Fire baskets (also known as fire grates) are a simple, effective way of making your open fireplace both more efficient and safer. Typically situated within the base of masonry fireplaces, fire baskets should be considered an essential part of any wood burning fireplace. So, what do you need to know when buying a fire basket? We’ve got all the answers in our fire baskets buying guide.
What is a fire basket?
A fire basket or fire grate is, as the name suggests, a rectangular raised metal platform that sits on the floor of a masonry fireplace. It will usually have raised sides around the top of the platform which help keep wood in place when it is being piled up and positioned for burning.
Fire baskets normally have a grill-like construction, with a series of uniform slots to allow air to flow into the fire from below and to allow ash to drop through onto the hearth.
Fire basket materials
Fire baskets are typically made from long-lasting, durable metals such as cast iron or steel, and are available in a wide range of different styles, from traditional Victorian-era designs to modern, sleek contemporary designs.
Steel fire baskets tend to be suitable only for burning wood, and are often the cheaper fire baskets that you see on the market. This is because steel is relatively inexpensive, especially compared to a metal such as cast iron.
Cast iron fire baskets are more robust and can be used to burn hotter burning fuels such as coal. This is because cast iron has excellent thermal properties and can withstand very high temperatures. Cast iron fire baskets are also excellent at retaining heat and will still be warm long after you’ve extinguished a fire.
Tip – if you will be burning solid fuels such as wood or coal in your fire basket, we recommend buying a fire basket with a black finish. Fire baskets with polished or shiny finishes will quickly tarnish and darken.
Self-feeding fire baskets
As well as your standard fire baskets, it’s also possible to buy self-feeding models.
A self-feeding fire basket is simply a fire basket that has curved sides or walls that allow firewood to roll down into the middle of the grate, once the initial blogs in the middle have burnt through.
The idea behind self-feeding fire baskets is that you simply set the fire up, light it and then you don’t then have to re-position the firewood as the fire burns – the shape of the fire basket essentially does this for you.
What are the benefits of a fire basket?
As we said at the outset of this article, we’d argue that if you have an open, wood-burning fireplace, then a fire basket is essential.
Using a fire basket will provide you with a series of tangible benefits.
A fire basket will make your fireplace more efficient. This is because a fire basket raises the fire off the hearth, meaning the fire can draw in much more oxygen (from beneath as well as from above).
Using a fire basket also raises the fire closer to the throat of the chimney, meaning it is closer to the draw of the chimney.
This means the fire burns more effectively, won’t waste any firewood and will give off plenty of heat.
A fire basket can also help make your fireplace safer. By using a fire basket with raised sides you can prevent burning logs from accidentally rolling out of your fireplace, across the hearth and onto your living room or kitchen floor.
Using a fire basket also helps you to position your fire within your fireplace. With a fire basket, you can position your fire towards the back of the firebox so that it is perfectly positioned within the centre of the chimney’s draw.
Positioning your fire in this way will also reduce the likelihood of smoke drifting out of the fireplace into your room.
Without a fire basket your hearth can become blackened and burnt over time. Using a fire basket helps keep your hearth in good condition, protecting it from the high temperatures your fire will produce.
Because your fire will be better ventilated, higher off the ground and therefore burning better with a fire basket, you will experience less smoke.
Smoke is often produced as a result of poor combustion, when a fire isn’t burning well and not getting sufficient oxygen.
How much is a fire basket?
Sure, a fire basket provides many benefits. But, do these benefits come at a cost?
Not really. For a relatively small amount of money you can make your fire perform much better.
At Direct Fireplaces we stock a wide range of fire baskets for solid fuel fireplaces ranging from just over £100 to just under £600.
The amount you pay for a fire basket will be determined by what brand you choose, what features you want and the overall size of the fire basket.
However, regardless of what type (or price) fire basket you choose, we’d say it’s a worthwhile investment. The savings you make on fuel alone will more than offset the cost of a fire basket (never mind all the other benefits you’ll get).
Fire basket sizing
When selecting a fire basket for your fireplace, it’s important that you buy the correct size.
It’s recommended that you have at least 3 inches of clearance on all sides of the fire basket to the fireplace. This ensures that your fire doesn’t get too close to the walls of your fireplace.
When measuring both a potential fire basket and your fireplace it’s important that you measure the following things:
- The front width of the fireplace opening.
- The width of the rear wall of the fireplace (this isn’t always the same size as the opening).
- The depth of the fireplace from front to back.
Once you’ve made a note of these measurements, you should subtract 6 inches from the front and rear widths and depth. This gives you the size of the biggest fire basket you can place in your fireplace.
Fire basket positioning
You may be wondering where exactly you should place your fire basket once you’ve bought it.
The rather obvious option is to place it in the very centre of your fireplace. This will achieve a nice, uniform look to your fireplace.
However, if you want to achieve optimum performance from your fire basket then we recommend that you place the fire basket closer to the back wall of the fireplace and therefore directly under the chimney flue cavity.
This will not only mean the fire is placed directly in the path of the chimney’s ‘draw’, but being situated further back in the fireplace will make it less likely that smoke will drift into your living space.
Fire basket orientation
As an additional point, it’s important to orientate your fire basket properly too.
The majority of fire baskets are rectangular in shape and will fit best in most fireplaces if they are orientated with the longest side facing out of the fireplace.
Unless you have an exceptionally deep fireplace or a fireplace which has significantly tapered walls on either side, this should be how you orientate your fire basket.
Fire baskets for other types of fireplaces
Not every home has an open fire these days. In fact, gas fires are by far the most popular type of fireplace in the UK today (and electric fireplaces are pretty popular too!).
But nevertheless, you may want to recreate the look of a traditional open, wood-burning fireplace.
The best fire baskets for UK homes
As you can see, it’s well worth investing in a fire basket for your open, wood-burning fireplace. From improved fire efficiency to better safety and more, a fire basket is an investment that’ll certainly pay off.
If you’ve decided a fire basket is for you, take a look at some of our most popular fire baskets below.
Gallery Collection Cromwell Large 18 inch Solid Fuel Fire Basket
This fire basket is simplicity itself. Supported by four stout legs and featuring wide, spacious slots to provide excellent ventilation, the Gallery Collection Cromwell fire basket is perfect if you’re looking for a no-nonsense, practical fire basket.
Gallery Collection Valencia 18 inch Solid Fuel Fire Basket
If you’re looking for something a bit more ornate, the Gallery Collection Valencia could be the fire basket for you.
It features an optional large back plate which will help radiate heat into your living space, as well as a handy ash drawer which will make it easy to collect and remove ash following a fire.
Raised detailing throughout gives this fire basket a traditional Regency or Victorian-era look.
Gallery Collection Neon Solid Fuel Fire Basket
For those seeking a fire basket with a simple, contemporary design, there’s the Gallery Collection Neon.
Featuring a boxy, square aesthetic and a handy ash drawer, this fire basket will look at home in almost any fireplace.
Carron Balmoral Cast Iron Fire Basket
At the higher end of the market is the Carron Balmoral. Manufactured by skilled craftspeople in the heart of Lincolnshire, England, the Carron Balmoral is a stunning example of British engineering.
Made from cast iron and completed with a highlighted finish, the Balmoral is very much a ‘statement’ fire basket that’ll capture the eye of visitors to your home. It’s dimensions (height – 550mm, height – 570mm and depth – 30mm) make it ideal for larger fireplaces.
Carron Dorchester Cast Iron Fire Basket
Another fire basket from Carron is the Dorchester. Manufactured from high-grade cast iron in the heart of England, the Dorchester is the ideal fire basket for larger fireplaces in traditional or period properties.
It’s size and large ‘basket’ means it can accommodate significant amounts of firewood or coal, lending itself to homes in which the fire burns all day.
Build the perfect fireplace with Direct Fireplaces
Whether you’re building a new fireplace, or renovating an old one, you’ll find everything you need to get the job done at Direct Fireplaces. We don’t just stock fire baskets, but fireplace surrounds, hearths and back panels, and much more. Explore our site today.
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