It's time to fire up your imagination.
THE days may be getting a bit warmer, and the spring flowers may be daring to rear their heads; but generally speaking, we are still in winter, and winter means one very welcome addition to any home - a fireplace.
A good fireplace doesn't only give warmth though. A well-chosen design to match the feel and period of your home can create a strong and attractive focal point of your room, whatever the weather outside.
If you have a period home but no original fireplaces (or you want contemporary fireplaces for a modern home), eBay is a great place to look for bargains. It's a good idea to watch some auctions first to see what fireplaces like those you want are going for, and remember to factor in the cost of petrol, as most fireplaces are collection only.
You can also buy fireplaces from other websites, high-street shops, DIY stores and architectural salvage yards, or sometimes, if you're lucky, you can find them in skips and give-away websites such as Freecycle.
That said, while it is more environmentally friendly and often cheaper to buy a reclaimed period fireplace than a new reproduction one, if you want your fireplace for actual use not just decoration, reproduction ones are often better suited.
Many original fireplaces are missing some parts and fittings needed for a real fire, some of which are hard to replace.
If the fireplace you want to restore seems to be complete though, wooden and metal ones are generally straight-forward for DIYers to repair and renovate (stone are best left to the experts).
If the fireplace is painted and the paint is in poor condition, you may need to strip it off and start again. However, this is a big job, and you can often get away with filling, sanding and repainting instead (depending on the state of it and assuming you'd like a painted finish).
Use a heatproof paint if you intend to have a real fire, at least for the bits closest to the fire.
Metal period fireplaces often have rust on them, but don't be put off. The quickest and easiest solution is to use a paint that can be applied straight to rust, such as Hammerite Direct to Rust Metal Paint (from PS7.98 for 250ml, B&Q). You don't need to use a primer or undercoat.
Hammerite Direct to Rust now comes in lots of colours (both off-the-shelf and mixed in store), but if you'd prefer another colour as a topcoat, try Hammerite Kurust (PS8.49 for 250ml, www.tooled-up.
com) or Hammerite No 1 Rust Beater (PS4.36 for 250ml, www.powertoolsdirect.com) to treat the rust first, depending on the extent of it.
As with any DIY project though, sometimes you need a bit of trial and error to start with, but you will get there in the end.
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A Victorian fireplace, left, and a more modern style, below. If you're planning to restore a stone fireplace, above, it's best left to the experts