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Whether you have recently invested in a new open fire or perhaps a log or multi-fuel stove, one of the first things you will be dying to do is get a successful fire going.

To the uninitiated, building that first fire can seem like quite a challenge; however, by following a few well-tested tips, you will soon be enjoying the comfort and cosy atmosphere that only a real fire creates.

The first thing to do is gather together all the supplies required to get your fire started. Grab an old newspaper, some firelighters (although true pros tend to look down their noses at these!), kindling and your choice of fuel - wood or coal, or you can use both - and a box of matches.

Like any task done with care, the key to building a successful fire is in the detail. Take five to ten sheets of the newspaper - if your fireplace or stove is on the large side, you may need more - and roll each sheet into a thin strip, which you should then tie in a nice tight knot. This is a very efficient way to create lots of lovely heat right in the centre of the fire. Cluster all your knotted newspaper together and add a few firelighters at intervals. Kindling goes on next, although less is more in this instance - you just need sufficient to help your main fuel to catch well.

If you want to set your fire up to burn well over several hours, adding a few lumps of coal at this stage is advisable; however, ensure that you leave enough space for the air to circulate, as this gets the oxygen where it needs to be to create a truly roaring fire.

Light the newspaper in multiple places, and also the firelighters if you are using them. This should be enough to get the fire going well, although many aficionados also opt to blow heartily on the emerging flames at this point. If you do this, be careful - don’t get close enough to singe your hair or eyebrows!

Having laid good foundations, your fire should catch easily but, of course, this is not the end of the story. You will need to build up the fire with a couple of strategically placed logs, once again paying close attention to the need for efficient air flow. You can also top up with coal if you so desire.

Once the fire is burning merrily, make sure that you keep an eye on it, adding further logs and/or coal as and when required.

Posted By Paul Smith

Range cooking

25/04/2017 10:55

A range cooker is one of the first things that springs to mind when many of us picture our ideal kitchen. If you are hoping to create a real ‘heart of the home’ kitchen in your property, read on for some key points to bear in mind when shopping for the range of your dreams.

Although we may equate a range cooker with a traditional country kitchen set-up, they now incorporate all manner of cutting edge technology, making them suitable for even the most fervent foodie.

Available space should be your first consideration. Range cookers are larger than a standard stove; however, this space can be well worth setting aside when you consider that you could get up to eight burners - a real plus point if hob cooking is your thing.

An expansive cooking space is a real treat - but only if you are going to get the most out of it. A range cooker is a real investment. Bearing this in mind, consider (realistically!) how much you will use your range. If you have a large family or entertain on a regular basis, a range will kill two birds with one stone by offering all the space you could ask for in terms of catering for the hordes and creating a wonderful centrepiece in your kitchen.

Style is a very important factor when shopping around for a range cooker and is a very large part of their appeal. Whether you are looking to create the cosy ambiance that a traditional Aga brings or are looking for something more contemporary and cutting edge, you will be spoilt for choice. Remember that you should be able to take your range with you if you decide to move, so bear this fact in mind when you are shopping around.

Many electric ranges incorporate a fan designed to distribute the heat equally. In a gas model, the top shelf will generally be the hottest and the temperate will decrease as you go down. This sort of ‘zoned’ heat is well suited to cooking whole meals, where each individual dish needs to be cooked at a different temperature.

If you choose a gas range, you will need to find a registered gas safe engineer to install it. Duel fuel ranges - a gas hob combined with an electric oven - are also very popular, or you could consider one of the newer models that come complete with an induction hob.

Posted By Paul Smith

Current fireplace trends

18/04/2017 12:53

Many people opt to heat their main living space with an open fire. While radiators may be functional and underfloor heating convenient, they can’t really be described as ‘welcoming’.

There is something so attractive about the idea of huddling around an open fire or stove that beats even the highest tech heating solutions hands down. As winter approaches, now might be a good time to open up an existing fireplace in your home or even think about installing one from scratch.

While many owners of period properties have already reinstated their fireplaces, there is a real trend among those in smarter postcodes to remove the chimney breasts from either end of a knocked-through reception space and put in one large fireplace in the middle, thereby creating a real wow factor.

That being said, shape or size is largely irrelevant when it comes to fireplaces - what is priceless is the atmosphere that a crackling open fire or stove creates. The fashion for minimalist ‘hole in the wall’ fires with artificial logs or pebbles has died a death; today, most homeowners are looking for authenticity, which means a fire that makes an architectural statement. The best way to judge whether your fireplace or stove has hit the right note is by asking yourself whether it is an attractive feature in a room even when it is not lit.
 
Current trends lean towards clean lines with strong accents. To achieve this, you will need to think outside the box. If you live in a Victorian terrace, there is no longer an unwritten rule that says your fire surround must match this historical period; instead, why not mix things up a little by putting in a Georgian or Regency piece that will really make a statement?

As far as in-vogue materials are concerned, many home stylists are advocating limestone or marble, both of which are a lot more affordable than they were even five years ago. Wood, particularly pine finishes, look dated compared with the super-sleek effect of ; in addition, wood does not wear as well.

Some us may have the urge to source an antique fireplace surround by trailing through reclamation yards. While it is true that you may find a bargain in this way, in most cases you won’t be privy to the full provenance and this may not be the best way to proceed in terms of safety. Buying new from a reputable dealer is the best option in most cases.

Posted By Paul Smith

Electric Fantastic

07/04/2017 11:55

While it is true that electric fires were once inefficient to run, expensive and frankly rather unattractive, things have now changed - and quite dramatically at that.

Evolution

Electric fires have evolved so much over the last few years as to be practically unrecognisable, and this is true in terms of design, in terms of cost and in terms of efficiency. If you are thinking of going electric, there are a number of factors you will need to consider before making your purchase:

Ease of use

Many homeowners agree that a working fireplace adds an air of welcoming warmth to a room that simply cannot be replicated. Today, this fire does not have to be of the open, stove or gas variety to create the desired ambience; instead, a well-chosen electric fire ticks all the same aesthetic boxes. As a bonus, it is likely to come in well under budget.

Design variety

There is a plethora of electric fires available. Whether you want a freestanding style or a package that includes a mantel, you will have plenty of models from which to choose. Many design aficionados opt for a wall-mounted design, which is a flexible style that can be moved from location to location with ease and won’t impinge on your floor space. They attach to the wall with a bracket similar to that used to mount a television - a job most people with a modicum of DIY ability should be able to carry out with ease.

Focal point

Most people opt to place their fire in a location in the room in which it will create a focal point. This is particularly true if the fire is intended for the main living space in a home. You will also need to think about how powerful you need your new fire to be. This will depend on whether it will be the sole heat source and whether you intend to use it all the time, on an occasional basis, or for a more decorative purpose.

Installation

When it comes to installation, you should find that your new fire is supplied with a comprehensive set of installation instructions and all the fittings and fixtures you will need. Fitting an electric fire is generally very straightforward and is often simply a case of plugging the unit into a power supply and switching it on, although you may decide to extend and/or cover the power lead, depending on where it is sited.

Posted By Paul Smith

As the range of gas heating appliances continues to expand and evolve, it seems reasonable to conclude that there is a perfect gas heating solution out there for every home.

Whether you are shopping around for a traditionally-styled inset fire with a log or coal effect or a far more contemporary ‘hole in the wall’ style, you will find yourself spoiled for a choice in today’s marketplace.

Highly-decorative inset frames and fronts are offered in a plethora of styles, while the sleek ‘cassette’ fires look equally stylish when left unframed. Those hoping to replicate the flickering effect of a real open fire will be delighted to discover just how realistic a gas fire can be, with a choice of natural log, driftwood, stones and coals available as a base. Those looking to make a real design statement can now also opt to use stunning high-colour beads for a truly striking effect.

Before you begin to select styles and accessories, it is vital to verify that a gas appliance is the best choice for your home. If this is to be your first gas appliance, it would be in your best interests to ask your retailer to recommend a registered installer who can conduct a survey of your property pre-purchase to ensure that it meets the criteria for your chosen stove or fire.

A key factor to bear in mind is how much it will cost you to use gas and whether it is a practical choice in your individual circumstances. Lots of properties are already connected to natural gas; however, even if your home is not, you may still be able to install an appliance that runs on bottled gas.

Once your property has been surveyed, it is time to start shopping around for an appliance that will both meet your heating needs and suit your design scheme. While those living in period properties may lean towards a fire in the same style, such as Victorian or Edwardian, others may choose to make a feature from a bold contemporary installation. Those in more recently built properties may opt for a sleek contemporary style; alternatively, more traditional styles can look great in a modern setting.

Today’s gas fires and gas stoves come with a wealth of features that make them very user-friendly. Many have remote controls, meaning you can turn the fire on and off and control the heat and flame size from the comfort of your sofa!

Posted By Paul Smith

Gas Safe and you

16/03/2017 15:16

New research published by the Gas Safe Register shines a spotlight on the worrying fact that an increasing number of UK householders are failing to adequately check that the tradesmen that they employ, are qualified to do the required job safely and within the law.
 
Many respondents admitted that they were highly influenced by polite, well-dressed and confident tradesmen with good eye contact. One-quarter also acknowledged that they decided whether the person was trustworthy in less than five minutes. This fact is made even starker when you consider that one-fifth of those surveyed admitted that they had been let down by a tradesperson.

The concerning statistics are of great concern to officials in the gas safety industry, as they indicate that millions of householders are employing unqualified and often dishonest tradespeople in their homes - an action that could, in the worst-case scenario, put their lives and the lives of their wider families at risk.

While seven out of ten people stated that they would request ID before allowing a tradesman to begin work, it seems that only around one-third of those having gas work completed check the qualifications of their engineer.

When you are looking for someone to do work of this nature in your home, it is strongly recommended that that you ask for and thoroughly check both the ID and qualifications of the tradesperson you are considering hiring. It is essential to put aside any embarrassment you may feel in doing so; after all, the wellbeing of your family is well worth any potentially awkward moments.

Amongst those surveyed, gas engineers came top of the list of most trusted tradesmen, with electricity/gas meter readers, electrician and carpet fitters following hot on their heels. Those perceived to be least trustworthy include plumbers and builders.

Over the last three years, over 20 people have lost their lives and almost 1,000 have been injured in gas-related incidents, including gas leaks, CO (carbon monoxide) poisoning, and fires; in addition, an evaluation by the Gas Safe Register concluded that around 250,000 jobs are carried out by unqualified, untrustworthy fitters every year.

In light of these worrying statistics, the Gas Safe Register has recently rolled out a new campaign entitled Trust the Triangle, which aims to raise awareness amongst the public that all qualified and trustworthy engineers carry the triangle-logoed Gas Safe identification card.

Anyone unable to produce this card should not be employed to carry out gas work under any circumstances.

Posted By Paul Smith

If you have decided that you want to install a stove, there are a number of factors to consider before settling on the perfect model for your needs.

The role of the stove

Firstly, and most importantly, think about the role you want to the stove to play in your home. Some people want a stove that will heat and add a focal point to one room in their property, for example, while others will be looking to install a system that will heat their entire home and also supply hot water. Whatever your reason for looking for a stove, there are plenty of different models out there that will not only tick all the aesthetic boxes but will also efficiently meet your heating needs.

Non-traditional options: gas

While you may decide to fit a traditional log or multi-fuel burner, there are number of other options that may suit your home. A gas stove may be something to consider if convenience and ease of use are top of your wish list. Modern designs offer extremely realistic log or coal effects; as such, they are a great way to create a cosy atmosphere in a room without the maintenance that a log or multi-fuel burner requires. Gas stoves provide the highly-desirable combination of controllable heat and instant ambience at the flick of a switch, which goes a long way towards explaining why this sort of stove is steadily increasing in popularity.

Non-traditional options: electric

Another option that you may not have considered is an electric stove. The beauty of a stove of this type is that it doesn’t need to be fitted under a chimney, meaning that you can place it almost anywhere in the home. From your hallway to conservatory, all that is required is a place to plug it in.

Electric stoves are a truly versatile way to heat a room and they are available in a range of sizes, designs and price points to suit any interior design and budget. The flexibility of this type of stove is such that you can install it effortlessly and use it straightaway. Improved design technology means that these stoves really do look like the real thing, offering the comforting flicker associated with a real fire. As you can opt for the visual without the heat, they are perfect for more the more clement evenings we will hopefully be experiencing as the summer months approach.

Posted By Paul Smith

Nothing boosts the atmosphere of a space more than the flickering light and comforting heat that emanate from a real fire. To achieve the very best results, it is essential to select a fireplace style that not only acts as a frame for your fire but also fits in with the overall design scheme of the room.

Whether you are looking for a traditional style or a thoroughly contemporary design that will act as a fantastic focal point, there are lots of different options to consider.

A well-chosen fire surround will inject an instant dash of personality into a room and could even be considered a selling point should you decide it is time to move on. Before purchasing your surround, there are a number of key factors to consider. These include the overall design statement you wish to achieve, the layout of the room, and the type of material - stone, marble or wood - that you prefer.

Stone surrounds

Opting for a natural stone surround is an ideal way to make a bold design statement. A surround of this type is particularly suited to a larger room, where the distinctive texture and the noble character of this material will certainly add an instant touch of class. A limestone surround positively exudes charm; sandstone is ideal for more intricate designs; and slate offers truly excellent functionality without compromising in any way on aesthetics.

Marble surrounds

The beautifully shiny, reflective quality of a marble fireplace  instantly injects a feeling of luxury and sophistication into a room and can really transform and elevate a space. In addition to being a simply stunning way to frame a fire, marble is an extremely easy material to look after and its longevity is unsurpassed. Plump for a classic finish in beige or cream, or push the boundaries by selecting from the more modern palette that incorporates shades of starker black, white and grey.

Natural wood surrounds

Current design trends are embracing the natural look to which woods lends itself, and bringing the ‘outside in’ is proving very popular among homeowners. Wood fire surrounds are widely available in a huge range of different finishes and work equally well in traditional and more modern settings. In addition to generating a thoroughly cosy ambience in a space, a high-quality wood surround from an ethical supplier ticks all the boxes when it comes to both durability and sustainability.

Posted By Paul Smith

When you undertake to renovate or reconfigure a room, you may decide that underfloor heating or statement radiators will compensate for the lack of a fireplace and stove or open fire. While this may be true in a practical sense, to rule out adding a working fireplace is to rule out giving your room a true centrepiece and one that literally lights up the space.

There are a number of options for adding a fire to a room that will suit almost any budget and style.

A classic open fireplace is simply a recess at the base of the chimney breast where you can install a fire and surround to suit the dimensions and decor of the room. These look great in both contemporary and period homes.

Alternatively, if you are a minimalist at heart, a hole in the wall fire is incredibly easy to install by a Gas Safe registered engineer and comprises a simple aperture set right into the wall with either a gas fire-bed of logs or pebbles or a fire-basket if you opt for a fuel version. If you are looking for the option that requires the least disruption, a hole in the wall fire is definitely the way to go.

A wood or multi-fuel stove is always a popular choice from an aesthetic point of view, of course, and these are very efficient heat generators. If you are thinking about either an open fire or a stove, don’t forget to factor in a space to store your logs and/or coal and other necessities such as kindling and firelighters. If you are designing a room from scratch, you could consider building bespoke storage to house these items. In a more rustic style of room, a neatly stacked wood pile can add a real wow factor to a room and is eminently functional.

You will need to bear in mind that every sort of open fire - whether gas or solid fuel - will need a hearth unless the manufacturer’s guidelines explicitly state otherwise. The requirements for the size of hearth vary depending on which style of fire you have decided on. It really is worthwhile consulting an expert before embarking on installation to ensure that you have met current building regulations, both in terms of the proposed dimensions and material of the hearth.

A beautiful fireplace is a great investment; therefore, it makes sense to purchase the best spec possible within your budget and to use a trusted installer.

Posted By Paul Smith

While you might think of a hole in the wall fire as a contemporary design feature, it has actually been around for a good number of years. This type of fire has enjoyed a noticeable upswing in popularity recently, largely due to the fact that installation techniques have greatly improved and it is easier and cheaper to fit than in the past.

Traditionally, one of the main requirements for a hole in the wall fireplace was a hearth positioned on the floor in front of the proposed location. These days, however, in certain circumstances it can be installed without one.

Generally speaking, hole in the wall fires are available in two configurations: self-contained and gas fire insert. There are fires suitable for the type of your particular chimney - consult an expert to ascertain the right set-up for your home.

When selecting the perfect hole in the wall fire to suit your needs, take some time to consider what level of heat output you would like; for example, if you have central heating and will be using your new fire as a secondary heating source, you will be able to choose from a wide range of fires. If you are planning to use your fire as the primary heat source in the room in which it is located, however, you will need to do a bit more research to ensure the output is sufficient to meet your needs.

If you want to fit a fire in a small room, or dislike the idea of a traditional hearth, a hole in the wall fire is absolutely ideal. Most models are fitted between three and five feet above floor level, which means they don’t take up any floor space. There is a plethora of great designs on the market suitable for any period or style of decor and such fires make an attractive focal point, providing the desired ‘warm glow’ with minimum upheaval.

The price you can expect to pay will depend largely on the style and finish you opt for, with popular finishes including stone, various metals and granite. It is possible to enjoy a fully bespoke service, whereby the perfect size and shape of hole in the wall fire will be custom made to fit your exact specifications. For true flexibility, you can’t go far wrong with a hole in the wall fire.

Posted By Paul Smith
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