The winter season is coming, and it’s time to enjoy the crackling fire of a cozy fireplace again. Is your fireplace ready for winter? We have some useful tips to get you started:
Thorough cleaning is vital
Your fireplace has probably not been operating for at least six months, so before you start using your wood-burning fireplace again, a thorough cleaning may be required and perhaps having the chimney cleaned.
Inspection of the chimney structure
You may want to consider hiring a certified chimney sweep company to ensure that your chimney is clean and safe to use.
Here is how they get your fireplace ready for winter
- Inspect for damaged components or obstructions.
- They check your chimney for loose mortar and bricks, cracks, holes, corrosion, and other problems affecting the fire’s performance.
- If a chimney looks unsafe or obstructions can’t remove, the technician may recommend repairing the chimney before using it.
- Clean the flue (chimney).
- Make sure the chimney cap is tightened up and securely attached.
- The technician will use a high-temperature vacuum to clean out creosote buildup from the flues.
- Inspect the fireplace and chimney gasket material.
- They check your chimney’s masonry and crown for damage, such as cracks, loose mortar, or bricks.
- Inspect the fireplace’s firebox and throat area for damage, such as cracks or deterioration from rust. They also inspect for proper ventilation.
- Check the damper (the metal door that closes the chimney) and air-intake openings for damage and blockage.
What is creosote buildup?
Creosote is a highly flammable residue combustible byproduct of fire found in all masonry heaters and chimneys. It’s the sticky, black residue that coats the inside of your chimney and fireplace.
Creosote is flammable and can catch fire and cause a chimney fire if it builds up to the point that it’s touching your flue tiles or baffles.
Things to know about a wood-burning fireplace
A wood-burning fireplace is a large, open firebox that burns split side logs and other solid fuels to produce heat. Some fireplaces also have heatproof glass doors that prevent sparks. Here are some suggestions for burning wood fireplaces.
11 Fireplace maintenance safety tips
- The flue must be kept clean.
- It is essential to burn dry wood, so if you use your own firewood, make sure to store it in a dry place.
- Always keep the damper open when lighting a fire.
- Never burn pressure-treated, painted, or stained wood.
- The fire must be extinguished before leaving your home or going to bed.
- If you smell gas, carbon monoxide fills your home and can cause illness or death.
- 7. Ensure that the carbon monoxide detectors are working correctly and check batteries yearly.
- Once the ashes are an inch deep, clean them out. Wood ash is suitable for garden beds and compost piles. To avoid having the fireplace shed too much dust, sprinkle cold ashes on the grate with used coffee grinds. Use a broom to scoop and sweep gently.
- Certain fireplaces also have blowers that spread warm air. If your fireplace has one, make sure to clean it before the cold weather sets in.
- Use a metal grate to place logs at the back of the fireplace.
- Use a protective screening like a mesh metal screen to prevent errant embers from shooting out of the firebox before you light the first fire.
What types of wood should I use for my fireplace?
The amounts of heat and burning rate change from one type of wood to another. Each type has its own unique qualities that you should use to your advantage.
Oak is by far the best type of wood to burn in a fireplace. Its coals are long-lasting, and its heat is intense and strong.
Hickory is another type that is great to burn in a fireplace. It is solid and intense like oak but not quite as long-lasting.
Types of wood not to use for your fireplace
If you are using your own wood, make sure it is properly dried before adding it to your fireplaces. You need to store wood you cut yourself for up to a year before it is scorched.
You can buy a wood moisture meter at any local hardware store. If wood’s moisture reading is above 20%, it most likely won’t burn well.
- Green wood can create more creosote. It is best to use kiln-dried wood for your fireplace.
- Soft woods such as pine, fir, cedar, and spruce are not recommended because they smoke heavily.
- Seasoned wood is still slightly green and will cause creosote buildup, and you can tell if the wood is seasoned by looking for cracks in the ends of the logs.
Wood burning stove
A Wood burning stove is an excellent source of efficient and affordable heat. They create clean, smokeless heat that can heat up to five times the area that fireplaces can.
Chimney maintenance safety tips
Cleaning your chimney is necessary when you have a wood-burning fireplace and can be a fire hazard if ignored. There are two ways you can clean your chimney, either get a professional to clean it for you or purchase a chimney sweep kit and do it yourself.
The exterior masonry is checked for damage, and the chimney cap is checked to ensure it isn’t loose or missing.
Loose bricks, cracked or missing mortar between the bricks, loose flue tiles, and excessive rusting on metal components are all ominous signs.
Remove any hanging tree limbs that could damage the chimney and check for any signs of animals nesting inside.
The NFPA (national fire protection association) states that if you have a wood-burning fireplace, open-hearth, or stove, the chimney must be inspected for creosote or other debris and cleaned annually. Instead of using flammable liquids, use kindling.
Electric fireplace safety
An electric fireplace is a safe alternative to a traditional wood-burning fireplace if you don’t have one or don’t want the expense of purchasing and carrying logs or a flammable by-product.
When you use an electric fireplace, make sure there is nothing combustible near the unit.
Keep pets and children away from electric fireplaces.
If you have any doubts about the safety of your electric fireplace, contact an electrician.
Gas fireplace safety
Gas fireplaces use natural gas, propane, or liquefied petroleum (LP) gas to fuel the fire. These gasses are odorless; you need to contact a professional immediately if you can smell the gas.
Let’s sum this up
With winter quickly approaching, it is vital to ensure your fireplace is ready for the cold weather. Regardless of the type of fireplace you have at home; these tips should help keep your family warm and cozy this season.