The Essential Guide to Fireplaces   

First steps, Wood, Gas or Electric ?

One of the first things you need to decide before you consider design is:
‘"What type of fuel can I burn?" 

If your property has a chimney breast, you will most likely be able to install a wood burning fire, a freestanding fire or a conventional flue gas fire but before you embark on either, ensure that the chimney is checked thoroughly by a qualified professional for safety and suitability.

For those modern homes without a chimney there are other options to suit your needs. Installing a balanced flue system in your property ensures you can burn gas fires efficiently.

Otherwise, if you have a plentiful supply of wood, fitting a twin-wall pipe system can enable you to enjoy the flames of a real log fire in your home. Whatever flue outlet you have available, there are numerous models of fires to choose from.

The Benefits of Wood Burning

An increasing number of people want to make a difference to their carbon footprint and burning wood cleanly in a modern stove is a carbon neutral way to create heat for the home especially if you have purchased your fuel from a local and well managed supply. Logs should be seasoned for 2 years or more to achieve a moisture content below 20% With wood fuel competitively priced, or even cost-free to those who have their own coppice, this option is an extremely effective way to save money! But a very big draw to woodburning is the stunning focal point it naturally creates and the, possibly unparalleled homely ambience it produces in abundance. That distinctive, comforting smell is for many the scent that captures the imagination and conjures the very concept of cosiness and being at home.

For optimum results, we recommend logs should be seasoned for two years or more to achieve a moisture content below 20%. This will not only give twice the output of freshly felled timber but help avoid a build-up of tar in your flue. Furthermore, if you can obtain hardwood logs this is better still, as they will have a greatly increased value compared to softwoods for the same volume.

Quick and Convenient Gas

The popularity of gas continues to rise and with the breadth of styles of both stoves and fires available in today’s market, it is easy to see why. While it is still possible to achieve that classic inset gas fire look with a coal fuel effect, a decorative front and a frame, there is now the option to insert a cassette into the wall to create a ‘hole in the wall’ look around which you can add a frame or leave to create a ‘frameless’ aesthetic – particularly effective when accompanied with fireplace surround tiles.

Fuel effects have also become more varied and life-like – choose from chunky logs and highly realistic coals to contemporary white stones or even, coloured glass beads for an injection of colour. Gas is also a plentiful resource and reasonably priced with many New Zealand homes hooked up to natural gas that is piped directly into the house. Should you find however that you do not have access to natural gas, many appliances are able to work with LPG or bottled gas. Furthermore a very attractive feature of many gas fires is their ability to be remote controlled, providing the ultimate in convenience and relaxation.

From standard controls to operate the basics such as turning the fire on and off and altering the flame height, to thermostatic remote handsets that allow you to set your preferred room temperature, you can even set the time that you wish your fire to come on at, thus bringing your gas appliance into the sort of timetable that would normally be exclusive to your central heating.

Go Electric

It may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you are considering a fire or fireplace but modern electric appliances have come on leaps and bounds recently.

Enticing flame effects are becoming more and more lifelike and manufacturers have started to incorporate low energy or LED bulbs to decrease running costs.

For ‘hang on the wall’ fires or fireplaces, electric appliances really are suitable for all so in the absence of a chimney or flue, they are ideal – simply plug in and away you go.

Other benefits of electric fires include the option to use the flame effect independently of the heat output which means no matter the temperature outside, you can enjoy the charming and alluring visuals inside!

What happens if I live in an Urban Area?

Legislation to control smoke, the Clean Air Act was introduced and passed as an Act of Parliment in 1972 and gave local authorities the power to declare a ‘Smoke Control Area’ in their vicinity.

The Act was put in place to deal with smog caused by the widespread burning of coal for domestic heating and by local industry and included the control of emissions of smoke, dust and fumes. Today, many large towns and cities in the New Zealand are designated Smoke Control Areas as a result of the Act.

The good news is that there are now appliances that are approved for use in Smoke Control Areas which means those living in built up areas do not need to miss out on having a solid-fuel appliance.

Stovax has had the Studio 2 NZ specifically designed, testested and certified for the New Zealand market. The fire is available as an inbuilt or freestanding model.

Learn the lingo…

What is Cleanburn technology?
Cleanburn is an innovation in heating appliance technology that results in a highly efficient output, less smoke and a cleaner environment.

It works by introducing pre-heated, secondary air into the firebox to burn the excess hydrocarbons in the smoke. This, in turn, provides not only a ‘cleaner burn’ (i.e. less soot particles going up the chimney/flue and into the atmosphere) but also generates twice the heat output from your fuel.

What is Airwash technology?
Many Stovax stoves have Airwash as standard. This technology drives a constant airflow along the window of the stove door making sure that the flames, smoke or combustion particles do not come into contact with the glass as a result. This means the glass stays cleaner and clearer so you can enjoy a fuller view of the beautiful flames and glowing embers.

Heat Shields
Where available, a heat shield is an extremely effective device that enables a reduction in the distance between the appliance and any combustible materials to just 100mm. This increases the installation possibilities of these fires, particularly in rooms of smaller proportions.

Inbuilt or Freestanding ?

Before visiting your local retailer, have a think about the space into which you wish to introduce your appliance. Is it a cosy inglenook in a country cottage or a clean white wall of a new build; a grand Victorian townhouse renovation or a terraced home? Whatever your starting point, there are a number of options available in terms of frames, surrounds, mantelpieces and fronts but firstly, would you prefer an insert fireplace or a freestanding fire?

A solid fuel, gas or electric fire has a timeless quality, will be highly efficient and can have a modern or traditional style. There are even models with built in warming plates and barbecue grills!  

Fires on the other hand can offer you a wealth of options. If you would like a period feel, a Classic Fireplace with a wood or stone mantel, cast iron front, hand piped tiles and decorative fire basket will finish your room beautifully or provide an eye catching and character building focal point.

Alternatively, you may need a cassette fire to complete a sleek, modern interior, with the latest aesthetics and room for a flat screen TV above! Solid fuel and gas fires are available as open or glass fronted appliances; can be brought out into the room and placed on a special bench for impact or built into the wall to create space; personalised with a wood, stone or glass frame and even enjoyed from multiple spaces as double fronted appliances beautifully linking two rooms with warmth and stunning visuals.

Framing your Fire…

The selection of frame or surround can be the cherry on the top of your fireplace choice.

Stone has been a traditional mantel material since the medieval times, whilst marble has been used for more than 300 years and continues to be a well respected choice of mantelpiece material with its classic appeal and longevity. To suit our modern sensibilities, stones have become lighter and without the very obvious veining; this has helped to make them easier to introduce into existing decorative schemes. Limestone is also a good choice, and has a gentle warmth in hue that contrasts somewhat with the clean look of marble. Limestone also has natural variations and it can be exciting to find evidence of small fossils in your mantelpiece! 

Wood, being a softer medium offers many possibilities in terms of design. It can also be stained or painted to your specific taste. From ornately modelled rich Cherry to a more simply designed offering painted warm white, a wooden mantelpiece can offset a traditional period fireplace or a modern gas appliance with equal aplomb.

Cast Iron
Cast Iron’s ability to diffuse heat makes it a popular choice for stoves and was also a commonly used material in the Combination Fireplace which dates from around 1895. The medium has wide styling potential, making beautifully intricate detailing a reality.

Glass and steel to ceramic, stone and wood – the material possibilities for a fire’s frame are extensive and can really maximise the visual impact of an appliance. Shaped, curved frames, available in a choice of metallic colours, or sleek black reflective glass frames will secure a contemporary feel; alternatively frames made from natural stone with their subtle textures and delicate tones will make the most of the swirling flames and glowing embers within the firebox.

Whether you have elected for a ‘hole in the wall’ fire or a stove, it can be very effective to apply a tile to the wall around and behind it. This can help to create a fantastic feature wall. Tiles can be constructed from natural stone, glazed porcelain or polished unglazed porcelain and are available in a range of designs and textures including wood effect, cement, concrete and mosaic.