Nothing warms the soul quite so thoroughly as a roaring fire on a cold winter's day. Central heating is all well and good, but you can't roast chestnuts over your radiator, nor does it emit the glorious crackles or heady aroma of burning wood (if yours does, stop reading this and call your boiler man, stat).
But real working fireplaces are relatively few and far between in London. That's partly because many areas in the capital are subject to smoke restrictions, which prohibit the use of certain types of fireplace or fuel. If you're lucky enough to have a working chimney in your home, here's what you need to know.
What is a smoke control area?
If your house is located within a smoke control area, you're not allowed to emit smoke from your chimney unless you are burning an approved fuel, or using an exempt appliance. Break the rules and you could face a fine of up to £1000.
Do I live in one?
Probably. Most London boroughs are smoke control areas — including Greenwich, Lewisham, Islington and Southwark. Other, less centrally-located boroughs like Barnet and Croydon have partial restrictions. Don't know if you live in a smoke control area? Contact your local council (find the list here).
What fuel can I burn in a smoke control area?
Living in a smoke control area doesn't necessarily mean you can't use a fireplace. So long as you burn DEFRA-approved fuels, you're free to hygge-up your hearth to your heart's content. A list of approved fuels can be found here but basically, if it's smokeless, you're good to go. Crucially, though, wood and standard house coal is banned — unless you're using an exempt appliance.
What fireplaces are exempt from restrictions?
If your heart is set on a traditional log fire, check out DEFRA's list of fireplaces and woodburning stoves that are exempt from restrictions and buy accordingly. But don't go chopping up your old furniture for kindling just yet — treated wood can release harmful pollutants into your home when burnt, including arsenic.
What else do I need to know?
If you've got a stove, make sure it's serviced annually — and remember to get your chimney swept up to twice a year (yep, London still has chimney sweeps).
No chimney? You can still experience the warm glow of a roaring fire — make a note of these cosy London pubs with open fireplaces.