Buckley Rumford Fireplaces
Small Victorian Coal Fireplace

Hello Jim Buckley,

Thank you for the great site and discussions! I read "How Big a Fireplace to Build?" and your comment contrasting different needs and uses, "smaller fireplaces provide a more cosy atmosphere more conducive for an evening of reading by the fire." That's exactly my case. So how small a fireplace can I build?

I own a cast iron surround taken from a San Francisco Victorian said to be "1888 English" and probably a bedroom coal burner. I'd like to use the surround and warm my toes in a reading room on cool Florida nights. I'm willing to follow all the codes and good advice, make it solid fuel capable, and have a professional build it. Is the 12" wide by 22" tall opening too small?

Since the Rumford-like firebox is only 4" deep (behind the opening) and unscrews from the surround, it could be moved back or eliminated to comply with a deeper design.

What do you think?

Richard Brownscombe


It's a very cute fireplace, but 12" is very narrow. I'm sure the Rumford design can be scaled down to fit your surround but I'm afraid you might have trouble getting enough fuel in such a small fireplaces to keep it going.

Here are a couple of suggestions:

1) Build tipi style fires as described at http://www.rumford.com/articleFire.html You should be able to get three or four smallish 20" long logs in the fireplace that way.

2) Keep the coal grate and burn coal which can be contained in a smaller firebox.

Now, how to build it. Our throats are all too big.

Firebox: I would build the firebox with both covings and the fireback 9" or one brick wide each which will result in a firebox only about 8" deep - not counting the coal basket, if you use it, which looks as if it protrudes a little out of the firebox.

Throat: Make the throat opening about 3.5" from the top of the curve to the fireback. You could form a piece of sheet metal into a curve from the rounded "hood" back and up vertically at the throat and pour the throat with refractory concrete such as HeatStop Cast 40 described at http://www.rumford.com/store/cms.html

Damper: You could make do with our small stainless steel K&W damper (see http://www.rumford.com/store/dampers.html) or use a chimney top damper.

Smoke chamber and flue: You only need a 8"x12" system. We don't make an 8"x12" smoke chamber but you could use an 8.5"x13" or cut down a 12"x12" smoke chamber.

You know, of course, that you will need a proper masonry foundation and hearth extension. It can't be place on a wood floor as in you picture.

Let me know if you have other questions and please keep me posted. I'd like to see "in progress" pictures and probably would like to post them on line. I've built of "converted" coal-burning fireplaces 14" or 16" wide but never one this small. I think it will work though.

Jim Buckley

Buckley Rumford Fireplaces
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