Get the most out of your fireplace this autumn

Charnwood C-FIVE

Charnwood C-FIVE - Credit: Archant

Nothing beats huddling round a cosy fireplace with all the family during the bleak winter months, but a fireplace can be so much more than just a method to melt your marshmallows. Here’s how to get the most out of your fireplace this autumn

You are a king by your own fireside as much as any monarch in his throne – Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote

1. Choose your wood carefully

Not all wood has the same qualities, and the type of wood that you use in your fireplace determines how well the fire will burn. Generally hardwoods, such as ash, maple and oak are recommended as they create a hotter flame than softwoods, like pine and cedar. However, the most important factor in choosing your wood should be ensuring that the wood is dry. If there is any moisture in the wood it will not burn well.

“The first recommendation we give to our new customers is to use kiln dried wood,” says Richard Picking, owner of fireplace company Ash and Embers. “The prices haven’t risen in seven to eight years, and it has an extremely low moisture level.”

2. Storing your wood

As moisture is such a problem when wood burning, keeping your wood dry in suitable storage should be a key priority. While Picking says it’s probably best to store wood in a proper wood store, if this is not an option the wood can be stored anywhere where there is a good circulation of air to keep it dry.

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“Don’t store it in the cellar, or even a garage,” adds Picking, “Places without any air just won’t do. Storing wood should be the equivalent to putting your washing out on the line!”

3. Upgrading to a glass-fronted stove

A popular choice for many modern fireplace users is to upgrade from an open fireplace to a glass fronted model. Throughout London it is actually illegal to burn wood on an open fireplace, and in many ways this is a blessing because glass-fronted stoves tend to be more energy efficient.

“Nowadays most customers have glass-fronted stoves,” says Picking. “Not just because they look lovely, but they’re typically 75-85 per cent more efficient compared to open fires. With open fires the chimney will draw masses of air out of the room. Stoves don’t do that so you’ll get through the wood slower.”

4. Circulating your warm air

The circulation of warm air depends on the type of fireplace you are using. Again, wood burning stoves do not need a lot of help with air circulation, as they naturally expel air out of the fireplace and into the room.

“Many modern appliances will do that,” says Picking, “but if you have open fires you legally need room ventilation.” This can come in the form of ceiling fans or an inbuilt ventilation system.

5. Maintain your fireplace

Not properly maintaining your fireplace can result in safety hazards as well as internal issues, which can be expensive to fix.

Ash and Embers recommends servicing your fireplace every year. Picking also say that it’s worth hiring a chimney sweep at least once a year, possibly more if you have a fire burning regularly. Servicing makes sure that everything is in good working order and can be cheaper in the long run.

6. Don’t overload

Overloading your fireplace with wood can cause a host of problems, from damaging your fireplace to causing chimney fires by igniting the creosote in the chimney. Furthermore, if you overload your fireplace you can reduce the amount of air needed for ideal burning.

Picking explains: “Obviously how much wood you put on your fire depends on the size of the stove, but you may only need one log at a time for a small stove because they’re efficient, or three or four if it’s a big family fireplace”.