ground into a powder, which is then mixed with resin to make slabs of rock. It is popular due to its smooth, even texture, compared to the granular feel of pure marble. Micro marble also makes a great building material, due to its strength, durability and stain resistant qualities.
A widely used natural resource, wood is generally sourced from sustainable forestry practices, which involves replanting of felled crops. These logs are then sawn and finished or treated to create workable planks. Wood varies in colour and quality depending on the species of tree, where oak and pine are common building materials, whilst mahogany and walnut make for more expensive options.
An alternative to natural wood or stone, cast iron is an iron and carbon alloy which is made from reducing iron ore in a blast furnace. This can come in various types depending on the raw ingredients used, where it may be grey, white, ductile or graphite cast iron. Due to its low melting point, cast iron is easy to mould into a variety of shapes, making for a versatile building resource.
A man-made material that replicates natural stone bricks, concrete is made up of aggregates bonded with cement. The fluid cement then hardens and sets over time to create a highly durable material. Qualities of cement vary depending on the ratio of aggregates used, where this base ingredient can consist of sand, gravel or crushed stone. Concrete can then be scored or treated to give a range of attractive results, where stamping, engraving and staining the material can all help to enhance its appearance.
Traditional fireplaces are an attractive asset in any interior space, but they are often difficult to install if you don’t already have a space for installation, as well as a pre-existing chimney system. Less intrusive alternatives can include inset or hole in the wall fires, which don’t require a full fireplace and hearth.
An inset electric fire won’t require any kind of chimney or flue system, where it can quickly be installed and plugged into the mains. As these fires are contained within a wall, they are also much more energy efficient than an open fire. Their modern designs can also be preferable to more traditional fireplaces, where they are often suited to smaller spaces and new builds.
Another popular alternative is a freestanding stove, which can be more energy efficient than an open fire, due to its sealable glass front. These fires are also designed to burn at hotter temperatures, which release more heat into your home than an open fire whilst also ensuring that combustion is more complete, which means less harmful gases are emitted.
Stoves are generally made of steel or cast iron, which is known for its durability. These types of fire are also very versatile in terms of what fuel they can burn. Traditional options tend to burn wooden logs or coal, whilst more modern variations can utilise bio-fuels for a greener fire alternative.
In addition to these standard building materials, fireplaces can then be decorated according to personal tastes. Concrete and wood surrounds are easy to paint or varnish to alter their appearance, where these surfaces can have a polished finish or a distressed look.
Mantelpieces also present a variety of interior design opportunities, where your fireplace mantel may already consist of a shelving unit, or this can be added. This space can then be decorated with plants, picture frames and mirrors, all of which help to create an interior focal point from your fireplace.
For a more rustic look, an authentic fireplace beam can be fitted above the mantel to frame the fire, where it can compliment a stack or basket of logs and kindling. These can be manufactured from pure timber, or they can be a composite variety, meaning they are made from two or more different materials.
A fireplace grate, screen or fireguard are further tools for accessorising your fire area whilst also offering a range of practical features. Grates hold your fuel in place within the firebox, and can prevent debris from gathering on the surrounding floor. A screen or fireguard can help you direct heat within the room, and keep pets and children away from open flames.
Fireplace Superstore: Find Your Ideal Fireplace Today
At Fireplace Superstore, we stock a broad range of fireplaces and stoves, made to suit any home. From ultra modern electric fireplaces to traditional timber designs, we have the perfect model to complement your interior. These fireplaces work with a variety of fuel types, where we also supply bio-ethanol, multi-fuel and indoor gas fires.
We only supply the very best in fireplace design, where our range includes Pureglow Hanley Limestone models, Elgin & Hall Cabrine Micro Marble fires and the Be Modern Emelia. In addition to fireplace models, we also supply a range of fire accessories, such as stove pipes, fireguards, frets and paints, as well as a selection of cleaning products.
Fireplace Superstore can also offer you comprehensive fireplace servicing, where our experts are fully equipped to handle a range of maintenance tasks and repairs. Complete our online service request form now to get started on giving your fireplace some much needed attention.
Contact us today to find out more about our full range of fireplaces, or to enquire about our installation and delivery services.