Our tips on finding the perfect hearth for your home

You can't have a home without a hearth, especially if you're the type who likes to sit and brood with a glass of whiskey in your hand. It just doesn't have the same dramatic effect if you do it whilst staring at the wall instead of a raging fireplace.

The comfort gained from fireplaces goes back to our caveman days, when our survival depended on the presence of a well stoked fire. So, it's no surprise we're reluctant to let go of them, even in this age of efficient central heating systems. After all, as efficient as heaters are, they simply lack the panache of a crackling fire.

Not all fireplaces are equal, however, and you want to get one that suits the character of your home. Here are some home improvement tips for anyone looking to install a fireplace, whether it's because you intend to convert your living room into a Viking mead hall or just want to give your home a little winter cheer.

What you need to factor into your planning:

Size: Determine how a big a fireplace you require before purchasing one. Obviously a fireplace that's too small will fail to generate the required heat, but you should be just as wary of a fireplace that's too big. In that case, the heat generated will be too intense, making the fireplace a waste of space as you'll be reluctant to use it.

Ventilation: All fireplaces require the room in which they are situated to have a source of constant ventilation.

Fuel source: Fireplaces were once limited by the amount of firewood you had available, and in the industrial age they were fueled by coal. Nowadays, home owners have many other options available to them, with natural gas being the most energy-efficient, according to CVO Fire.

In most cities, burning non-smokeless fuels is restricted by the Clean Air Act, but then why would you want to use them with so many cleaner and more efficient options available?

Flue system: The flue system is what enables the smoke to escape, usually via the chimney. The need for a flue system must be factored into the planning; unless the fireplace in question is powered by natural gas, in which case it can be situated anywhere in the home.

Aesthetics: By Victorian times, fireplaces had become decorative elements as well as a source of heat. Nowadays, you can get fireplaces in almost any style you like: Tudor, Victorian and Edwardian (for the Downton Abbey fans), for example. There are also plenty of slick modern designs that provide both efficiency and aesthetic appeal.

Wood fireplaces vs. gas fireplaces

A tough choice for many home owners is whether to go with the classic wood fireplace or the modern natural gas-powered variety. Many see it as a choice between ambiance and convenience.

Gas-powered fires require less maintenance (no need to clean and inspect a chimney on a regular basis, and no mess from carrying firewood), and can be installed anywhere in the home. Wood fires are more atmospheric, and there's a certain satisfaction derived from tending them. Furthermore, they can be designed to provide a means for cooking as well as heating. Of course, firewood is not as readily available in the city as it would be in a country home.

Fireplaces add value to a home

However much it costs to install, and whatever design you end up going for, there's no doubt that installing a fireplace will increase the value of your home in the long-term. According to Toby Walne, adding a fireplace to your home can add as much as £10,000 to the value of the property. So it makes sense whether you're a home owner or a property investor.


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