Dirty chimneys are the cause of over 25% of home fires. As the weather gets cooler and the days get shorter, many of us have cranked up our wood fireplaces. They’re cozy places for relaxing with a good book or spending time chatting with family and friends around the holidays.
But if you have a wood fireplace, it’s important to know how to maintain it. In this blog post, we’ll share some tips on how to keep your wood fireplace clean and safe. By following these simple tips, you can enjoy them for many years to come!
Know Your Wood-Burning Fireplace
To maintain your wood-burning fireplace you need to understand its elements and components. The chimney is one of the most important components, as it removes smoke from your home.
Make sure you have your chimney inspected and cleaned every year. This protects against the dangerous buildup of creosote and other debris that can cause chimney fires.
The chimney has different elements that you must check often. Make sure the flue is open when a fire is burning and inspect the cap, mortar, bricks, and crown for damage or wear. Components of the chimney include:
The flue is the opening at the top of your chimney that carries the smoke up and out. It should be inspected often to make sure it’s in good condition.
The damper is a metal door that opens and closes to control the flow of air in and out of the fireplace. It should be checked often to make sure it’s working.
The firebox is the area at the base of your chimney that contains the wood-burning fire. Make sure you keep it clean by sweeping any ash or debris after each use.
The hearth is the area around the firebox. Inspect it for cracks or damage and keep it clean to prevent heat from escaping.
Now let’s take a look at the creosote. Did you know there are different types? These include:
This is the most dangerous type of creosote and can lead to chimney fires if not removed. Make sure you have your chimney cleaned each year to remove this buildup. This type of creosote is black and shiny and will appear as a thick, sticky substance.
This type of creosote is less dangerous but can still be a fire hazard if it accumulates. It appears as a dry sooty buildup that’s gray or brown in color. it is easier to remove than the flammable type.
This type of creosote is less dangerous, but you still need to remove it. It can clog the flue and reduce airflow in your chimney. It appears as a hard, glossy coating that’s dark in color and hard to remove.
Elements of a Wood Fireplace
In addition to the chimney, there are other elements of a wood fireplace that you should inspect and clean often. These include:
Make sure you’re using seasoned firewood that has been dried. This will help reduce smoke and creosote buildup in your chimney. Also, make sure you store your firewood away from your home to reduce the risk of an infestation.
These are metal grates that support the burning logs and allow air to circulate around them. Make sure you check them often and clean off any ash or debris buildup.
Andirons are decorative pieces that help regulate the airflow in the fireplace. Make sure to inspect them for any damage or wear and keep them clean.
Your mantel is the shelf above your fireplace. Check for any signs of damage or wear. Make sure it’s not too close to the fire to reduce the risk of catching on fire.
If you have a glass-door fireplace, make sure to inspect the glass for any cracks or damage. Also, keep it clean by wiping it down with a soft cloth and using glass cleaner if necessary.
Fireplace Maintenance Tips
Maintaining your wood-burning fireplace is essential to ensure it lasts for many years. Here are our top 12 tips for keeping your wood fireplace in tip-top shape:
1. Have Your Chimney Swept Often
When it comes to maintaining your wood-burning fireplace, you must keep your chimney clean and clear of any debris. This is essential in preventing smoke from entering your living space and accumulating on the walls and furniture.
Creosote is a flammable by-product of burning wood. It can build up in the chimney and ignite, causing a dangerous fire. To avoid this, make sure to inspect your fireplace and chimney at least once a year for any creosote buildup. If you see any black soot or tar-like residue on the walls of your chimney, hire a professional to clean it at once.
2. Use the Right Type of Wood
Using the wrong type of wood in your fireplace can not only lead to poor performance but also create a dangerous situation. Make sure you’re using seasoned hardwoods such as maple or oak for your firewood.
You should not use softwoods like pine and cedar. They produce more smoke than heat and are more likely to ignite a dangerous chimney fire. Additionally, make sure to stack your wood away from the fireplace and in a dry location to ensure that it is properly seasoned before you use it.
3. Open the Damper Before Lighting a Fire
Before you light your first fire of the season, make sure to open the damper in your fireplace. This will allow for proper ventilation and enable smoke to escape through the chimney. When the fire is out, make sure to close the damper in order to prevent hot air from entering your house.
4. Keep the Fireplace Area Clean
In addition to keeping the chimney clean, it’s important to keep the flame area of your fireplace free from debris and combustible materials. Make sure there is nothing flammable in the vicinity of your wood-burning stove and that there is at least a three-foot clearance space around the firebox.
5. Use a Chimney Cap
A chimney cap is an important piece of safety equipment for any wood-burning stove. It helps to keep debris, animals, and rainwater out of the fireplace and chimney. If you don’t already have one, be sure to invest in one before lighting your first fire of the season.
6. Have Your Fireplace Inspected Each Year
Making sure to have your fireplace and chimney inspected by a professional each year is an important part of maintaining it.
The inspector will check for any signs of damage or deterioration. They will also make sure the components are working the right way. This can help prevent fires and other dangerous situations.
8. Clean the Fireplace and Hearth Area Often
Clean your fireplace, hearth, and surrounding areas often. This prevents the buildup of soot and ash.
After extinguishing each fire, make sure to sweep up any ashes leftover in the firebox. Also, be sure to dust off the mantel and hearth area to remove any accumulation of debris or ash
9. Inspect the Fireplace Often
Inspect the fireplace yourself each month, looking for cracks in the firebox or flue liner, soot buildup, or any other damage. If you use your fireplace often, have it inspected and cleaned more often.
10. Keep Area Clear
It is essential to keep the area around your fireplace clear of flammable materials such as newspapers, rugs, and furniture. Not only does this reduce the risk of a fire, but it also helps ensure that your fireplace will continue to operate safely and efficiently throughout its lifespan.
When arranging furniture around the fireplace, make sure to leave at least 3 feet of space between the firebox and any combustible objects.
11. Make Small Fires
Building small, hot fires rather than large, slow-burning ones is essential for maintaining a safe and efficient wood fireplace. Hotter fires produce less smoke, meaning less creosote buildup in your chimney. To achieve a hot fire, use dry, well-seasoned hardwood and start with a smaller fire that can then be built up over time.
12. Do Not Burn Trash
Burning trash, paper products, or treated wood in your fireplace should never be done. Not only can they release harmful chemicals into the air, but they can also cause a dangerous chimney fire. Stick to burning only seasoned hardwoods in your fireplace.
13. No Accelerants
Never use accelerants such as gasoline or kerosene to start a fire in your wood fireplace. These flammable liquids can cause a dangerous and potentially life-threatening situation due to their combustible nature. Besides the obvious safety risks involved, using these kinds of accelerants can also damage the interior components of your fireplace, reducing its lifespan.
Fireplace cleaning is essential to proper fireplace maintenance. After each fire, make sure to:
- Brush the ash and soot out of the firebox
- Use a vacuum cleaner or chimney brush to remove any accumulation of creosote
- Inspect the interior of your fireplace, often for signs of damage or deterioration
Ready to Install a Wood Fireplace?
If you’re in the market for a new wood fireplace, Dreifuss Fireplaces has everything you need. Our team of professionals can help you find the perfect fireplace for your home, and provide advice on how to maintain it.
We offer a wide selection of wood and gas fireplaces, as well as inserts, stoves, and chimneys. Our team of experts can help you choose the perfect fireplace for your home and install it quickly and efficiently. Schedule a consultation today and let us help you find a wood fireplace that suits your style.