Firepit or firetable?

Many of our clients love the idea of a firepit.

These great-looking features really do add value to your outside entertainment area.

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A square, rectangular or even circular firepit is really nice to sit around, warming you and your friends far into the night.

A firepit can be powered by gas – either propane or piped natural gas – or even convenient bioethanol fuel, which is easily stored and the burner topped up before each use.

Compared to burning wood, gas or bioethanol firepits are quickly becoming one of the most common options for outdoor fire pits. They are more environmentally friendly since they don’t release smoke into the atmosphere as is the case with traditional wood burning fire pits.

Not only is this beneficial to overall air quality, but it can also make the outdoor experience more enjoyable.

Gone is the unpleasantness of having smoke directly in your face when the wind suddenly shifts over your outside fireplace. Gas firepits are also easier to operate. Simply touch the control pad to ignite the gas and start enjoying your personal outdoor heater.

But, have you thought about a firetable as an alternative?

545911_10151625739442533_1036953437_n (1)A firetable offers the same great look of real flames and runs on either gas or bioethanol fuel, but also delivers the very real convenience of a table in your garden – so useful for parking your wine glass, beer bottle or plate of food, whilst chatting to your guests!

And you can do-it-yourself. If you or your local builder can build the masonry, we can supply the technology to create your very own gas or bioethanol firetable.

Our own firetables are made to measure from durable engineered stone in a range of finishes and colours. The stone tabletops are fabricated to a size to suit your garden furniture layout – and we make them to look as though they are 80mm thick!

The base can be simply made from lightweight concrete masonry blocks which are then rendered to provide a nice finish in the colour of your choice, or it can be clad in matching or contrasting stone – or even decking materials.

The weatherproof EF5000 gas burners can be finished off with Crystalight in a choice of four colours (see Black, above) or click here for the full range of options. The Crystalight can also be topped off with ceramic pebbles, if required.

Control and electronic ignition is by a weatherproof touchpad which can be mounted in a concealed position.

So, firepit or firetable? The choice is yours. There is a huge range of possibilities based around the materials that you choose. Then there is the contemporary look, or something more rustic. Has that got you thinking? What would you do for your garden?

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Our grand design for Grand Designs!

Most people would be delighted to live in a charming old boat-house by the Thames, but not Lysette and Nigel Offley. They decided to knock the whole thing down and start again – with a new house that took inspiration from the river with waves and curves – and a huge glass porthole of a roof-light.

“House-by-the-Water”

Their plan to build a dramatic new cutting-edge home by the River Thames proved difficult, costly and not very popular with their neighbours.

And just a few weeks into their project, the problems begin. They couldn’t find a contractor willing to tackle the difficulties of building over water; their architect unexpectedly left and the costs came in much higher than anticipated.

Not only that, but they then decided on a minimalist garden to match the dream home they were building. With no previous experience.

And of course, along came Kevin McCloud and the CH4 Grand Designs team to film the whole thing!

To assist the couple, Student of the Year (2011/12) of the Oxford College of Garden Design, Ana Mari Bull, produced the fabulous garden design already seen by viewers.

To complement this design, we made a frameless firebox and combined it with our EF5000 weatherproof gas burners and touch-sensitive controls. DSC_0170 (1)

Building our gas fireplace into a masonry enclosure integral to various other feature structures within the long, but narrow, garden created a natural focal point for entertaining or just chilling with a glass of wine.

​First broadcast in October 2012, the garden wasn’t actually finished in time for the show, but it is now in absolutely pristine condition, as you can see by viewing the images on this page or the larger gallery on our website.

DSC_0184

Full details of the different types of outside fireplace that are available can be viewed here.

We believe that Kevin will be going back to see the finished article some time this year.

So, hopefully, we’ll see you soon on Channel 4!

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Case Study – a unique outside fireplace in a London fifth floor rooftop courtyard

When we were asked to create an appropriate fireplace setting for a rooftop courtyard located in the heart of London, we wanted to complement the outstanding architecture of this significant listed building.

It was up to us to make the fireplace a centre
of attraction.

The rather bare courtyard had fantastic
views all around the city – and it was about to become a great place to sit, talk, relax and drink a glass of wine.

Outside fireplace in a rooftop courtyard

Our solution was a bespoke gas fireplace interior, using Escea EF5000 waterproof burners and concealed controls to sit within an architect inspired black granite fire opening in a classic mantel with tiled detailing.

Construction of an outdoor fireplace

As the Escea burners do not need any flueing, the fireplace construction was quite simple, using standard building techniques for the internal masonry and a bespoke limestone mantelpiece.

The on-site builders also used real craftsmanship when creating the stunning mosaic floor.

The firebox was constructed from Absolute black granite and incorporates a raised granite Twin outside fireplace gas burnershearth which conceals the gas connections and electronic controls. The twin burners are mounted in a bespoke stainless steel support tray.

Our EF5000 burners are operated by a combined ignition and High/Medium/Low waterproof touch-pad membrane control switch, which in this case is mounted in a purpose-made stainless steel escutcheon plate rebated into the masonry.

Following connection to the gas and 240v supplies, the burners were tested for gas Outside gas burner controlssoundness (below, right), correct operating pressure and the correct operation of the remotely-mounted electronic controls.

A specialist craftsman added tasteful pale blue ceramics – almost the final touch (below). These ceramics complemented the mosaic flooring and – suddenly- this bare courtyard came alive!

Tiling provides a finishing touch to an outdoor fireplaceBut the real finishing touch was in fact the use of our latest High Definition ceramic log set, placed on a selection of black Crystalight moulded ceramic glass pieces and creating a contemporary vibe by avoiding the rather tired ‘gas log’ cliche.

High definition ceramic outside fireplace logs

The burnt log effect becomes increasingly realistic in the evening light, when the lambent flames become more prominent.

Landscapers added some planting in the space and – surrounded by walls and windows as it is – the courtyard can now be used throughout the year, with the fireplace offering warmth on a chilly Spring evening or in the depths of winter, as well as a very welcoming aesthetic at any time of year.

And this is the finished product – a stunning outside fireplace for a stunning building!

Combining Bespoke outdoor fireplacethe vision and skills of the project architects, interior designers and landscapers with Urban Fires’ experience and expertise has produced a unique outdoor space in the heart of the city.

One that can be used virtually all-year ’round and one which will surely provide the owner with many years of pleasure. Cheers!

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How to integrate an outside fireplace into a garden landscaping project (updated).

Want an outside fireplace to warm a patio or deck on those chilly evenings – or to extend the use of an outdoor entertaining space into winter – but unsure how to start the design, or where to place it?

Whatever the style of the outdoor space, our range outdoor gas fireplaces will make a great focal point, with wide aspect openings and high heat output – these units are in a class of their own.

They are designed to operate in virtually all weathers, are durable long-term and proofed against nuisance shut-downs caused by excessive wind, for example.

We have two, very different, design options, the first is our standard-size EF5000 stainless steel gas fireplace. The EF5000 comes in a choice of colours with the option of adding stone or marble inserts into the facia.

It will be necessary to build a suitable enclosure to house this fireplace, such as the one shown below or choose from our gallery.

The Escea EF5000 in a free-standing enclosure

An alternative is to design a bespoke fireplace to your personal specifications using our unique, fully waterproofed, outdoor gas burner system – similar perhaps to this design (below, right):

These 850mm wide burners may be used singly for fireplace openings up to 1.2m wide, or doubled up (or even trebled) for much wider openings. The choice is yours.

We will bespoke a suitable burner-mounting tray to suit your design, or even a complete firebox using our patented render-up edge, which allows a perfect finish to your fireplace design.

You can view these burners & controls and download CAD drawings here.

Our waterproof burners will operate on either natural gas (piped mains gas) or LPG (propane cylinders).

To replicate burning fuel, we can supply logs, pebbles, our stunning Crystalight jewelled fuel bed – or even a purpose-made sculpture for the adventurous!

If a completely bespoke setting is required within an extensive garden remodelling exercise, or perhaps as part of a home extension project, the enclosure can be completely integrated into your chosen masonry or decking layout (below).

Integrate the enclosure into an overall design (Courtesy of The Design Studio Ayr)

The  EF5000 heat engine is ‘zero-clearance’ – which means it can be installed right up against combustibles in your enclosure construction – like 2″ x 2″ timbers – without difficulty. However, one could also use lightweight building blocks.

Escea EF5000 outside fireplace
The EF5000 can be placed against a wall

As a further simple installation option, a free-standing enclosure can be created using our ready-made Kitset enclosure frame (below). Just clad it in marine ply and render it – or face it with contemporary limestone panels, ceramic tiles, or any other suitable material or finish of your choice – even decking.

Esacea Kitset support frame
Use the Kitset frame to create a free-standing enclosure

Think about placing the fireplace near to the seating or eating area – but not too close as this unit can produce up to 15 kW/hr of real heat!

No need to worry about flueing either, the EF5ooo doesn’t need a flue at all – not even an exhaust exit above the fireplace – and nor do our waterproof burners.

Just supply either Natural Gas (mains gas) or Bottled Gas (LPG Propane) and a set of D-cell batteries to power the ignition (or use the optional 240v mains transformer kit).

The EF5000 outdoor fireplace comes with options of three facia finishes and two styles, plus a choice of four different fuel beds, to customise any project.

Both the EF5000 and our waterproof burners can be ignited by way of touch pad electronic controls which give the option of three different heat settings. The touch pad can be mounted up to 1.5m from the burner in a suitable position. Optionally, a remote handset can be paired with the burner controls.

EF5000 is made of 100% marine-grade stainless steel which needs only cleaning and an occasional hose down – yes, even the electronics are water-resistant!

Visit the Urban Fires website for more information or to find a local reseller.

Want a wood-burning version? Check out our EW5000 outside fireplace which can be supplied in either a contemporary or traditional look – and it doubles as a BBQ!

Escea EW5000

Escea EW5000 woodburning BBQ and outside fireplace

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Yes, you CAN have a TV above your fireplace!

Many fireplace products do not allow the installation of a flatscreen TV above, but don’t be put off – at Urban Fires we have a series of gas, bio-ethanol and electric fireplaces that can be used in conjunction with a modern TV – and we have a wealth of experience in designing suitable systems

gas hole in wall firerplace

Frameless Hole in Wall gas fireplace

Our gas fireplace technology allows the fitting of a TV above, preferably as part of a renovation project or new-build, but also when installing into an existing masonry chimney breast.

Usually, a site visit will be required, but our Escea ST900 balanced flue gas fireplace is approved to have a TV installed above every installation provided the installation instruction are followed carefully.

The ST900 is the only UK gas fireplace to carry such approval.

Ferro ST900 balanced flue gas fireplace in Bronze

The ST900 is available with a number of facia options including stainless steel, piano black, cream and with granite or travertine inserts – and can be installed in homes with or without chimneys.

Finally, it is almost always possible to install a TV above one of our bespoke electric fireplaces (below) as part of a renovation or new build project. With heat and flames, or just flames, these remote control fireplaces offer a magical but flexible addition to homes without a gas supply.

Bespoke electric fire

Bespoke granite-faced electric fireplace

Many of our products can be bespoked to suit your taste or style, just call to find out what we can do for you.

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Five reasons why developers should always install fireplaces in higher value homes.

EScea ST900

Escea Ferro balanced flue gas fireplace

(1) Many developers already understand the importance of designing a home that is in synergy with a buyer’s individual preferences, whilst accentuating those visual aesthetics that enhance property values. Don’t make that fireplace an option!

(2) A fireplace within the living space can create a special ambience. Humans seek warmth. The infrared warmth from a fireplace satisfies that primeval need. The developer that offers buyers a variety of stylish energy efficient gas fireplaces that complement their home designs will always win against those who ignore this fact. Outside gas fireplaces are also becoming popular with those who enjoy entertaining out on the deck or patio, even when it’s cool outside.

(3) Home owners have always had many fireplace options to choose from, but in these these days of ever rising fuel costs, the day-to-day running costs and thermal efficiency of balanced flue fireplace technology is driving purchasing decisions. Balanced flue and flueless gas fireplaces which can be installed just about anywhere in a home or renovation project – and don’t need a chimney – are the most efficient of all gas fireplaces. These products will also assist the developer when complying with demanding SAP ratings and sustainable design.

(4) A balanced flue fireplace doesn’t have a traditional chimney that runs through to the roof; instead, a simple metal factory-made flue exits from the back of the fireplace directly through an outside wall – or it can be routed up to 10m horizontally or vertically to a suitable exit point. The balanced flue design reduces installation costs, keeps most of the heat produced by the fire inside the home and – when choosing carefully – offers far lower running costs. The best balanced flue designs even allow the siting of a flatscreen plasma, LCD or LED TV above.

(5) Homebuyers are already choosing from a variety of fireplace styles, which include minimalist frameless hole in wall gas fires, ribbon gas burners, bio-ethanol burners and sometimes two-sided or even three-sided corner styles that allow the fireplace to be easily positioned in different locations within a room – don’t miss out on this trend!

See some modern and innovative balanced flue designs and outside gas fireplaces here and there’s more technical information and advice in previous blogs.

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An outside fireplace? Why? A case study.

Escea EF5000 Outdoor Gas Fireplace

Escea stainless steel Outside Gas Fireplace

“Nothing is more fun than being outdoors with a roaring fire and maybe even seeing snowflakes if you’re lucky, whilst cooking outside in mid winter.

It can be reminiscent of that skiing weekend in Switzerland or your trip to the Pyrenees mountains.

An outdoor fireplace can be used to make spring, autumn and winter feel more like a summer evening, to draw the family out of doors on cooler, yet still quite reasonable days and to share some real quality time together.

Such a fireplace can be placed not only on a patio, but also in a select spot in the garden; we actually had a covered porch, but it wasn’t completely enclosed – and we were frustrated at not being able to get outside more in the wintertime.

Using a patio or deck in the winter isn’t always comfortable, given wind, snow or rain and we wanted to be able to sit outside, be comfortable and not get cold whilst we wree cooking or just relaxing with a hot toddy.

With the fireplace installed, it was far more comfortable to sit outdoors, to watch the snow and to breath the crisp clean air. The porch roof prevents our getting wet and the heat kept us all fairly warm … so we found that we could use our porch even in the depths of winter.

The fireplace is now our hero. It promotes atmosphere and ambience – and with the various styles we now know are available that will go with nearly any patio or garden decorating style, anyone can have one. We burn gas in our Escea, but you can also use logs or peat.

If you’re in love with your patio, but don’t use it as often as you’d like because of the drop in temperatures that the seasons offer, try installing an outside fireplace and see if it doesn’t help to keep you outside a bit longer in the year”.

David Foxall
Gerrards Cross
Buckinghamshire

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Five tips for choosing an outside fireplace.

Escea outdoor stainless steel fireplace

Stainless steel outdoor fireplace

An outside entertainment area can extend your home space and an outdoor fireplace will bring a fantastic ambience to your alfresco meal or BBQ party – or just make eating in the great outdoors that little bit more special.

Investing in an outside fireplace will allow you to make full use of your deck or patio area, as you won’t need to retreat indoors when the sun goes down or when the evening turns a little chilly.

Most outside fireplaces are of course intended as source of heat, although you’ll find some which are made almost solely for their decorative function.

So, what should you look for when contemplating an outside fireplace?

1. Do you prefer the traditional look or contemporary? Many garden designers are producing fabulous futuristic landscapes and are using modern materials to create that fashionable minimalistic look. Choose a modern widescreen design of fireplace if you don’t want to go out of date quickly. Consider the energy source. The main choices are Natural gas, LPG, wood or bio-ethanol. Natural gas will be the most convenient as it can be permanently piped in, is the least expensive running-cost option unless you have a free source of wood, is the cleanest both in use and for the environment – and in most cases won’t need a chimney or flue. LPG is a great option if you have somewhere to conceal the cylinder, but it will be more expensive to run than natural gas. Burning wood is romantic, but bear in mind there will be ashes and dust to clear, the fuel is expensive if you have to pay for it and it has to be stored somewhere. It can be smokey in windy conditions. Bio-ethanol gives little heat in an outside situation, but flames always look great whatever the fuel!

2. What will the cost of installation be? We would recomend a permanent installation to get the best out of your investment and athough a bio-ethanol fireplace will need no installation at all, it won’t give the same heat output as wood or gas – and is quite expensive to run. Both gas and wood-burning fireplaces should be installed by a qualified engineer. Think about the setting for your fireplace. Will you set it into a wall, or build a suitable enclosure? Kits are available for built-in, so you can just clad with your preferred choice of stone, tiles, brick or appropriate matching deck material.

3. Durability. What material will your fireplace or fire be made from? Even the driest climate may have an effect on the longevity of your fireplace. If it’s a traditional design, it could be built from stone or brick and only the fire-burning area may incorporate metals, which may rust or deteriorate over time. Preferably, invest in a stainless steel gas fireplace, which won’t rust over time and will always stay looking good with minimal maintenance. Just make sure it comes with a weatherproof cover for the worst that winter may bring.

4. Lighting; how will you light the fuel in your new fireplace? Lighting wood can be frustrating unless you know how to light a wood-burning stove. Never use petrol! An outdoor gas fireplace will be the most convenient, if it has built-in electronic ignition. Just flick a switch! Bio-ethanol is usually lit with a match or taper, but be safe – and keep young children away from such portable heaters.

5. Finally, the cost. What will you invest? Installing an outdoor fireplace may be a part of a larger garden refurbishment project and so the fireplace could be just a small proportion of what you are preparing to spend overall. Buy the best you can afford, it will provide more heat, be more convenient, stay looking great and will last a lot longer. Spend wisely if you don’t make regular use of your outdoor space. The best gas fireplaces will add value to your home, but if you have a very limited budget consider a firepit or chimenea instead.

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Should I install a see-through fireplace?

balanced flue gas fireplace

Three-sided see-through fireplace

A state of the art open see-through fireplace can provide contemporary fire enjoyment in any large space, between multiple rooms – or can even act as a room divider. Wherever it is built, a see-through can deliver a striking architectural statement, allowing fire viewing from both sides and perhaps the use of exotic facing materials, different on each side.

But, ‘open’ see-through fireplaces can also be troublesome, usually because the ratio of the effective area of the fireplace opening (which logically, will be much larger than the equivalent conventional fireplace) compared to the cross-sectional area of the chimney, may be out of kilter – allowing spillage of the products of combustion due to insufficient updraft. And other air-movement devices such as air conditioning or even a simple kitchen extractor can affect the safe operation of such a fireplace.

Essentially, it’s all about the chimney. Will it exhaust the gases safely at all times? A professionally installed chimney fan can often cure spillage, but this can be an expensive option.

The correct approach should be to listen carefully to a design or installation professional before purchase. An early site visit is essential, particularly if you want to utilise an existing chimney or flue. Starting ‘from scratch’ with no flue at all in a new or refurbishment project often offers a better chance of creating a safe open see-through fireplace chimney system and ensuring that it always operates correctly.

Sometimes, a see-through fireplace is open on all four sides, usually with a decorative canopy hung from the ceiling. These are often in very futuristic shapes.

Another up-to-date answer can be the ‘tunnel’ gas fireplace. Usually a balanced flue product, the tunnel fire will have glass on both sides and is usually room-sealed, that is, it will take air for combustion directly from outside of the house, via the concentric balanced flue.

These tunnel fires are sometimes also available with glass on three sides, allowing your architect interesting design options, such as building into a peninsula unit.

Any see-through fireplace, open, canopy or tunnel, will offer a stunning addition to your home. Just make sure it’s designed properly, allow a suitable budget and get experts to build it.

This is not a DIY project nor is it one to be tackled by the average house builder without expert assistance.

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Five ways to tell what kind of chimney you have.

Balanced flue fire

Is your chimney type here?

Your choice of gas fire or other heating appliance in the UK will be determined by the type of chimney or flue in your home, if there is one at all.

You will be able to identify which flue type you have by observation, or by asking your local specialist independent fireplace retailer to advise you. Let’s try observation first.

1. If you have a chimney breast in your home and a brick chimney on your roof, it is likely that you have a ‘Class 1′ chimney which should be suitable for burning wood, solid fuel or
gas in your fireplace or stove. Class 1 chimneys are usually constructed of brick or lined with clay liners, but can also be made of pre-cast sections in heat-resistant materials or even twin-wall insulated stainless steel sections. Class 1 chimneys must be a minimum of 175mm/7″ internal diameter. A chimney should be swept and inspected by a registered chimney sweep or other expert before being brought back into use. If a chimney is found to be unsound, it may have to be lined before it can be used. Using a flexible stainless steel flue liner is the generally accepted method for cost-effectively making good, but other methods are also available. If the chimney has already been lined, it will be important to establish the size (diameter) of the liner to decide which appliances may work with the liner. It will probably be 125mm/5″ or 200mm/8″. You will also need to establish the type of terminal that has been fitted, by observing from outside.

2. If you have no chimney breast but there is a shallow fireplace opening built into the wall in your living room, it is likely that you have a pre-cast flue. This is a letter-box sized flue that is built into the cavity wall construction as the house is being built and is only suitable for use with appropriately designed gas fires. Other identifiers of a pre-cast flue would be the roof vent or terminal, either a perforated ridge tile or possibly a small diameter (125mm/5″) stainless steel flue and terminal which protrudes vertically from the roof tiles. If there is already a suitable gas fire installed, it will inevitably be distinguished by its shallow fuel bed.

3. Some homes have been built with what may appear to be a Class 1 chimney breast, but may be found to only have a small diameter (125mm/5″) factory-made metal flue installed, which will reduce the choice of gas fires that may be used, although any ‘Class 2′ approved gas fire should be capable of working safely in such a situation. The on-roof identifiers are similar to pre-cast flues in ‘2’ above. Such Class 2 flues are only suitable for use with appropriately designed and approved gas fires.

4. If there is a gas fire installed in your room and there is no apparent chimney or flue as described above, you may have a powerflue fire or a flueless fire. A powerflue gas fire uses a fan built into a simple flue duct, usually on the back of the fire, which must be fitted to an outside wall. The fan itself will protrude partly or wholly from the wall on the outside of the house and will be easily visible, as an identifier. These fires must be connected to mains electricity in order to work and the tell-tale fan noise is a another good identifier. In the last ten years, innovative gas fires which do not require a flue at all (flueless fires) have come onto the market and the best ones have built-in catalytic converters which safely remove carbon monoxide from the products of combustion. With this type of fire there are minimum room ventilation requirements, usually a 100cm2 airbrick is required to be installed and it is recommended that another heat source such as central or underfloor heating is also present in the room.

5. Another, more up to date and energy-efficient option for houses without flues or chimneys, is the balanced flue gas fire. These fires are designed to exhaust the flue gases through a simple twin-wall factory-made flue sections which can be installed virtually anywhere in a home. An outside wall is not a necessary requirement. The flue can exit either vertically or horizontally from the house, giving a multitude of installation options. No additional room ventilation is required as balanced flue fires are room-sealed and use outside air (for combustion) which is drawn into the combustion area through the concentric construction of the flue itself. Balanced flue fires are typically high-efficiency, glass-fronted appliances and many are at the forefront of the fashionable, minimalist look that so many people aspire to in today’s fashion-conscious world. Balanced flue fires can be identified by the flue terminal, which most often protrudes from an outside wall but may also be installed in a vertical situation.

An expert should always be requested for advice before purchasing any gas or solid fuel heating appliance. Most independent fireplace retailers can offer a site visit service, prior to purchase. Woodburning stoves in particular require expert advice prior to installation.

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