Around the House — October 31, 2014 at 5:00 am

7 Tips for Maintaining Your Wood-Burning Fireplace

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©istockphoto/AndreasKermann

©istockphoto/AndreasKermann

It’s about that time of year where the fireplace becomes the most beloved feature in your home. You probably ask a lot of your fireplace—after all, it’s expected to warm your home and your heart. But in order to reap the benefits of having a fireplace, you need to give a little back to it.

Proper fireplace maintenance is a win-win-win: it’s safer, it’ll save you money, and it’ll keep your fireplace in top working condition when you need it most. Here’s what you need to know.

Call in the Pros
If you’ve got a wood-burning fireplace, you should have your fireplace inspected each and every year by a pro. They’ll also do a thorough chimney sweep to clear up any build up that has accumulated over the past year. Creosote – that black residue that builds up inside your fireplace over time – needs to be cleaned out regularly; it is a flammable material, and too much build up can put you at risk for fire (the unwanted kind).

Look Up
Poke your head inside the fireplace and look up – you’ll want to bring a flashlight with you. This will give you a better idea of what’s going on in your chimney. Keep your eyes open for any blockage, like built up leaves or uninvited critters…

Keep Those Critters Out
Your fireplace and chimney connect the inside of your house to the outdoors, making it a prime entryway for critters seeking a warm place to stay over the winter. To keep unwanted animals out, it’s important to ensure that your chimney cap is in good working order. Open sides should be covered in mesh to serve as a barrier.

Chimney Inspection
While you’re at it, you’ll want to inspect your chimney to see if any repairs need to be made. You’re looking for chipped or broken bricks, issues in masonry joints, loose sections, or leaning. If you spot anything that calls for attention, get on it now before it becomes worse.

Clean & Sweep
Start the season off on a fresh slate with a fireplace deep clean, including sweeping up any lingering ashes in all those nooks and crannies. To keep your fireplace in top shape, take the time to clean it regularly throughout the winter season.

Prep the Surrounding Area
Complete a visual inspection of the area around your fireplace. Check that the surrounding area is in good shape – for instance, if there are bricks around it, make sure they aren’t cracked, chipped, or broken. Clear any combustibles away from the fireplace, and consider installing a fire screen and spark arrester to keep things safe. You can purchase a non-flammable rug to place in front of the fireplace: these rugs won’t melt or catch fire if sparks fly out. Finally, make sure that you have a working fire extinguisher nearby—check the expiration date on it, too.

Clean the Glass
If your fireplace has a glass screen, give it a good cleaning before your first fire of the season. Make sure the glass is completely cool before you get started. Begin by using a soft cloth with plain water; if that’s not enough, pick up a glass cleaner to get it nice and scrubbed. Be careful not to use abrasive cleaners, which can scratch the glass.

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