TERMINOLOGY: HOW TO OPEN UP A FIREPLACE…
We’ve combined what we feel is some sound practical open fire advice, especially if you’re wondering how to open up a fireplace. Information on why burning wood is environmentally friendly and an explanation of some of the terminology of open fires on this page is we hope useful information you might need for your open fire design project. If you have any specific questions do please get in touch on 01905 820181 or by using the Contact us button below.
Some practical open fire advice
There are lots of decisions to be made when choosing an open fire for your home so we’ve tried to give some practical advice on the main areas for consideration. These are only our views on the subject and are focused around log or wood burning fires so you may hear some different views on your travels.
Budget is something most people have to bear in mind. There are wood burning products on the market to suit most budgets, ranging from a few hundred pounds for a small mass produced stove to £5000 plus for built to order integrated fires. If you have to invest in a chimney liner, the cost can be £1000+ at the time of writing. Also take care you don’t compare apples and oranges. Some suppliers simply want to ship you a standard product. Others want to offer far more as part of their service.
Choosing the right style of fire for your home is a very personal thing. The main thing we would suggest is remember that the fireplace is often the centre piece of the room (other than the TV maybe!) so what’s in it will set the tone for the rest of the room. You will look at it – other people will look at it – so take the time to choose a fire that you like now and still will in 10 years time.
Lets be honest. If it’s convenience you want a wood burning fire may not be the best choice. Bringing in and storing the wood can make a bit of a mess and requires a little effort. That said, we think it’s more than worth it- and wood is much easier to handle than coal. The obvious warmth, the reassuring sounds, the aroma and the look of a fire touches all the senses like no other heat source in the home. Choose a log burning fire because you want one, not for convenience.
Which fire will work?
What will work is a very important question that is often overlooked, even at the building stage. Creating a chimney and fire combination that will work depends upon a range of variables involving the height of the chimney, the diameter and shape of the flue, the open face of the fire plus other contributory factors such as ventilation. Our main advice here is that just putting in a fire won’t guarantee it will work.
Take the time to find someone who can give you the confidence that when all the money is spent and mess is tidied up, your new fire doesn’t just look great, it works.
If you feel a Camelot high performance open fire could be the right fire for you, email or call and we can discuss looking at designs for your fire.
Wood, coal, gas or electric
Choosing the fuel for your fire is an important one. Gas or electric is allowed anywhere and is convenient and can be efficient, though often less so in an open fire. The environmental performance of a coal or gas fire is often not regarded as favourably as wood. There are some amazing gas and electric technologies out there but if, like us, you grew up with a log burning open fire place there’s no substitute.
Don’t forget many urban and inner city areas in the UK can be smoke control zones (and there may be more with new legisltation from 2022) so the use of wood or coal is very restricted unless the appliance is Defra approved for use in these areas with the right fuels. If you want to burn wood or coal you have to fetch it and store it. Buying it in small amounts from the local garage is a very expensive way to do it but may work if it’s only for occasional use. Don’t forget about re-constituted wood fules also. Made from various wood, paper, straw or even leaves many of these give off great heat and come in bags without spiders! Burning coal on a wood only fire can cause problems over time, as it burns hotter which can degrade and distort the metal if the fire isn’t designed for it.
We come across many different views on the safety of open fires – particularly regarding stoves. All wood burning fires harness fire – so there is always going to be an element of risk that has to be managed – as it is safely every night in millions of houses around the world.
The door is often cited as a key additional safety feature of a stove over an open fire. Our view is it’s not as clear cut as that. The sensible use of a fire guard will minimise any risk of sparks etc in the same way a door does. Open fires almost always have bigger beds to build the fire on so the heart of the fire will be to the rear – not squeezed into the smaller space of a stove.
One of the key differences between a stove and an open fire that isn’t often mentioned is operating temperature. An open fire body will probably run at around 300 degrees. A dog iron or canopy – which forms a natural and physical barrier in front of the fire will be much cooler than this. A stove body can easily reach temperatures of 500 degrees plus – and there is nothing to signal it’s so hot – especially with the door closed from a side angle.
Efficiency (not emissions) is obviously high on many peoples agenda as its part of the environmental story. Woodburning fires have a really positive story to tell. Many people live with an old style open fire very well. They have the fuel, are happy to fetch it and load the fire as often as they need and they don’t need the open fire as the prime heat source. We know how to make these work and look amazing. For others our Thermovent open fire is the most efficient open fire you can get – and for its size gives out more heat than any other. We’ve achieved this by building in 12 design features to exact maximum heat from each log. Thermovent fires feature a convector system which is up to 5 times more efficient than a freestanding open fire grate.
Fires aren’t complicated devices, so many people consider fitting them themselves. The truth is your dealing with a product which, if installed properly, will work just fine. If not, there could be issues of poisonous gases in your house or even a house fire. In the event of a property fire there could be issues with your insurance if the fire was not installed correctly.
According to government regulations where the product is defined as a domestic heating appliance (such as a stove or our Thermovent) it must be installed by a competent individual. This means they must have undertaken a recognised course and continue to follow its procedures such as registering all fires fitted.
Make sure you use an approved person to fit your fire. Ask the person who does fit it if they are HETAS approved. If you feel a Camelot fire could be the right fire for you we can offer assistance in finding an installer.
Heat, hot water or heritage?
Deciding what you want a fire to do is very important. You may need it as the main source of heat in a room or a house. You may want it to give you hot water. You may never want it to do anything other than look great. Decide what you need the fire to do before you start looking around, as its role dictates some of your choices. At Camelot we have always specialised in open fires. We love our open fires and think they are great as a top-up heat source during the winter months in conjunction with most central heating systems and they look fantastic as part of an open fireplace design. If you need more from your fire, despite the compromise, another solution or even fuel type might be more appropriate.
Chimney liners are sometimes the sting in the ‘let’s open up the fireplace’ project. Fire is fire.
If you are having a fire in your home you need it to be safe. Often people are advised to line a chimney as a matter of course. We understand the practice with a stove as there is often the need to reduce the size of the flue with a stove, but it often isn’t necessary with an open fire place, and can sometimes render a working chimney inoperable let alone the cost which is often £1000+ on top of the fire and installation costs. Always double check if you really do need a liner.
Our advice to anyone looking at a new or replacement fire is review the condition of your chimney with a professional and if needs doing get it lined. Consider the diameter of the lined flue carefully as less than 8 inches (200mm) diameter and you restrict your choice of fire dramatically. If you feel a Camelot fire could be the right fire for you email or call and we can work with our partners to establish the best and safest route forward.
OPEN FIREPLACE AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Burning wood and the Environment
We love wood burning open fires in the home. The warmth of the flame, the aroma around the house, the crackle as the splinters burn. The realisation that burning wood as a means to provide heat in your room is virtually carbon neutral is a blessing. Now everyone has a reason of the head, as well as the heart, to have a real wood burning fire at home!
Lots of positives
Wood is classed as a biomass fuel because it emits the same amount of carbon when it burns as it absorbed when it grew. If left to rot it will still emit the same amount of carbon as burning. In addition, it’s often grown, been harvested, seasoned and burned within the local area, so minimal transport is involved. More often than not it arrives loose in the back of pick-up, so it has virtually no packaging either.
We’re not going to wade into the detail on the subject here. Other people know more than us and have presented the facts better.
Can open fires be efficient?
Emissions is the measure of pollution a fire produces and in many is driven by the fuel choice and the efficiency of the burn that’s created. Fuel choice is dealt with in the next section but in terms of the efficiency of the burn, open fires are at disadvantage over the stove or woodburner as the supply of air cannot be controlled (there is no door with an air vent).
Camelot’s Thermovent fire is one of the lowest emission open fires of its type. It achieves lower emissions than a normal open fire by keeping the gases from the fire down in the fire as long as possible (without smoking) so they have maximum chance to burn off. The 3 sided design (plus flue ways above) also creates a hot pocket which raises the overall temperature around the flame compared to a simple fire grate further increasing the opportunity for emissions from the fire to burn off.
The proposed clean air act in 2022 will raise the bar still further. We are currently working on new developments to establish how Thermovent can be developed to meet these new standards.
Choosing the right wood and coal
Having quality, well-prepared wood for your open fire can make all the difference to the performance of your fire, your enjoyment living with it, and the amount of heat you get out of it. It is also going to become a key thread of new legislation in 2022 where the government will be introducing actions to ensure only good well seasoned wood is easily available but its hard to see them being able to stop those who have their own wood source from using it.
This link gives an outline of the various types. In short – if in doubt, go for Ash! If you’re looking for a great book on wood to burn for your fire – look no further than Vincent Thurkettles’ ‘The wood fire handbook’ : http://www.wood-fires.co.uk/handbook.html
Regarding coal, it gives more heat than wood for a given volume but its dirtier to handle. Its also an area where the new clean air act will target. Its quite possible only smokeless coal will be available domestically from 2022 onward. All other forms of coal will be removed from sale to the public.
A poem about the best wood to burn.
‘In Praise of Ash’ was written by an American called Bud Cottrill from Kansas and was often used as an aid to housewives, and husbands, to let them know which particular types of wood made for good burning:
Beechwood fires are bright and clear, if the logs are kept a year.
Chestnut’s only good they say, if for long ’tis laid away.
Make a fire of Elder tree, death within your house will be;
But ash new or ash old, is fit for a queen with crown of gold.
Birch and Fir logs burn too fast, blaze up bright and do not last,
By the Irish ’tis said Hawthorn bakes the sweetest bread.
Elm wood burns like churchyard mould, e’en the very flames are cold,
But Ash green, or Ash brown, is fit for a queen with golden crown.
Poplar gives a bitter smoke, fills your eyes and makes you choke,
Apple wood will scent your room; Pear wood smells like flowers in bloom.
Oaken logs, if dry and old keep away the winter’s cold;
But Ash wet, or Ash dry, a king shall warm his slippers by.
WHAT OUR CUSTOMERS SAY
“I just wanted to say how pleased we are with the performance of your fire. It certainly does a beautiful job of heating the room, enhances the look of the fire place and has eliminated the problems we faced from smoke. Well done to you and the team on a great piece of kit.”
Nick, Oxon, Feb 2015
TERMINOLOGY IF YOU'RE OPENING UP A FIREPLACE
Like any specialist field, the subject of fires is littered with terminology. We don’t see any merit in trying to cover all the technical terms here but some of the key terminology may help you to make the right choice and improve any conversations you may have about your fire. This list of terminology, with our explanations, will we hope be of use and give you further open fire advice. If anything relevant is missing or confusing do please get in touch by email.
Air control is one means to control the supply of air to the fire. In the case of woodburning stoves, this allows the user to control the rate of burn on the fire by controlling the supply of air to it (a wood stove is a sealed box with the doors shut). In a traditional wood burning open fire, its role is far less significant as the logs/sticks naturally draw air into the fire from the side as well as underneath. As the front face of the fire is open the impact of opening or closing the air control vent is reduced. Many people allow the bed of a fire to fill up the base. If you do this the air supply under the fire is cut off, meaning the air control vent has no effect.
Air intake is the vent along the base of a convector fire such as Themovent. It is where the heat exchange system draws in room temperature air to circulate around the fire and re-enter the room at a much higher temeperature
The air intake should be cleared regularly to prevent blockages and maintain the efficiency of any convector fire.
Baffle or Flue control
The baffle is a means to control the draw (pull) of the fire up the chimney. More draw from the chimney will pull in more air around the fire, and thus increase the rate of burn. Baffles have to be situated above the main grate/fire, some way up the flue gather or flue. There are a variety of designs on the market, such as rotating discs, sliding plates to concertina plates. All work well. Also known as Flue baffle controls. Our Thermovent convecting open fire includes an integrated flue baffle.
These are generally made from Cast iron to make them resistant to heat over a long period of time. They are often decorated with patterns in the casting. Their main role is to protect the fabric of the open fireplace from the heat of the fire – particularly a concern when people moved from burning wood to coal during the industrial revolution. They can also reflect heat back into the room. They are often very heavy, very brittle and only held in place with a couple of long steel spikes driven into the wall.
The bed of the fire is the wood ash accumulation under the fire on which it will naturally sit and burn. In a wood fire with a grate many people allow this to build up to level with the base. This prevents the hot wood embers falling through to the ash tray where their radiant heat is lost. In a coal burning fire you have to take away the clinkers or the coal will not be able to draw sufficent air under the fire. Thermovent fires do not have a grate.
Black lead is a name for a product still commonly referred to but actually very difficult to obtain today. Black lead is a paste with a high lead content.
Applied to a fire grate or steel canopy with a cloth or small brush, then removed with a brush in places, it re-blacks the fire with a heat resistant coat and highlights the features of the fires design. It’s very rewarding, but also very messy. With gloves and a cloth it is perfectly achievable. Today, black lead is not available due to the restrictions on lead products, but graphite alternatives have taken its place and are available from stove or DIY outlets.
A Canopy is a traditional piece of fireplace furniture introduced progressively as fires moved from being in the centre of the room to side walls using chimneys. For a long while people accepted smoke as part of having a fire if you wanted to be warm or cook. Over time rooms became more elaborate and better sealed, which meant the smoke was more of a problem. Canopies were introduced as a way to change the characterisitcs of a chimney without having to re-build the fireplace itself. Some are huge, others tiny strips. They can be made from any non-combustible material but steel, copper and brass are most common. If the canopy is an operative part of the fire its dimensions and shape are a critical element. Camelot Thermovent fires utilise an inner flue gather to make the chimney and achieve the draw, which allows more flexibility in the visual style of the canopy depending upon the clients desired look or the style of the room or property. Call 01905 820181 or use the button below to contact us for further information if you feel a Camelot Thermovent fire could be the right fire for you – they include a canopy.
A chimney fire is caused when something up the chimney sets alight. If may be a tar build up, birds nest, or accumulation of debris. They aren’t normally visible from the fire place itself. Chimney fires can be quite subtle at first (a hot wall, feint roaring sound) but can build up to be very dramatic; flames leaping many feet out the top of your chimney, or even your house burning down. There are some incredible stories of fires, but they could all be avoided with the correct preparation of a chimney in the first place or upon re-use, and with regular sweeping/inspection.
You have to have gas appliances serviced, and wood or coal fires are not different. Burning seasoned wood rather than new wood – particularly on wood burning stoves – also reduces the risk of tar build up. Speak to any reputable chimney sweep or contact us for further info in advance. If you think you have a chimney fire don’t mess about. Call the fire brigade immediately and be prepared to leave the house quickly. It could save your house and your family. You may feel a bit silly but there is no need. They happen all the time and the fire brigade would rather attend a chimney fire than a burning house with injured people.
WHAT OUR CUSTOMERS SAY
Just wanted to let you know how pleased we are with the fantastic fire you installed in our 400 year old thatched cottage recently. We can hardly believe how easy it is to light, without any sign of smoke in the room! Wishing you all the best with camelotrealfires.
Chimney flue describes the construction that runs from the fireplace to the top of the chimney pot. They are constructed from brick or clay or steel liners which may have been installed after the chimney was built. The key aspects of a flue are its diameter, height and construction.
The ratio of the diameter to the height plus the area of the face of the effective fire place dictate whether a fire will work in principle. Other factors can have an influence also. Chimney flues can be square or round and lined in a variety of ways to reduce chimney fire risk, change the performance of the fire and increase efficiency. Chimney sweeps are often a good place to start but we can advise on a Camelot installation in conjunction with suppliers we work with.
Chimney liners are used to address safety or performance issues with existing fires. They are not always required so seek reliable professional advice and ask that specific question – ‘do I have to have it’. Lining a chimney can often cost as much as a new fire itself (upwards of £1000). There are a variety of ways of lining a chimney. Again Sweeps or chimney engineers are a good place to start. The liner can change the proportions of the fire so improving, or making worse, the performance. They can address safety concerns with leaking chimneys or exposed combustible materials. They do also mean future cleaning will be more effective.
Chimney pots are put on top of chimneys for a reason. By adding a pot you increase the height of a flue (some are as much as 1.5m tall!), and can also take steps to address unusual wind conditions which may be affecting a fire. They can also prevent rain from coming down a chimney. The question is which pot? Many installed pots don’t have the desired effect. In the past chimney pots were a piece of architecture in their own right, with some beautiful and elaborate designs. Pause before you put a chimney pot on if suggested, though. It may not be the solution. Sweeps or chimney engineers are again a good place to start.
Convection is the principle of pulling air through a space as a result of some naturally occurring condition.
In the case of a convection fire, it’s heat. As the fire box heats up it causes the air in the heat exchangers to heat up and thus want to rise. This process pulls more room temperature air in at the air intake, and the convection process accelerates to its natural point until the fire cools. All our Thermovent high performance open fires incorporate a built in passive convection system to heat the room, and the people in it, much more evenly. Most stoves done have a convection system built in they are just hot boxes.
Fire Dogs, or Andirons, is the traditional name given to the items which logs were rested on to burn in an open fire. Some of the earliest in existence in the UK are from around the 3rd century. Progressively fires were made in grates ,to increase performance and protect the hearths, and the Dog Irons were used to rest the grate on at each side. You don’t get these historical features with wood stoves but we have retained dog irons as a feature of Camelot Thermovent wood burning fires. Call 01905 820181 or use the button below to contact us for further information if you feel a Camelot Thermovent fire could be the right fire for you – they include handmade dog irons.
This is when due to the wrong physical arrangements in the open fireplace or chimney top the air actually comes down the chimney, not up it. It can happen all the time, or only when certain wind or weather conditions exist. The result is invariably a smoke filled room but there are solutions to this situation – including our Thermovent high performance open fire.
Draw describes the performance of a chimney. If it draws well it works by pulling the gases from the fire (smoke etc) up the chimney thus also pulling more air into the fire to continue or accelrate the rate of burn. If your fire doesn’t draw, email or call and we will try to work out the issue and potential solution.
Fender is the term used to describe the arms that connect the dog irons to the grate front.
WHAT OUR CUSTOMERS SAY
Hi Paul, just wanted to let you know how pleased we are with the fantastic fire you installed in our 400 year old thatched cottage recently. We can hardly believe how easy it is to light, without any sign of smoke in the room!
Paula L, Thatched Cottage, Bedfordshire.
A fire back is a piece of fireplace furniture, often made from a pattern in cast iron, which sits at the back of a fire to protect the surface behind it. Often in the past, the stone or brick was the back of the fireplace itself, with wooden beams not far away! Its easier and cheaper to get a new one of these than replace the wall. Due to their size and the flexibility of the casting process, many have decorative features on. We offer a choice of mini-fire back accessories as part of the Camelot wood burning fire range with a variety of designs.
The fire grate/box is the space where the fire actually burns. A normal grate has four sides and a base. The front is always perforated in some fashion, but the sides, back and base may be solid depending upon the design. On a Camelot Thermovent fire only the front is perforated, allowing air to pass through by design. The fire grate front design is an essential element of the visual appeal of the fire, in conjunction with the Dog Irons and the Canopy. We have produced many different styles of grate over the years.
The fire surround is a separate piece of fireplace furniture which frames the fireplace when you look at it. Some are built with the fireplace, many added later. It can dramaticaly change the appearance of the fire, but usually has no effect on its performance. Fire surrounds are usually made of marble, stone, wood or metal. Ceramics have also been popular in the past. They can range from the most discreet, simple, items to the largest most elaborate affairs. To be fair, more is written about fire surrounds and chimney designs than the actual fire furniture itself.
A flue gather is used to reduce the area of the fire box or fire place down to the area of the actual flue itself. Camelot Thermovent wood burning fire uses a sophisticated steel flue gather to achieve this, as the flue gather is never seen once the fire is installed. It includes the flue baffle control, heat exchangers and internal flue gas baffles to increase performance.
Hand scored can mean many things but at Camelot it refers specifically to the process we use to create the finished effect on one of our steel canopies. It involves the manual grading of the surface of the canopy as part of the finished look. We’ve included examples of hand scored steel canopies and a more detailed description of our methods on this site.
The hearth is the base of the fireplace itself. It used to be the surface the fire was made upon. Today the hearth can be stone, brick, tiles or other hard wearing non-combustible surface. The term hearth is sometimes used to refer to the whole fire place, if it’s very old.
Heat exchangers do just that – they exchange heat from one aspect to another. In the case of a Camelot wood burning high performance open fire that means from the heat of the fire in the fire box, to the air from the room circulating around the heat exchange system within the fire. The whole fire is a heat exchanger, with 7 ‘hot spots’ where the greatest amount of heat is transferred to the air passing through and on out into the room to keep you warm. If you would like to know more do please get in touch on 01905 820181 or using the button below.
Kindling are small stick sized pieces of wood used to start a fire prior to loading larger wood onto the fire. In our experience even with fire lighters, trying to build a good fire successfully each time you light it requires some kindling wood. Take care using treated timber for kindling as the chemicals used can cause it to spit much more, with risk of fire or burns, and some dangerous chemicals can be emitted.
Mantelpiece refers to the shelf that is often created as part of the fire surround, or a specific shelf placed over the fireplace opening. In the past the decoration of, and items upon, the mantelpiece was a very important part of dressing any room with a fire. They are great for pride of place ornaments, cards and Christmas decorations, and leaning on!
WHAT OUR CUSTOMERS SAY
My wife Lizzie and I are so glad to have engaged Camelot. When you are spending a lot of money on something you want to give comfort to you and your family for the rest of your lives, its a big decision. I truly believe anyone using this company will not be disappointed.
Lizzie and Chris, Hampshire
The open face of a fireplace is where the fire actually opens into the room, calculated by mulitplying the height by the width. It is usually vertically below the front face of the fire surround, in-line with the walls of the room the fire is in. It is an essential dimension in the calculation required for the creation of an effective fireplace.
A rod of steel used to manoeuvre wood on a lit fire. Sometimes very simple, sometimes very ornate and part of a set including forks and shovels. Camelot can supply these as accessories to a Thermovent.
Puffing occurs when the fundamentals of a fire are within an acceptable range, but some other aspect is having an intermittent effect on its performance. Puffing can be the most infuriating situation, as sometimes there is no apparent logic for it. Causes can be movement of air outside around the chimney due to trees, banks, ridge lines etc, leaking chimneys, competition with other devices requiring ventilation, such as another fire, extractors etc or poor ventilation. Identifying these issues can take time and requires a process of elimination, but often there is no other way. If your fire puffs and you feel a Camelot wood burning fire could be the right fire for you email or call and we will try to work out the issue and potential solution.
Radiant Heat refers to the heat which naturally reaches into the room from the fire as opposed to that via convection.
Seasoned wood will make a significant difference to the performance of your fire. Always try to use wood which is at least one season old and has been stored outside under cover with a good flow of air. Two seasons or more is best. Practical advice on wood and sources is available from many places on the internet.
Steel, Cast Iron, Brass, Bronze, Copper
Steel, Cast Iron, Brass, Bronze, and Copper are all types of metal used in the creation of a Camelot wood burning open fire. Steel is usually in some form of sheet or plate. Brass can be in sheet or cast. Copper is only used as sheet and Cast Iron, Brass or Bronze are cast into shape using a pattern created specifically for that purpose. All have different properties and are traditional materials used to achieve the right style and appearance for each fire. Camelot Thermovent open fires are made using all these materials – which ever you choose. If you would like to know more call 01905 820181 or use the contact button below.
A sweep is often seen as very old and simple trade in the public’s eye. Nothing could be further from the truth often these days. Sweeps play a vital role keeping fires safe and often offer significant additional services such as flue lining etc. To find your nearest sweep visit the Institute of Chimney Sweeps or the National Association of Chimney Sweeps online.
Tongs are the sibling to a poker. They are a long set of tweezers used to grab hold of logs etc in a lit fire.
WHAT OUR CUSTOMERS SAY
I just wanted to say how pleased we are with the performance of your fire. It certainly does a beautiful job of heating the room, enhances the look of the fire place and has eliminated the problems we faced from smoke. Well done to you and the team on a great piece of kit.
Ventilation for any wood burning fire is essential for its performance and your safety. Fires need air to burn. Modern or renovated houses often have very effective sealing on the doors and windows which can mean a fire can’t get enough air. Providing a correctly sized specific source of air close to the fire itself will improve its performance at all times and give you peace of mind regarding safety. Air bricks are a common source of ventilation for a fire.
Wrought iron is a specific type of metal achieved through a process that is hardly used any more, so genuine wrought iron is hard to come by. It has a ‘grain’ resembling wood when it is stretched. It is tough, malleable and easy to weld. It is a term that is still often used in association with products made from mild steel but that are associated with it – such as fires, railings, gates. Camelot Thermovent fires use mild steel unless a client specifcally requests we source wrought iron.