There’s nothing like sitting before a warm cozy fire as winter rages outside. Your fireplace can be dangerous if not properly maintained. Whether you rely on your fireplace as a source of heat or use only occasionally for atmosphere, you’ll want to make sure it’s safe.
A good Chimney Sweep will tell you that average use – once per week throughout the winter – requires an annual inspection and a cleaning every other year. More frequent use would require a professional cleaning every year. Short of that thorough cleaning hear are something you can do to keep your fireplace safe and in good working order:
- Be sure that there is nothing obstructing the opening of your chimney. Leaves, birds nests, etc can be a fire hazard as well as preventing the proper draw. Consider a chimney cap if you don’t already have one.
- Look closely at brick and mortar for signs of deterioration such crumbling or flaking.
- Pay close attention to the flashing. This is where the chimney meets the roof. Be sure that it’s sealed water tight.
- For a cleaner chimney always burn seasoned dry hardwoods. Hardwood burn hot producing less creosote.
- Be sure to keep fire box free of ash. Clean after you have accumulated 2 or more inches in depth. To be safe allow 72 hours before removing ash to ensure that it’s cold.
- Inspect bricks and mortar on the front of the fireplace as well as inside the firebox. Look for flaking or crumbling mortar.
- Use a solution of soap and warm water to remove most soot and smoke stains in the firebox. For more stubborn stains check with your local hardware store for recommendations.
- Make sure that the flue damper is positioned correctly and closes tight. Poor drafting can realist in a a build up of smoke and soot around the opening of the fireplace.
- Creosote is a black tar like substance produced by the incomplete combustion of wood. It forms on the lining of your chimney and is highly combustible. Creosote should be no more that 1/4 inch thick and must be removed on a regular basis. Clean at the end of each season to avoid damage to fireplace mortar from acids in the creosote. Strong odors may result when creosote and humidity are combined.
Don’t play with Fire
Getting a professional inspection and cleaning of your chimney on a regular basis is the smart thing to do. A certified Chimney Sweep has the tools needed to do a thorough cleaning without messing up your house.