Faux Fireplaces - Imitation flames and materials
Faux flames and marble
If we're talking faux fireplaces, we are either talking about faux materials or faux flames. If it's material, there's a good chance it's marble. That's because the features of marble which have made it an architectural favorite for millennia - its durability and beauty - have also made it prohibitively expensive for many people. Until recent years, the answer was to carefully paint marble-like veins on cheaper materials such as plaster. But new techniques have made it possible to produce substances which look and behave in very similar ways to the real thing.
The most popular material for faux fireplaces is 'cultured marble', which is a resin-based substance treated to make it heat resistant to real flame effect fires but not open ones - a faux fire with the faux fireplace.
Cultured marble is less prone to chipping than real marble, and is cast rather than carved - the main factor putting it in the mid rather than top price range. It can be made to look like other stone types as well as marble. The cultured marble surround is then topped off with a strengthened gypsum mantel. There are also different kinds of reconstituted marble - 'conglomerate marble' - made of marble chippings. The smaller the chippings, the more costly the faux marble - almost as costly, in the case of the finer product, as the real thing. The casting method can also be used with stones other than marble - powdered, mixed with cement and then reconstituted. Other materials used to make faux stone or even wood include plaster and, as mentioned before, resin and fillers.
If it's actually imitation flames you're looking for there's an increasingly large number of styles and kinds of fire to choose from. Gas and electric flame effects have been around for decades - gas since the first half of the 20 th century - but advances in technology have made them safer and more realistic every year. Or, depending on your taste, less realistic: with the advent of gel fires it's now possible to get multi-colored flames in a hole in the wall. Special effect fires with pebbles, driftwood, or more outlandish 'fuels' are now also popular. For more information about faux fireplaces, try the National Fireplace Association (www.nfa.org.uk) or one of the many fireplace design books available. The NFA's yearbook contains information on just about every aspect of fireplaces, from history and design to new products and listings of NFA members, plus answers to questions posed by the public. www.fireplaces.co.uk, a site created by the publishers of trade magazine Fire and Fireplaces, also has information about leading and local retailers.