A list of do and don’t tips for maintaining a wood-burning fireplace.
A crackling fire, the bright flames, and functional warmth describe the appeal of a wood-burning fireplace. A delightful fireplace often goes with the idea of staying cozy on a cold winter day. Keeping your open hearth safe and clean will help ensure that picture-perfect fireplace winter scene for years to come.
For fireplace maintenance, do get regular professional inspections and cleanings. Wood-burning fireplaces should get inspections and cleanings at least once a year. If your fireplace gets used often, schedule more professional cleanings to remove flammable creosote buildup.
Do check chimney caps. Homeowners should also take care to regularly check chimney caps and replace them as needed. They help with keeping out weather elements, small animals and other debris from entering or blocking your chimney. Without a chimney cap, animals like birds and squirrels have been known to build nests inside chimneys, blocking the escape of fireplace gasses. Chimney caps also prevent burning embers from escaping through the chimney and damaging the roof.
Do install heat-proof glass doors or a stainless steel liner. Heat-proof glass doors help to prevent heat loss as well as keep live fire embers from escaping. A stainless steel liner also helps with containing embers within the fireplace.
After extinguishing a fire, do wait several hours or a handful of days before removing ashes. After the fire goes out, it’s possible for fireplace coals to remain warm for up to three days. Most of the time, though, it’s safe to wait at least 12 hours to ensure that the embers have been extinguished. Sprinkling coffee grounds on cooled ashes can help contain dust while cleaning, but still wear a dust mask as a safety caution while cleaning. Use a metal shovel or specialized ash vacuum to safely remove ashes.
Do have a fire extinguisher nearby as a safety measure for when fires danger others.
Don’t use an abrasive cleaner. Use natural or non-abrasive cleaners to clean brick.
Don’t use water to extinguish a fire. Water creates a paste out of the ashes, making it hard to remove.
Don’t use your fireplace as an incinerator. Burning Christmas trees, boxes or color-printed newspapers create harmful or noxious fumes. In addition, do not combine manufactured firewood, such as pencil shavings or compressed sawdust, with burning real wood. The mix of materials could cause flare-ups. When burning real wood, only burn split hardwood for your fireplace. You’ll want to buy or cut wood that has been dried outside for six months.
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