open fireplace

4 Feb 2008
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United Kingdom
Please help - we removed a Parkray from our chimney breast and rebuilt the sides of the fireplace. We are now going to cover the inside (sides, back and floor) of the fireplace with fireproof bricks and fire cement. We then plan to put in a log basket; there already is a hearth in front of the fire and will not change it. The questions we desperately struggle with are:
1) do we need to put something above the basket (at the bottom of the flue) - like a hood or something? (sorry, I am a disaster at specialist terms)?
2) What can we do to stop the lounge becoming very draughty? As it stands now, the wind blows down the chimney and there's lots of draught.
3) Are there any regulations about the distance between the basket and the top of the fireplace opening (we have a pretty standard semi) - so that smoke does not escape into the house?
Hope this all makes sense, it's all a bit of a mystery to me but no specialist in the area wanted to take the work on.
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Hi alonce

I can't help you much I'm afraid but you don't need a hood for an open fire. Unless you want one. You will need to make sure your grate clears the ground, either on fire dogs, or bricks (cheap, rustic solution) or on integral legs, so that there is sufficient air flow. Ash and hot coals - of wood or coal - will fall through the grate, something to consider for the floor of your fireplace.

If you take a long match/lit taper/lit tight roll of newspaper/incense etc you should be able to check that the smoke will go up the chimney by holding the taper in the fireplace and watching the smoke. If the smoke comes back into the room, that's not good. If it goes up the chimney, great. If the latter, I guess that answers your height question. I don't think there are regulations as such (maybe wrong) but there may be an ideal distance based on experience - but then fireplaces come in so many shapes and sizes, when you think about it (just think of country pubs with open fireplaces). Smoke test is the best way to do a quick check I'd suggest.

If your house is old - eg, I've just moved into a little Victorian cottage with three fireplaces - you can probably assume the fireplace works fine - they relied on them then, so presumably knew what they were doing! Equally, though, I previously lived in a house built in 1989, and when I retrieved the fireplace from under cladding and concrete and a gas fire, it worked fine too.

Not sure about the draughts bit - air should be be pulled up the chimney, not down it...? I have got an open fireplace in my kitchen, and that can feel draughty, but if I hang a cloth across the opening, it gets sucked in, suggesting the airflow is up, not down. Best solution when the fireplace is not in use might be a solid fire guard - you can get decorative ones that are solid - that fills the size of the fireplace and blocks the air flow. Just a thought.

Good luck - and hope you are soon enjoying loads of wonderful fires!


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