Fireplace Care and Maintenance
Few things in life are better than the simple pleasure of gathering the family around the fireplace on a cold winter day, and enjoying the warm glow and cozy feel it provides. A fireplace can be a powerful addition to a home, but “with great power comes great responsibility.” Neglected fireplaces can be very hazardous, ignite quickly, and potentially destroy a home. Fireplaces, while wonderful, require some simple maintenance and upkeep to keep them working safely.
Perhaps the most important, yet most often overlooked step, is to be sure to have a chimney cover. This ensures the keeping out of debris, such as leaves and pieces of trees. It also keeps animals and birds out of your chimney. Few of us wish to experience the smell of singed squirrel fur or baked pigeon feathers when lighting the fireplace for the first time of the season. Seriously, things like this can ignite very easily and cause many problems, including a dangerous chimney fire.
Believe it or not, another tip is to keep a consistent draft in your chimney and fireplace when lighting it. The easier the air and smoke flows, the better. The best way to do so is to keep a window slightly open in your house while using your fireplace. The air from the window will quickly be taken up the chimney and keep up a good flow of air to carry the smoke outside. Something that can help out drastically is to have a screen in front of the fire instead of a solid glass window. A screen does just as good of a job at keeping the fire in place, but it will let more air through into the fireplace to let the smoke vent better.
Probably the most obvious way to keep your fireplace and chimney in top shape is to hire a professional chimney sweeper. DO NOT TRY TO DO IT YOURSELF, no matter HOW many times you’ve seen Mary Poppins! Leave this job to those who are trained to do it. (If your chimney sweep starts singing and dancing on the roof to “Step In Time,” double check his credentials!) And, while those “chimney cleaning logs” are helpful, they do NOT take the place of a regular cleaning. Typically, a chimney should be cleaned once a year if the fireplace is used regularly. Having the chimney cleaned will help the fireplace to work more effectively and will also prevent chimney fires, which are very dangerous and can spread throughout a home without warning.
Burning the right type of wood in your fireplace is also very important. Dry wood burns best, and is also best for your fireplace and chimney. Wet wood is what causes a lot of buildup and creosote in the chimney, and also produces more smoke. Take the time to get dry wood to burn. And, if you prefer, the pre-packaged logs such as Duraflames give off every bit as much heat, are easy to light, and do not leave the same residue behind in your chimney, so they’re not a bad alternative.
A fireplace should be a source of joy and comfort, and not a source of stress. A little bit of care and some simple steps can insure your family’s safety and enjoyment. Take care of your fireplace, and keep those marshmallows on hand! There’s a lot of winter yet to come, so remember to keep Fireplace Care and Maintenance on your “to do” list!