FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

There are a variety of questions our customers contemplate before purchasing Victorian Fireplaces, Tiles or even Accessories .

We have tried to answer as many of them as possible, but please let us know if there are any we have missed!

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PLEASE NOTE: FITTING OF A SOLID FUEL PERIOD FIREPLACE SHOULD BE CARRIED OUT BY A HETAS FITTER.

HOWEVER WE ARE HAPPY TO BRING YOU A FEW NOTES ON HOW WE WOULD FIT A PERIOD FIREPLACE.

Tiles: if the fireplace has tiles – you will need timber small wedges and plaster ready mixed

This is the first job if the fire or insert has tiles: Stand the fireplace in an upright position and carefully place the bottom tile into the base of the rack in a central position and very gently wedge the tile in using the small timber wedges. Once the bottom tile is it and wedged it is easy to put the rest of the tiles in using wedges to hold. * Note the wedge should not be pushed too hard as this will snap the tile.

After this lay the fireplace down on the floor so you can see the back of the tiles and just check they are still in position – carefully adjust if required. Using the mixed plaster and a trowel – like you would plaster a wall, plaster the tiles in from the rear. This will set the tiles into position and stop any air gaps which can leak through with smoke or gas. Allow to set – if possible at least 3 -4 hours or longer.

Remove anything that is fitted first – You may need a steel reinforced concrete lintel available from most builders’ yeards

Before the fitting of the ‘new’ fireplace you will need to remove anything that is there that you are not using to get it back to how it was before any fireplace was ever fitted. If you are re-using the hearth or the firebrick back you can leave them in position if you prefer. This can be very dirty job so make sure you have either cleared the room or at very least moved back any furniture, and covered it with dust sheets etc. And don’t forget ventilation.

If the opening is small please note the following – Once removed you may have quite a small opening which may have been reduced when the modern fireplace was fitted. Don’t worry as behind this is the original opening which is often around 36 “square.

Once removed check there is a lintel – this is what holds the chimney stack up, so it would be above the opening. It can sometimes be in an arched shaped end of brick. Be sure to put in a lintel if you think you do not have one. This can be done by gently chiselling away the mortar lines to the size of the lintel and sliding it in. Once this is in place brick up to the size required taken from either a firebrick back or an original fireback, making sure you fill all gaps with mortar.

Laying the Hearth – This differs depending on what you will be burning

If you are using wood or timber – this is solid fuel and you will need either a tiled hearth or a slabbed hearth and then put back together, to make it easy for you to fit. The fashion at the moment is slate; however it is the same when using granite and marble – all should be slabbed for safety. Slabbing hearths allows the expansion of heat to run down the lines and reduce the chances of the hearth damaging / breaking.

If you are using a decorative gas effect fire – the hearth can be in one piece or tiled, however the regulation states that it needs to be plinthed or built up if tiled.

Just for decorative- – You can have it flat and in one piece which is what we call decorative, or plinthed. The rule of thumb is that a flat hearth looks fine when you are having a polished timber floor and plinthing looks better than you are carpeting up to the hearth, but of course it is your choice..

Fitting of Hearth – you will need quick drying cement

On the fitting of the hearth make sure it is completely level, if it isn’t then the fireplace will also not be level – looking out of skew. Using cement, push the hearth into level position on top of a small layer of cement and allow to dry. In the meantime fill out the area of the chimney breast to the same level. You may have been given a small back fill piece (if it’s a slate hearth) – so don’t forget this when filling out. Once this is dry then the weight of the fire / firebrick back will be fully supported when the fitting begins.

Instructions for fitting a firebrick back – please note you will still need to follow the bricking up procedure with a back that is attached.
You may need two strong people here and maybe vermiculite

Place the firebrick back into the position roughly where it will be going and then put it up to the fireplace- Here it is good to check everything is central on both the wall and, of course, the hearth. Pull the firebrick back into position up against the fireplace. Mark the position of the fixing lugs / brackets at this stage. Now fill the back area, behind the brick, with bits of hard core. It is also advised to use vermiculite – available from most good builder’s yards or plumbers, to backfill around the firebrick back – 1- 2” behind the back is ideal. Now continue to brick up to the top of the firebrick and start to feather the bricks into the chimney. This will allow soot to fall down the chimney into the grate, to avoid it building up in the chimney which could possibly cause a chimney fire.

If the original back is on the fire make sure there is enough opening room for the damper or vent and stop the bricking up at this point i.e. The finish level should be below this point. Now fit the fireplace using plugs and good sized screws – suggested over 2” long – note this is to the wall having removed any plaster around the fitting area first. The fireplace should sit on the brick of the chimney and then be plastered up to it afterwards with no air gaps.

The firebrick back should be touching the fireplace and don’t worry too much if they do not form a seal as when the fire is lit the back gets very hot quickly and expands, hence a small gap is desirable. Please note that there should never be a gap at the back of the firebrick as it can cause turbulence, making a very poor fire.

Finally – you may need Black Grate Polish aka – graphite polish, metal polish etc.

All that is left to do now is to clean down everything removing cements and plaster from the fire / hearth and if necessary rebuff the fireplace with the graphite polish where finish has been damaged or removed.

Fitting a tiled insert and surround – The above instructions are for combination fireplaces ; if you are fitting an insert with a separate surround the instructions are the same with regards to the bricking up etc. The difference is that the insert will not be fitted to the wall but set off the wall – this is often the rebate size in the legs of the fireplace and is generally around 10 – 15 cms.

A seal is needed between the two items and to achieve this once the insert is fixed in the correct position from the wall you can use plasters edgings (nice and straight and easy to manipulate) – push down into the gap and then seal with fireproof sealants or plaster until set. Once done don’t forget to screw the surround to the wall.

Please note fireplaces can individually differ and this guidance is only given as general advice. We cannot accept responsibility for the workmanship of anyone other than our own fitters.

Restoring a cast iron fireplace is not difficult, but does require time and patience, by following these few simple steps you can restore your tired looking antique fireplace back to its former glory! Although at the Victorian Fireplace Store we are ready and waiting to do all the dirty work for you, just give us a call!

PLEASE NOTE: As this point we need to let you know that although cast iron is a hard wearing material, it is very brittle and does not like to be twisted or bent, it can also be very heavy, so maybe asking a friend/family member to help when you need it moving.

  • If your cast iron fireplace has fireplace tiles in it, these must be removed first. They are fixed into cast iron tile racks, often with plaster at the rear. The cast iron racks are attached to the rear of the fireplace by nuts. Apply lubricant (WD40) to these nuts and gently remove or loosen them, using an adjustable wrench or spanner until such a point that the tiles can safely be removed. Do not over-stain any fitting or they can snap the tile.
  • Tiles now removed your antique fireplace is ready to be stripped of paint by us, or if not local, your nearest ‘stripping’ place. This is the quickest and often the cheapest way of removing all the years of paint.
  • With your reclaimed fireplaces now stripped back to the bare cast iron, it will need to be wire brushed. Using a cup wire brush (available at most DIY stores) attached to a drill or angle grinder work all over the cast iron fireplace. NOTE – EYE PROTECTION, DUST MASK AND EAR PROTECTION SHOULD BE WORN DURING THIS PROCESS. 90 percent of the first look is in the time you spend in the preparation.
  • If you have any cracks, broken or missing parts, it is worth employing a professional to restore your fireplace. See http://www.strippadoor.co.uk . Once the fire place has been wire brushed and is smooth to the touch, apply Graphite paste, also known as black grate polish – available at Strippadoor. Apply this with a brush working it all over the fireplace, ensuring that it does not get clogged up in the fine detail. Allow to dry for 2-4 hrs.
  • Once dry buff up with a stiff brush and finish with a cloth. The more elbow grease used the higher the shine and the better the end result.
  • You now have a beautifully restored antique cast iron fireplace.
  • Now the tiles: If the tiles are painted then use paint stripper to remove this paint. NOTE – GLOVES AND EYE PROTECTION SHOULD BE WORN. If they are not painted they may still benefit from being rubbed down with fine wire wool, and a scrub with a cream cleaner.
  • Slide the now shining antique tiles down the cast iron tile rack that are attached to the rear of the fireplace. Ensure they are straight and line up where necessary. Hold them in this place with small folded bits of cardboard. Again, getting to avoid tile breakage and don’t force the cardboard down Note: the cardboard is not a fire hazard.
  • Using bonding plaster, cover the tile racks, ensuring it is worked between the tiles and tile racks. Allow time to dry – may take up to 5 hours.
  • Sit back and admire your handy work.

Slate is a type of metamorphic rock used in hearths to produce attractive and natural- looking features. As with any hearth, slate needs to be cleaned periodically. Polishing your slate hearth will give an extra eye-catching lustre. Use only the proper material and techniques when polishing your hearth as this will help it look its best and protect it from damage.

Instructions:

1. Wipe down the slate with a damp cloth to remove any dust or debris before polishing. Allow the slate to air dry completely.

2. Squirt a few drops of teak oil, WD40 or olive oil onto a clean, dry cloth. You can find teak oil at many home improvement stores.

3. Apply the oil to the slate hearth with small circular motions.

4. Use another clean, dry cloth to once more buff in an extra shine to the hearth. This will help to absorb excess oil and will accentuate the lustre of the slate.

The majority of Victorian, Edwardian, or 1930’s interior doors have had many layers of paint throughout the years and eventually this leads to chipping and the loss of clarity of the beads which then looks untidy, even tatty.

Good quality commercial stripping is the answer – Strippadoor use a hot dipping method, in clean tanks and with active chemicals, so minimizing the risk of warping and leaving the door completely ready for the next stage of renovation and repair if required.

It is sometimes said that the stripping process dissolves the glue in the joints of the door, however Strippadoor have been stripping for over 30 years, using the correct procedure and they have found that on the rare occasion the joints have opened this is because they were already slightly open before. Re-gluing and clamping these resolves the problem of damaged joints.

Stripping of previously stripped doors

Please note: stripping of doors is fine provided they have the old lead based paint on them. If they have been stripped and repainted over the last few years they don’t strip properly. You can tell if this is the case as there will be only one or two layers of paint and the surface is more matt than gloss.

Strippadoor generally can tell once they see the door, however it is not 100% foolproof. Once they start the process the item has to go though the process and will be chargeable no matter what the result. If a door has been stripped and then repainted it will leave either some or all of the paint on it, or it can lift a lot of the grain making it excessively time- consuming to sand.

Another problem Strippadoor see is when the door has been stained and finished. The doors that have been finished in this manner are almost impossible to do anything with – in 99% ofdoor the stained finish simply will not be removed.

Be assured that Strippadoor will always give an honest assessment of suitability – we always want to you to completely satisfied with the outcome of our door stripping.

Most people with a traditional home do still prefer an original fireplace. Here at the Victorian Fireplace Store both old and new fireplaces are priced very similarly. For instance a reproduction combination fireplace ranges from as little as £680 to around £1500 for the better quality ones. These prices are very much on a par with our stock of original fireplaces, except in this case the price varies depending on size. For example a small authentic combination fireplace starts at around £600 and larger ones are priced at around £1200-£1500. So as you can see, price-wise there is no real difference; it’s simply that one is original and one is reproduction.

Occasionally the reproduction can be the better choice: there are certain types of fireplaces that are very hard to find in the original, therefore making them very expensive. Typically a Georgian or early to mid-Victorian fireplace with an arched insert and a good-sized burning basket is rare, sought after and ultimately expensive.

As well as our extensive range of authentic fireplaces we are also happy to recondition and sell the Stovax range of reproduction fireplaces as they are of very high quality (Stovax have been manufacturing for over 35 years), and missing or damaged parts are still readily available.

Hand produced tiles, such as those manufactured by Tubeline Tiles, are, due to their very nature of production, subject to variation. No two pieces are the same and sets will experience variations in shade. These tiles will also show slight crazing; this is due to the thickness of the glaze and is considered normal. It is important to ensure before installing this product that you are content with these qualities of the tile.

No claims can be entered into after the tiles are fixed.

This can be a difficult decision as original fireplace tiles are so very much more expensive, and although good enough for re-use, are rarely in perfect condition.

Reproduction tiles have many advantages, most obviously that they are in perfect condition. They usually have white or cream background which helps tremendously when planning your overall colour/design effect. Another benefit is that the reproduction tile range will offer many variations / shades of colour in the design itself; for instance there were very few original blues used in Victorian tiles where as reproduction tiles can be found in a full range of blue including softer shades.

We have an excellent selection of these tiles, and the manufacturers we use reproduce with careful attention to how the originals were made over 100 years earlier. For example the top glazed surface of an original tile was quite substantial, and this is faithfully reproduced by the better manufacturers of today. Also these quality makers can faithfully reproduce the designs of the original, often making it virtually impossible to detect that they are new.

Finally, a major advantage is the very reasonable price for which quality reproduction tiles can be purchased.

Original tiles are becoming increasingly rare. We have quite a collection of these and for the true traditionalist these are the only ones that will do! The colours chosen for original tiles were often quite vibrant – today’s eye might find that the background and design colours ‘argue’ with each other (for example reds and oranges, or clashing shades of green and purple). This is in marked difference to the softer, more subtle tones we are used to seeing in decor nowadays.

However if it’s authenticity you want, then the original you must have!

Stained glass doors and windows were an integral part of many Victorian, Edwardian and later dated properties. The techniques for making them came perilously close to being lost, but have thankfully been revived in recent times. Many different techniques are used to make glass and these can lead to a number of imperfections such as an uneven tinting, odd colour hues, bubbles, cracking lines or ‘seeds’.

These were then always incorporated into the glass to artistic effect – the manufacturers of this specialised item experimented with the use of deliberate flaws and variations in the glass to add texture and realism to the design, and so sometimes the piece has what looks like hairline cracks in it – however this is never the case.

There are a number of different types of imperfections and here we point out a few:

Crown glass which makes the bull’s eye – no two are identical as each one is hand made and has a centre where the pointil (stick) has been pulled off leaving what sometimes looks like a hole. However, this never runs through the piece, instead it is just on the surface

Cylinder glass is blown in a hollow tube, cut down the centre and rolled flat, which leaves bubbles and lines known as seeding.

Antique Cathedral is a transparent, self-coloured glass which is rolled – leaving lines – and has an irregular and very dense surface.

Muffle glass sparkles and is getting harder and harder to come by. Especially in red colours, the tones can vary within a piece.

Rolled glass such as Muranse or Florentine is again difficult to purchase these days and again the colour can vary within the piece.

Spectrum is a glass that allows light to pass through it. It comes in a wide variety of colours and as there is even difference of tone within an individual piece, it is impossible to get two or more pieces which will be an identical match.

Heritage glass is mouth blown and has surface distortion- these leave seeds and surface markings.

Today stained glass is made using exactly the same methods and incorporates these ‘flaws’ to deliberately re-create the original look and feel.

A handsome fireplace tool set can add to the beauty of any fireplace, even a gas one where the tool set is purely for decoration. The standard set comes in 5 pieces:

1. A poker for pushing the flaming logs around

2. A set of tongues for more precision work in lifting logs and repositioning them

3. A long handled brush or, sometimes, just a simple whisk broom for sweeping out the ash

4. A long handles dust pan to sweep the ash into

5. A stand to hold the other four implements

The basic description is simple. The variations in design can give you the look and the feel you want for your fireplace. If you don’t want the whole set, you can buy a piece or two on its own and stand it up next to the fireplace to enhance the look. For a rugged pioneer look, try a wrought iron stand with four twisted rods making up the centre portion. At the bottom, the rods untwist to curve out and then under, creating a stable stand.

At the top, the rods untwist and curve into hooks from which the four tools are hung. The tools themselves can have wrought iron handles that are bent over themselves at the top, providing a loop to hang them and an easy grip for use. A simpler wrought iron look has a stand with two rods rising from four feet and terminating in two hooks. The tools themselves have straight rods with a simple loop at the top to hang them over the hooks, two on each hook. Another look returns to the four rod stand but doesn’t braid them together. Four hooks at the top hold each tool separately. A simple circular handle (instead of a norrower loop) can have quite an elegant effect. For another look, get the same stand in Victorian style bronze and add an understated luster to the piece.

A black nickel finish can also add some luster, this time in a silvery hew. For an even lighter touch, consider pewter. The handles don’t have to be closed loops. They can be simple shepherd’s crooks. Its not just the stand that can have a braided rope pattern. The handles can take up the same pattern, complementing the stand. The hoops curve over and rejoin the handle, braiding around it for several inches. The bars of the stand can flute out in the centre instead of braiding, creating a lovely, egg shaped central space. The handles can have a leaf -shaped pattern that is taken up in the legs of the stand.

Some stands have two rods going up with a large space between them connected by supports. These supports can be as simple as horizontal rods, or as decorative as leaves or a butterfly, fish or animal. Of course, if you really want the piece to shine, you can go with polished brass. A polished brass stand with a polished brass shovel, brush handle, tongs, and a poker present a mirror – like finish that reflects the dancing light of the fire. For a subtler accent, try just polished handles, shaped like long knobs, on the top of a wrought iron tool set. Or on the brass tool set, get the same handles in black, green or white marble.

We manufacture natural slate hearths in various, but generally standard, sizes although as we actually cut them we can make to your required dimensions. Generally this is required to cover up where there has been an existing hearth and a concrete bed is still in place. We cut slightly bigger to lie over this, especially if your are having a timber floor.

The thickness of the slate itself is 20mm and a grey/ black colour with natural flaws. These can be tiny speckles of dark grey, but after continuous oiling they will blend.

Uses and prices

A single piece hearth is the cheapest – one that is not being used other than for decorative reasons – and falls into a standard depth, which is 15″ or 380 mm x a normal length which is up to 60″ or 1520 mm. The cost here is £195 + vat.

Raised hearth. Often people like a hearth height where the carpets are lower. For this we plinth the hearth by a further 20mm underneath so it comes to 40mm height. The regulations to burn a decorative glass effect fire require this height. The cost is a further £38 + vat.

Fuel burning fire. For burning solid fuel, either logs, coal, or both, it starts to get a bit more complicated. The regulations state that the hearth must be stacked (under the stacking is a vemiculite base). This lifts the hearth to 60mm. To reduce or eliminate cracking the hearth has to be cut into three and then put back together and the plinthing and additonal base does this. The cost to do this is a further £78 + vat.

Extra sized hearths. We buy a slab of slate at 30″ (760mm) so from this we can normally cut two hearths. If the hearth is longer than 15″ (380 mm) we can cut only one hearth from the piece and there is a subsequent increase in price which varies with the size you require.

The constructional hearth is the slab of concrete in the floor coming out into the room in front of where the fireplace will go.

In short, it is there to stop your house from catching fire!

There are five different types of flue:

Class 1 flue

The most versatile of all flues. It is 7 inches in diameter and is usually found in properties with conventional chimneys which have, at sometime, had an open coal fire in them. Most models of gas fire will fit into a Class 1 flue. You will generally find that gas fires with a high heat output or fires which are slightly less efficient will require a 7 inch flue in order to disperse more effectively the heat which is lost up the chimney.

Class 2 flue

A conventional flue but only 5 inches in diameter. The range of gas fires that can be fitted to a class 2 flue is slightly reduced when compared to a Class 1.

Pre-cast flue

Usually found in more recently built properties. The pre-cast flue is made from blocks, which fit within the cavity of an outside wall. Sometimes they are incorporated into a shallow chimney breast. The flue runs up the side of the property and discharges in the same way as a conventional chimney, but there is quite a restricted range of fires made for this type of flue.

Balanced flue

In a glass fronted fire, a concentric flue projecting out onto an outside wall. The flue has two layers, one inside the other. One will draw air into the fire, the other will discharge the carbon monoxide outside to disperse into the atmosphere.

Power flue

Usualty fitted to an outside wall where no chimney is available. Generally fitted to an inset open gas fire with no glass front. The fire takes its air from within the room and a fan is fitted to the flue to assist in drawing air into the fire and pulling out the generated carbon monoxide. Power flues need an electrical connection. If there is an electrical power failure, all power flues have in-built safety devices that switch off the gas to the fire automatically.