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How to retro-fit the right Victorian fireplace

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Victorian cook's room
Cook's room in a stately home
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Retro-fit a Victorian fireplace for the right vintage look

A cheery fire in a beautiful fireplace gives a welcoming feeling of warmth. Fireplaces are beneficial in other ways, too. They can help lower heating costs and may raise property values. This is especially true if the fireplace has a Victorian or old-world charm.

Real estate agents have long commented that people purchasing a home have specifics they look for in houses, depending on the time of year. For instance, in the spring and summer, they head to the windows to have a look at the garden. In the fall and winter, they look at fireplaces. If a fire is lit when the house is being shown, it has an even greater impact. 

Victorian fireplaces are becoming more and more popular. People like to mix historical furnishings with contemporary designs to create a style all of their own.

To meet the increasing demand, many companies offer reproduction fireplaces that can be customized to suit any décor. Here are some points to keep in mind when fitting the right Victorian fireplace to your home.





Fireplace Type

One of the first things to consider is the existing type of chimney and flue at the house. Not all chimneys can handle all fuels and there are structural considerations, as well. 
  •  Class 1 chimney: This design was popular in homes built before 1960. There is usually a 7-inch or greater diameter flue coming through the roof of the house. These flues are suitable for all fuel types, including solid fuels. One important note – have the chimney inspected for soundness before starting your project, because the structure has to be sound. You don’t want carbon monoxide leaks or other hazards.
  • Class 2 chimney: If you have a proprietary steel flue in an older home or a newer house with a steel flue built in, you have a class 2 chimney. It’s smaller than a class 1 at 5 inches in diameter and is not suitable for solid fuel fires. Gas is acceptable.
  • Pre-cast flue chimney: These are often found on modern homes built since 1960. From the outside of the home, you can see a rectangular box that covers the top of the flue. As with class 2 chimneys, they are not suitable for solid fuel fires and only certain types of gas fuels are acceptable.
  • No chimney: Many modern homes have no chimney – or fireplaces – at all. Fortunately, decorative electric fireplaces are available and many put out up to 2 kilowatts of heat. Another option is a bioethanol fireplace. This clean burning fuel lets people have an actual flame without fumes and no need of a vent or chimney.
Fireplace Design

There are three main components of a fireplace – the hearth, the insert or fire box and the surround. 
  • The hearth: This is the foundation of the fireplace and everything sits on this component. They are made of fire proof materials such as granite, limestone and slate to protect the surroundings. Designs can be cut into the hearths, giving them unique details or making them look like tile.
  • The insert: Inserts fit into existing fireplaces or may be installed into new openings. They are specific to the type of fuel being burned, so it’s important to know that first. Usually made of cast iron, there are many size and fascia options to choose from. Inserts can be very decorative and can compliment your style.
  • The surround: The surround is the final piece, which ties all the design elements together. There are limitless options here. For instance, if you prefer a modern, streamlined look, choose a surround that is simple and smooth, without decorative scroll work or a mantle. Or, you can go more ornate, with heavy decorations and embellishments on the legs and a deep mantle. 

Quite often, when people think of Victorian design, lots of frills and decorations come to mind. However, that needn’t be the case. By choosing simple styles for each of the fireplace elements, you can create an understated look.

Without a doubt, there are many things to consider when purchasing and fitting a Victorian fireplace to your home. Take your time to study all the options, then make a plan to create the fireplace of your dreams.

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