A properly functioning fireplace is an essential component to the overall safety of your home. Proper maintenance will ensure that your fireplace is ready for use each heat season and that any major hazards which could endanger those inside or around the home are avoided.
Proper fireplace maintenance includes (but is not limited to):
Annual Sweeps and Inspections
Just like any other heating or cooling system in your home, having a certified chimney sweep give things a cleaning and a once-over annually can prevent potential hazards for you and those in your home. Sweeps remove the creosote which will have built up from burning wood and to make sure all components of the fireplace (firebox, damper, smoke-chamber, etc.) are in proper order.
Cleaning Out Ashes
While a thin layer of an ash-bed is not a bad thing during heat season (as it can help to insulate and keep the fire burning hotter), a mound of ash can reduce the breathability of a fire.
Burning Seasoned Wood
This may a greater tip for chimney maintenance, but nevertheless as it the place in which wood is burned (the firebox), we wanted to throw it in there for you. Ensure that the wood you are burning is seasoned – not with salt or pepper. The term means wood that has been cut and dried for a significant amount of time. Long enough to allow the sap or any other moisture in the wood to dry up. If you are burning greener or unseasoned wood, you are increasing the potential for the highly flammable creosote to build up further along in the chimney’s flue system. Don’t know what creosote is? Feel free to head on over to our blog to read up on creosote, and the negative effects of burning in a chimney that has not been swept or inspected.
The Condition of the Fireplace Walls, Damper and Smoke-Chamber:
This is a key responsibility as a homeowner who utilizes the fireplace! The walls of your fireplace will likely either be masonry (fire-brick) or what we in the industry call “refractory panels.” These line the walls of the fireplace and are extremely essential in containing the combustion (or fire) and can withstand the immense heat of the fires. Mortar joints between the fire-brick can begin to erode from use, the fire-brick itself can crack, and refractory panels can crack and split, each instance allows smoke, and any other byproducts of your fires (like the creosote mentioned above) to no longer be exhausted up out and away from the home, but rather into the surrounding structure of the home – fires that are not contained are not friendly fires, ever.
The damper should be capable of being opened and closed fully as to allow proper venting of fires and to create an efficient burn when the fireplace is in use. The smoke chamber is the space which is located just above the firebox (where the fires are burned). Smoke from your fires head up to this space and circulates in a helical or spiral manner. There should not be visible holes, cracks or spaces which you can see, allowing the smoke to travel anywhere but up into the flue system (grab a flashlight for this assessment).
Generally you won’t see much past this point, which is why a camera inspection is always advised prior to heat season. Ensuring your fireplace is properly maintained is critical to the safety of your home. If you notice any functional concerns, whether that is the fire-brick cracking, missing mortar, or cracked refractory panels, give us a call. All of our chimney Outfitters are certified by The Chimney Safety Institute of America, possessing a working knowledge of your fireplace classification and industry regulations, codes and safety standards.