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Choosing a stone fireplace – what you need to know

Stone is the best choice, whether you’re looking at beautiful period fireplaces or modern minimalist designs. New fireplaces use stones like marble and granite for the same reasons our distant (and not so distant) ancestors did: stone is heat resistant; doesn’t catch fire; doesn’t weather or change colour due to contact with heat or fire; is easy to clean; and can withstand knocks and bumps from logs, coal buckets and other equipment. But with the wide range of stones available, from granite to quartz, which should you choose?

Which part of a fireplace is stone?

There’s more to a fireplace than meets the eye, and stone may be used for all or only part of the fireplace. All fireplaces have a firebox (where the fire is lit) or an equivalent gas or electric fitting. Stone may be used for this in log or coal burning open fires, but if so it typically has a rough finish as metal fire tools, logs or coal will scratch a polished finish over time. The fireplace surrounds the firebox and is typically of stone, concrete or tile as these materials won’t catch fire.

Choosing stone to replace a period fireplace

Many period homes have sadly lost their original fireplaces, but if you want to reopen the chimney, whether for an open fire, a log burner, a gas or electric fire, creating a fireplace which suits the room can not only enhance its character but also improve the sale value of your home. Traditional fireplaces used marble, granite, limestone and other natural stones so we recommend sticking with these materials or using engineered stones which mimic nature.

A traditional fireplace has:

  • a hearth, usually stone, which extends on the floor in front of the fire (this prevents stray sparks causing fires on wooden or carpeted floors)
  • a mantelpiece (also known as a mantel shelf)
  • an undermantel or header panel which supports the mantelpiece
  • ‘legs’ or ‘pillars’ which run from the mantelpiece to the floor
  • filler panels which go between the legs/undermantel and firebox

Any or all of these may be made of stone. At Surrey Marble and Granite, we create bespoke stonework for domestic and commercial properties, which means that if your original fireplace has been damaged or is missing elements, we may be able to recreate them for you in stone.

Creating a modern fireplace

Modern fireplaces often do away with the different elements which make up a traditional fireplace and create a safe and beautiful frame for the fire in other ways. For example, the firebox may be set in a statement wall clad which is clad with granite or marble. For modern fireplaces, engineered stones such as Quartzforms or sintered stones such as Lapitec are a huge hit as it’s easy to create a large surface with uniform colouring and texture. This means that you can easily match flooring to a fireplace surround and wall cladding. The stones also come in a vast range of colours, letting you mix and match as though you were choosing paint shades – anything from royal blue to lipstick red to natural and neutral shades.

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