How to turn a lovley old house with solid walls into a warm efficient home




I liked the idea of our new lounge having a wood burning stove because they are lovely to see and I like having a fire to mess about with. However, I also felt that a wood burner would be a valuable asset.

I was planning underfloor heating to be run from an air source heat pump. I have deliberately designed my UFH with a large thermal mass - concrete in the extension and screed in the old house. Chimney investigationThis means that response times to the heating are slow. There are more modern, boarded UFH systems that do not have the mass and are designed to warm a room up more quickly. I do not see that either is right or wrong, it just depends how you live and want to heat your home. Because my system would be slow response, the stoves would would be useful when a faster response is needed.

I was still not totally convinced by air source heat pumps, so I also felt that having stoves that could share the burden woudl be no bad thing.

Unfortunately, my new lounge did not have a fireplace!

Curiously, though there had never been a fireplace on the end wall where I now wanted one, the bedroom above did have a fireplace and chimney. The fireplace in the bedroom is a Victorian cast surround and is purely decorative.

Chimney accessI wondered if it might be possible for me to access the chimney by going behind the upstairs fireplace with a  liner, thus not having to remove it.

As I took the ceiling down in the new lounge anyway, I had easy access from underneath to see what was going on.

As the chimney breast terminated on the first floor, it was supported by a flagstone built into the wall. I cut a section of the flagstone away where I thought I may be able to slide a liner through.

Chimney breast 1As I was building a new chimney breast downstairs the flagstone would get plenty of new support from below, so I was not worried about lack of support for the chimney.

It was tight to get through and behind the bedroom fireplace but I thought a liner might fit. As it turns out I needed to find a slightly unusual solution to chimney lining, which I cover in the next article.

An exposed flue liner can look great in a lofty barn conversion, but woud look out of place in our home with low ceilings, so I set about building a chimney breast.

For the inner, I used old bricks and lime mortar as this would be visible, but for the main breast I used concrete block that would be later rendered and plastered.

Register plateI had a steel register plate made to my specifications by a local firm that laser cut steel sheet. I had three holes cut in - one for a flue liner and two for access.

I built this into the structure of the chimney as I went so it was neat.

I was going to build a flagstone hearth, and as I had plenty of depth still to play with I thought I may as well put some insultion under it.

I laid some DPM and insulation and made a tempoaray wooden frame.

 Having worked out my final floor level, I cut and laid flagstones into the hearth area to stand a little proud once the final floor was laid.

Hearth insulationObvioulsy, a stove needs an air supply in order to burn. Traditionally, buildings were so leaky that plenty of air entered the building around windows, doors and through floorboards. However, as homes become better sealed up against draughts there is a danger that a stove may not be able to draw sufficient air to burn properly. Because of this, present building regulations specify that if a stove with an output in excess of 5Kw is installed then a direct air vent through a wall must also be installed - there are specs as to how large the vent must be depending on the size of fire.


Hearth stonesI was planning a 5Kw stove and despite my concerted efforts to seal draughts from my house I know it will never be up to modern standards. That said, I have encountered many instances in old houses where a lovely stove burns away and warms the room nicely, but the air it draws in in order to burn whistles through the room at floor level and can cause a nasty draught and cold feet. I fancied controlling my stove as best possible. For that reason I chose to have a direct feed pipe through the wall and into the stove to supply its air. Several stove manufacturers offer this option and it means the stove does not draw air from the room for burning.

I used a core drill to make an 80mm hole through the wall behind where the stove would sit.

Stove ventWhen I installed the stove I would fit a 75mm pipe through the wall and directly into the rear of the stove.

On the ouside of the building I fitted a slatted grille.





© Christopher Thompson