Don't Chill Out!

How To Get Your Fireplace Ready For The Season

Victoria Rose, Writer
Reading Time: 4 minutes
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Diminishing daylight, falling leaves and cool, crisp air signal the beginning of fireplace season. On a chilly fall or cold winter day, there's nothing better than relaxing in front of a warm, cozy fire. 

In addition to warming up a room, fireplaces instantly transform into living artwork with their beautiful dancing flames.

But don’t light that first log just yet — you have some homework to do.

Like many homeowners, you may put fireplace maintenance on the back burner for most of the year. Not making sure the fireplace is safe puts your family at risk. You may think a quick DIY inspection is sufficient, but you should consider a thorough maintenance job by a professional.

Take A Peek

The first thing to do is look inside your chimney. Leaves and debris can build up during months of disuse. Another common problem is unexpected guests. Raccoons, squirrels, birds and other small mammals like to move into the sheltered, den-like structure of the chimney during spring and summer months. If you suspect you need some critter control, contact your local chimney sweep service for instructions on the proper and humane way to evict your uninvited occupants.

Take a flashlight and look up into the chimney. If you notice any blockage, call a chimney sweep and have your fireplace inspected. This is not a task you can do safely — hire a professional! Chimney sweeps will inspect your entire fireplace, brick or mantle seams, damper system and surrounding area for cracks or other potential hazards. Most problems can be fixed easily if found early.

Insurance Check Up

Homeowners are often unaware that their insurance policy may require a professional cleaning of the fireplace and chimney at least once a year. If something happens and you do not have proof of maintenance, your insurance may not cover the damage. Check your policy and hold onto any and all documentation of chimney maintenance.

Burn Smart

As fireplaces burn oxygen, they create fire and carbon dioxide, both of which are extremely dangerous. Be sure to have fully functioning and up-to-date smoke and carbon dioxide detectors in several locations inside your home.

A blockage in the chimney shaft can allow smoke to infiltrate your home. Your fireplace might also have a buildup of creosote, a tar-like substance left over from burning wood that is highly combustible and dangerous. Because homeowners can easily miss the signs of creosote buildup, experts recommend hiring a certified professional to inspect the fireplace once a year.

Soot Cleanup

Wood, coals and ashes can retain their heat for days after a fire. When removing ashes and cleaning the firebox, be sure to use safety equipment to prevent burning, ash inhalation or ash spills throughout the house.

Never use a vacuum unless it is specifically made for cleaning ashes, in case the ash is still retaining heat. Keep approximately an inch of ash in the firebox during the months you use it because ashes help to insulate the firebox so it holds heat longer. Discard all ash when you are done using the fireplace for the season.

Bonus Tips

  • Don’t use the fireplace as a furnace and never burn a fire for longer than 5 hours at a time. Coals continue to radiate heat long after the flames go out, and any combustibles, such as furniture, firewood or rugs, near the fireplace can be damaged or even ignite. The longer a fire burns, the larger the bed of coals and the greater the risk.
  • Be sure to have a minimum of 3 to 5 feet of space between the hearth and any furniture or flammable materials.
  • Use a fireplace screen to keep ash and embers from blowing into your room.
  • Use appropriate tools when handling burning logs. A quality set of fireplace tools will not only look fantastic next to the mantle, but should also last a lifetime.
  • Check out fun and useful fireplace accessories that are perfect for your home!