Monday 2 April 2012

Building a Surround for your Woodburner

A surround for your wood burning stove has a functional purpose as it protects non‐combustible surfaces from the heat of the fire. However, it also serves a decorative purpose, with a range of ready‐to‐fit surrounds available in a variety of styles.
A fireplace is generally comprised of the hearth, the surround and the mantel piece although some wood burning stoves are fitted straight into the chimney recess, with no need for a surround. In this instance the stove itself provides a decorative feature to the room, but a hearth is still necessary for fire safety reasons. With fire recesses, there are also Building Regulations relating to the surrounding walls.
Building Regulations
In accordance with building regulations a hearth must be fitted to protect non‐combustible materials from the heat of the stove and from any accidental spillages of ash. The hearth itself must be made from a non‐combustible material, such as concrete or masonry.
There are set guidelines as to the size of hearths both for wood burning stoves fitted into a recess and for freestanding stoves. With recesses the hearth should reach at least 150mm past the sides of the stove and 300mm in front, and with freestanding stoves the hearth should be at least 840mm x 840mm in size. The hearth should also be at least 125mm thick with a space of 50mm between the hearth and any combustible material, or otherwise 250mm thick.
Surrounds should also be made from non‐combustible materials, and if the stove is fitted into a chimney recess there are set requirements regarding the thickness of the walls and the materials that they are constructed from. For example, the walls of masonry chimneys should be at least 100mm thick, but if the walls separate the room from another compartment or dwelling, then they should be a minimum of 200mm away from the inner surface of the flue liner or have a gap of 40mm from the outer surface of the chimney.
The fireside recess and the chimney should also be made from non‐combustible material, and the internal walls should be a minimum of 200mm in thickness. Flue sizes must also comply with Building Regulations for safety reasons.
Any work undertaken should be notified to your local planning department so that they can make sure that all the requirements are being met. Alternatively, you should employ a qualified installer who will be familiar with Building Regulations.
If you buy ready‐made hearths and surrounds from a specialist stove supplier, they will usually ensure that these parts meet with Building Regulations. It is best to check with the supplier to make sure though.

To fit a fire surround you need to start by marking the walls according to the measurements of the surround so that you can make sure it fits. Masking tape is useful for this task. Next, you need to mark where the studs are in the wall as the spacers will be fixed to these. The studs are the upright posts that form part of the framework of the wall. You will also need some non‐combustible spacers, and screws to fix the spacers to the wall studs.
Suitable materials for woodburner stove surrounds are cement board, slate, or granite tiles. For reasons of safety, wooden surrounds are not suitable. However, providing all Building Regulations have been complied with in terms of thickness and materials relating to the chimney walls, then it is possible to have a wooden mantel shelf. Many suppliers sell mantel shelves complete with fittings in a range of woods and finishes. Again, the mantel shelf should be a suitable distance from the stove and flue.
With some fire surrounds the mantle place forms part of the surround as it juts out from the wall. Therefore, you will not need to buy a separate mantel shelf for these types of fire surrounds.
Fitting the Surround
Start by fixing the spacers into the studs using screws. The purpose of the spacers is so that there will be an insulating gap between the wall and the face of the surround. You can then fix the fireplace surround, which should be made from a non‐combustible material. You do this by using screws that are long enough to fit through the spacers and then into the wall studs. There should be a gap at the top and bottom so that air can heat up and flow through the gap.
Once you have fitted the surround, if it is not supplied with a decorative finish, you can decorate it using a fire proof material such as stucco, tiles or heat‐resistant paint. Remember to cover any surrounding areas to protect them from spillages.
Fire surrounds come in a wide range of styles to complement any room in a variety of materials. You can choose from contemporary or traditional. Whatever style of surround you select, it is sure to enhance the appearance of your wood burning stove making it a great focal point for any surroundings.

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