When temperatures dip, you’re tempted to throw logs in the fireplace to heat your home. But before that happens, you should understand the basics of fireplace maintenance.
Here are tips to make sure your fireplace is safe to use and will perform its best.
1. Hire a Chimney Sweep
When it comes to fireplace maintenance, the most important thing you can do, each season before cold weather hits, is hire a certified chimney sweep.
This person will thoroughly clean the chimney and remove soot and debris. They also will check for damage, such as, cracks, loose brick and missing mortar.
In addition, they will check the fireplace’s damper. This fitted cap with wire mesh on the sides prevents rain, animals and debris from entering the home.
Finally, they will ensure the fireplace provides proper ventilation and airflow, which protects your health and ensures you will enjoy the best blaze possible.
2. Use the Best Firewood
For wood-burning fireplaces, use dense wood that’s been properly seasoned and stored in a dry place over time, such as six months.
Beech (American), Birch (Yellow), Maple (Sugar) and White Oak are popular options. Be cautious with green wood and resinous softwoods like pine, which produce more creosote.
Creosote, a byproduct of burning wood, mostly contains tar. It can build up in your chimney, which restricts airflow and can cause skin irritations, convulsions and kidney or liver problems.
This is another reason why proper fireplace maintenance is important. A chimney sweep can spot creosote right away and has the proper tools to remove it. Or they can recognize when the buildup is so thick that it’s time to replace the chimney liner.
Finally, don’t overload wood in the fireplace. Small stacks of wood generate less smoke, and fires that are too hot can crack your chimney.
3. Maintain Your Gas Fireplace
Gas fireplaces, like their woodburning counterparts, require proper ventilation and regular maintenance.
Each season, before cold weather hits, make sure the fireplace’s flue and vents function correctly. In addition, keep the safety barrier in top shape. This prevents flames or material from escaping your fireplace.
Finally, be proactive and protect your family from gas leaks — make sure your carbon monoxide detectors are working. The latest models have lithium-ion batteries that last 10 years, so upkeep is easier than ever.
And, with any fireplace, accidents happen, so always have a fire extinguisher handy.
4. Stay Energy-Efficient
If you want to make your woodburning fireplace energy-efficient, here are two easy, effective, tips to complete your fireplace maintenance plan:
• Get a Damper Balloon. When you’re not using the fireplace, insert this inflatable bladder inside the damper; it seals all cold air from entering your home. Then deflate and remove the balloon before you use the fireplace.
• Blower Fan: If your fireplace has a built-in blower, the vent takes in cool air, the firebox heats it and the blower circulates it back out of the fireplace. This ensures your wood-burning fireplace — with a little help — generates as much heat as possible.