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The heart of the home - how to install, lay and light the perfect fire

Open fires are always top of the ‘wish list’ for prospective buyers – whether it’s a period inglenook, statement stone surround or modern free-standing stove – the prospect of a cosy, real fire is all part and parcel of the charm of country living. In this week’s article we’ve shared tips on laying the perfect fire, the essential kit you need, plus advice on what to consider when purchasing a stove and some local Cotswolds stockists…

Firstly, if you’re looking to renovate a fireplace or install a woodburner in your new home here are some things to consider and great companies to help you create your perfect fireplace:

Know your room volume to calculate the heat output you need from a stove – there is an easy online calculator here.

You will also need to consider whether you are looking for a stove to top-up your central heating, or provide a primary source of heat. Do you have double-glazing? Wall insulation? There are many factors to consider – your stove installer should be able to advise you, but be armed with the facts before your consultation.

Think about log storage. Do you have somewhere near the house, outside that you can store logs? They need to be stored under cover to allow them to season effectively. On cold, dark winter nights you don’t want to be venturing down to the bottom of the garden, so plan a log store that is easily accessible for both log deliveries and for you to use.

Purchasing your stove

charnwood stoves

Pic credit: Charnwood Stoves

Charnwood – if you’re looking for a modern style burner Charnwood, based on the Isle of Wight, are Britain’s oldest woodburner manufacturers, family owned and run by second and third generations. From freestanding stoves, to streamline, insert burners they are perfect for a modern country home.

Available through Walkers in Burford.

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The Oxbyre, Chedworth


Clearview Stoves – based in Stow on Wold have been building stoves since 1987. Their canopied stoves look perfect in traditional, period properties and listed inglenook fireplaces. Pictured is a modern-style Clearview stove installed in one of our properties, The Oxbryne.

Tips when laying a fire

It’s always important to use well-seasoned wood (ideally cut, split and stored for a minimum of 1-2 years). Wood that is properly seasoned burns efficiently and cleanly and should have a moisture content of less than 20%. The bark will be cracking, the wood will be lighter and the log will sound hollow when knocked on another piece of wood. In terms of the best woods to burn – hard woods such as oak are the best value for money as they are dense and will burn for longer.

Essential kit

Newspaper, dry kindling, firelighters and matches are all essential basics to get the fire going. A flue pipe thermometer is also a very useful and simple device that attaches to the flue pipe of your stove. By telling whether you are over-firing or under-firing your stove you can adjust the burning rate accordingly. If you over fire your stove you can damage the glass, bricks and internal parts over time. By under firing your stove you can cause damage to the chimney and stove body through excess condensation.

A moisture meter is also helpful to ensure you burn properly seasoned wood on your stove. By inserting the prongs into the grain of the wood it gives a moisture content reading of the log. By burning properly seasoned wood you can achieve optimum clean burning efficiency and prevent the problems associated with burning wet wood.

In terms of tools, a poker, tongs and a decent fire-proof dustpan and brush is all you need.

Fireside Accessories Edit

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Log basket, £95, Wovenology

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Antique Copper Fire Set, £100, Amara

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Rainbow matches, £14.99, Graham & Green


Lighting a fire

Light the stove using dry kindling wood and newspaper or fire-lighters (natural chemical-free Flamers are a great natural alternative). Put the paper, or fire lighters, and kindling in the firebox and cover with a few small dry logs. Open the air controls fully and then light the paper or fire lighters. The door may be left cracked open for a few minutes to assist the combustion and heat up the firebox more quickly.

When the kindling wood is well alight add a few more small logs, close the door but leave the air control fully open. When the flames are established around these logs, load the stove with more fuel. Maintain the air control at maximum at this stage. Once the fire is up to temperature you can reduce the air control to halfway; you will find it burns your logs slower but very efficiently. You can then add logs as and when necessary (every 45 mins -1.5 hours).

Final tip, wood ash is rich in potash so perfect for the garden and especially for roses.

Good luck and wishing you a cosy winter!