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February 28, 2013, 01:23 PM

Buying and reusing antique fireplaces

By Thornton Kay

Eclectic c1890 tiled combination grate [photo Architectural Forum

Somerset, UK - Handy hints about antique fireplaces and chimneypieces
If you want to find an appropriate historic style to replace a non-period fireplace in your home try asking if you can look at rooms in an unrestored original similarly styled house in your street
If in doubt about the style, ask for a salvage dealer for one of a similar date to your house and err on the side of going downmarket rather than upmarket, and try not to gentrify a modest house
If you are not bothered about the historic style buy something you like which might then inspire your personal theme for the room in question
To find the size of the original fireplace in a room look for the outline of the old fireplace in the repaired wall plaster
Write on the back of the antique fireplace from where and when it was bought, and its provenance before that so that new owners are informed in future that the fireplace was not the one originally installed when the house was built
Many salvage shops mix cast iron antique and Chinese reproduction grates in the same showroom but all should be clearly labelled 'antique' or 'reproduction' but usually are not, so watch out for unmarked repro among old fireplaces and ask
Similarly many marble surrounds are reproduction and sold as antique, or at least not marked 'reproduction', so again please ask
A few specialist fireplace dealers only stock antique fireplaces, so if you are concerned, try one of these - see the links for Salvo Directory listings
Damaged cast iron inserts can be repaired, and missing bars, frets and register plates replaced
Many dealers have in-house or local restorers - ask if they can repair your originals
A fire surround or mantlepiece normally consists of two vertical jambs with footblocks or footlocks below and endblocks or corbel brackets above, and with a horizontal header or frieze, sometimes with a centre tablet, with a moulded mantle shelf above - these can be made from stone, marble, wood or iron. An architrave often surrounds the fireplace opening.
The fireplace opening is usually masonry, brick or fireclay, with a freestanding grate, log basket or firebasket, or a hob grate consisting of two hobs with a grate suspended between them, or an iron arched or tiled register grate which fills the entire opening and within which sits a firegrate often with a fret below to adjust airflow and a register plate above to close the flue opening when the fireplace is not in use to reduce drafts
A combination grate is usually made from iron and combines the fire surround and the grate in one large ensemble
Cast iron register grates, combination grates and inserts radiate most heat when coloured matt black
In UK cities with officially designated smoke control areas smokeless fuels may need to be used, or a conversion to gas, or a woodburner, so check with your local authority
If you need advice about the flue and stack in the UK try contacting a member of the National Association of Chimney Engineers
If you are reopening an old fireplace opening contact the Solid Fuel Advisory Service for advice and a DIYers leaflet, and make sure any works comply with building regulations

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Buying and reusing antique and modern secondhand kitchens

Handy hints for antique and salvaged garden ornament

Salvo Directory: Specialist antique fireplace dealers
Salvo Directory: Architectural antique dealers most of which have fireplaces

Story Type:  Feature

ID: 73241

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