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How To Open A Fireplace

By Lawrence Macmillan October 25, 2021

Fireplaces were once a prominent feature in homes across the country, used to warm rooms and homes due to the absence of central heat.

As times changed and the methods used to heat our homes became modernized, homeowners decided to block up and close off their fireplaces to make heating their homes more efficient and to create a more modern aesthetic to their living space.

Whether you’re someone who loves the cozy ambiance that an open fireplace brings or you just want to create a characterful and traditional look to your home, then maybe you’ve considered re-opening your fireplace.

From the outside, this may seem like a simple job, but there are a few things you should know before you grab a sledgehammer and begin knocking through on your own accord.

This article will guide you through how to open a fireplace and also some of our best tips to help you through the process safely.

How Do You Know That You Have A Fireplace To Open Up?

Sometimes many people don’t know that they already have a fireplace in their home that they can open up, this is usually people who have just moved into an older property.

One sign that you have a fireplace is that you may have a protruding wall which is the chimney breast that’s either been painted or plastered over to completely cover the fireplace opening.

If there’s a gas or electric fireplace in your home, then there may be a larger fireplace that has been blocked off around it.

If you’re still unsure you could always ask a neighbor if they’ve found a fireplace in their home or look into past surveys that have been done on your home to see if there is one present.

Preparing To Open A Fireplace

If you’ve newly decorated a room then this probably isn’t the best time to go knocking through walls to discover an old fireplace as it can create a lot of mess and destruction.

Before beginning to open a fireplace, hire a skip outside your home to store all the rubble and make sure you lay down protective sheets all over your flooring in the room as a lot of dust and mess will be created in this process.

A Guide To Opening Up A Fireplace

Step 1. Examine The Chimney Breast

Above the baseboard, there should be a vent if the chimney was blocked up correctly by previous owners, remove the vent and shine your torch to see how big the fireplace opening is so it makes it easier to knock through.

Step 2. Remove The Current Fire Or Mantel

If there is currently an electric or gas fire, or even a fire surrounded attached to the wall then you’ll need to remove these first before knocking through.

Turn off the gas or isolate it before removing a gas fireplace and it may be advisable to turn off the electrics.

Remove bolts or screws from the surround and chisel around it to try to make it come away from the wall. If you manage to keep it in good condition then you can keep it in your home or sell it on.

If the baseboard is present on the chimney breast wall then you’ll need to remove this as well.

Step 3. Uncover The Hearth

In front of the fireplace should be a hearth which is a slab of concrete or non-combustible material that will be surrounded by the floorboards.

You may need to full up carpet or flooring lining to find the hearth. This may make it easier to find out the size of the opening when you knock through the wall. In some cases, there may not be a hearth present.

Step 4. Examine The Wall And Break Through

Tap the wall and if it sounds hollow then it’s been blocked up with plasterboard that you can use a sledgehammer and then a saw to remove it.

If the wall has been blocked with bricks then you may need to knock some of the bricks out through the vent until you begin to see the jambs and lintel.

Step 5. Inspect The Chimney

Once you’ve opened up your fireplace, you’ll then need to check if there is a draught to see if the chimney has been capped.

Hold a lit candle in front of the fire opening and if the smoke draws upwards then the chimney is not blocked off. If it doesn’t then the flue has been blocked off and you’ll need to get a professional in to reopen it.

Step 6. Hire A Chimney Sweep

Before beginning to restore or revamp your fireplace for use, you’ll need to get in a chimney sweep to clean away any debris and they can also advise you on the condition of your chimney and if further work will need to be done to ensure it runs efficiently.

Step 7. Get Some Professional Advice

If you’re planning to expand your fireplace then you may need to get permission so you’ll be abiding by building regulations so it may be good to seek advice from a structural builder.

They’ll also be able to tell you what to do with your fireplace, whether that’s restoring the original cast iron insert or installing a new fire basket for the coal and wood.

Before you begin burning anything a smoke test will need to be carried out and the lining of your chimney will need to be checked to ensure it’s safe.

Step 8. Tidy & Restore

Regardless of if you decide to restore your fireplace to burn or you’re going to leave it open for decoration, then make sure you restore or reinstall the surrounding area to your taste or even its former glory to complete the process.


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