How Much Does it Cost/Price to Fit/Install a Fireplace?
Each job assumes the fires and surrounds (the pretty stuff) are priced separately.
Lets start with the work described at the beginning, opening up a sealed breast and fitting a “Victorian” working fire. This is usually a two part job. The builder turns up to uncover the opening, then returns 2 weeks later when you’ve bought a fire that fits. That throws up the problem of having to cover/remove everything twice. We can’t deal with this, so lets assume the room is empty.
So, the builders opening doesn’t need altering, you didn’t find a damper in the end, the old concrete hearth is still there (it usually is), you have bought the surround and insert and he’s back to fit it. He will need to plaster around it and fit 2 annoying bits of skirting board at each side to finish the job.
That’s 2 men, a day to expose the opening, buy materials and tip the rubbish (£290)
Then one day plus materials to fit the fire
Materials £30, Labour £260
If you want him to alter the opening to fit the fire, add an extra day plus materials
Materials £40, Labour £260
You need the existing concrete hearth size altering add…..
A gas fire now and the hearth and opening are the correct size and the room is cleared ready for the job. You want an ornate 3 piece marble surround with a marble hearth, OOOOh I can’t wait, it’ll look lovely!
A flue liner needs fitting with the correct cowl, luckily he is doing it without scaffolding.
The job will take 2 men 2 days
Materials £225, labour £520, fire suppliers “commission” £200,
A Guide to How Much Will it Cost to Fit a New Victorian, Marble or Cast Iron Fireplace
The next section may not be the type of fire you are considering, but it includes all the considerations relevant to chimney breasts and flues, which will also be relevant to other types of fires.
Types of Fireplace
Fitting a Victorian fireplace, into a sealed up chimney breast.
You’re a victim of the seventies hatchet-job on Victoriana and want to put it all back, good for you! Firstly unless the chimney breast has been completely removed, everything should still be in place to have a working fire if you want one, or more likely just a pretend one. The job is filthy though so make sure the builder quotes for clearing and covering your furniture etc.
He will remove the stuff blocking the chimney first, to reveal a mass of soot and rubble. All this will have to go, to reveal what it called the “builder’s opening”. At this point, if there is the remotest chance that you will ever have a real fire, get the chimney swept. If you know that you never will, get it blocked up but put a small trickle vent in.
You want to block it up because the “flue”, that’s the hole up the middle so to speak, is about 250mm (10”) square and it’s designed to take waste gasses (smoke) out of your house and it’s very good at doing this. So if you leave it open, it will carry on doing it’s job but the gasses it vents now will be your increasingly hard earned warm central heating air! If however you block it up with no little vent, there is a possibility of condensation staining, high up on the chimney breast, because the air in the flue will now be colder than that in the room. It’s a game isn’t it?
If you are going to leave the flue fully open, consider having a “damper” fitted. This will allow you to easily close the flue for the 364 days a year you don’t use the fire! They are difficult to find though. While were on the subject of flues, make sure the pot is still on the top!
Buying the fire.
Living room Victorian fires are larger than bedroom ones and unlike bedroom ones which are integral, the ones in the living room come in two pieces called the surround and the insert.
The surround is the clean (even shiny) bit with the mantle shelf and the tiles, the insert is the black bit which holds the fire. Even if you are not going to have a real fire, you still need both bits or the finished article will look like your granny with no teeth in! The insert should come with the back plate, the fire basket AND (the bit that most often isn’t there) the curved casting which fits across the front of the basket to keep the coal in place. (All right! I don’t know its name….I’m a builder, not Magnus Magnusson). Try and get a surround which fits the newly exposed opening, its cheaper than re building the whole thing.
Right, the builders opening is exposed, and the damper, if you could find one, is fitted. It’s at this point that you went looking for a fire which is the correct size, you got lucky and the lovely shiny tiled beauty is in the garage and it’s time to fit it.
The other option was buy the fire first and hope the builders opening turns out to be the right size.
Hopefully the original lintol is still in place and at the right height. This usually takes the form of a brick arch supported on a curved steel former. If it needs moving that’s not a problem but it will cost more money. Unless you want all the brickwork to be exposed the builder can just replace it with a concrete lintol and put the steel former behind his shed to use at a later date. I’ve got three behind mine but the “later date” passed about 15 years ago.
The first thing to do is sort out the hearth. Hopefully the old concrete is still there making that annoying bulge under the carpet, so you can place the new marble or slate (or more concrete) directly on top of it. This will have to have been ordered a while ago of course. Monumental masons are a good place to go (gravestone makers). Just swing by for a friendly chat about prices.
The surround comes next, standing on top of the hearth. This should have lugs at the side for big old screws to secure it to the wall. Ideally the builder should cut away the plasterwork (if it hasn’t all fallen off by now) so that the lugs are set back into the wall and can be plastered over.
The insert is then manoeuvred past the surround and placed centrally hard up against it’s back. Next a load of moist sand, with some cement mixed in with it, is dumped in behind the insert right up to the top and left to set. The weight of this keeps the insert in place and once the front is plastered, the job’s done. Time for your lovely wife to go and buy those dried flowers!
At this point we will assume that whatever fire you are going to fit, you are now conversant with opening up closed breasts, ventilating, damping, etc. so now we will concentrate on the other types of fires you may be considering.
Open fires require oxygen, this has to get in somehow and double glazing is good at keeping it out. So it will try another way and that can be from under the floor or under the doors etc. which is what we call a draught (or a “George” if you are a cockney). The best way to counter draughts is to have a ventilator fitted as close to the fire as possible. This can be in the floorboards where it seriously helps the underfloor ventilation because draughts under the floor are a good thing (see our section on Floors). Or if you have a solid floor and the chimney is on an outside wall it can go just above the skirting board.
Always get one that you can close completely on the 364 days you don’t have a fire though!
Fitting a gas fire.
“Gas work” can only be undertaken by a bloke who is “Gas Safe” registered. Beware those who say they are but are lying!
First you have to get the gas to the fireplace. This can be under the floor or via the outside wall if the chimney is in the right place. Gas regulations will allow this, you don’t even have to protect the copper pipe, just clip it to the wall. Personally I would take steps to shroud it. A galvanised steel electric cable shroud will do the job perfectly.
So now you have to decide on the type of fire you want. If you are really serious and actually want to use the gas fire as a back boiler or for main heating, not just a pretty supplement, then you must fit a condensing fire (a legal requirement if it is to be your central heating boiler). These are very efficient but require a drain pipe to take away the constant small dribble of water which is a by product of the process. This must terminate in an existing gulley (drain) or into your soil stack (the pipe all your toilet waste disappears into) or a specially constructed soakaway…nowhere else!
These (and all other gas fires) create waste gasses which have to be removed from the house. This can happen via the chimney or if the fireplace is on an outside wall a small flue can be positioned through the wall. Amazingly, with condensing boiler these are made of plastic.
If you are using the chimney route, the existing flue will have to be lined first with a long flexible tube which is shoved down from the top. Nowadays, this may require scaffolding. The existing chimney pots will probably have to be replaced with an aluminium cowl as well. The diameter of the flue liner and design of the cowl are specific to individual fires and deviation could prove fatal or at least make the fire inefficient. The supplier / manufacturer / installer will decide all this.
When you choose the fire you want there may be a choice of several surrounds to go with it or you may have ideas of your own. Make sure your installer can do the whole job from start to finish. The supplier will no doubt be desperate to recommend one!
Fitting an oil fire
“Oil work” can only be undertaken by a bloke who is “OFTEC” registered.
Some remote homes don’t have gas, so oil fires are available. There aren’t as many choices but the process is exactly the same as for gas.
Fitting a Wood Burning or Multi Fuel Stove
By this we mean one of those cast iron lumps that sit in a wide stone fireplace with closeable glass doors.
If you are burning wood beware! The smoke creates a resinous deposit, which builds up on the inside of the chimney. As “the chimney” is almost always a flue liner it has to be the diameter the manufacturer specifies. Sweeping a flue liner is notoriously difficult. They bend their way up the chimney and standard brushes just won’t do it. The best solution is to have the largest recommended diameter flue and every so often burn smokeless fuel in a very hot fire. This sort of melts the deposit away.
A lot of people only burn smokeless fuel for this reason but I do like to chuck logs on. I enjoy dodging the sparks.
Trendy “half way up the wall” Fires.
You know the ones where all that’s left of the builders opening is a neat rectangular hole.
Any real fire in these is usually only for effect rather than warmth. Usually they take the form of “open basket” fires where the flames all go straight up the flue and there is no radiating plate to send heat out into the room.
An ideal format for this is a thing called a “gel fire” or some such nonsense which literally burns a gel which you squeeze out onto the imitation coal etc. There’s no smoke (but still some heat which will discolour everything if there’s no flue), there’s no mess and relatively little fitting cost. Just right for the “always in control”, way we live today then.
Questions to ask the fitter during his quotation visit.
You should also read the article entitled “How to Deal With Builders"
Almost every gas fire fitted today is done by the supplier’s “in house” fitter. He will be working closely with them and will have fitted dozens of fires just like yours. Deal with the shop, not him, if something goes wrong you only want one person to blame!
Are you "Gas Safe" registered?
If he’s fitting a gas fire, he must be! Don’t give any leeway, if he’s not and there’s a fault, your heirs will be able to claim against him once he “gets out” but you won't.