Are you a fan of curling up in front of warm fire when outside temperatures turn colder? Most people are, and what’s not to like about it! On the other hand, fireplaces aren’t maintenance free, which means true enjoyment can be had only after you’ve had your fireplace and chimney thoroughly cleaned by a professional service at least once a year.
During each inspection, your cleaning company can uncover defects and problems that you weren’t aware of – such as a cracked flu liner – and recommend proper steps for repair. Your cleaning service also will remove creosote, soot, and other obstructions.
Here are a few additional fireplace maintenance tips:
Keep creosote build-up to a minimum. Creosote, the highly flammable substance that coats chimney walls, is the leading source of chimney fires. To reduce creosote build-up, burn only seasoned hardwood that has dried for at least 6 months and has a low moisture content – no more than 20 percent. You can purchase a wood moisture meter at most hardware stores for around $40.
Know when it’s time for a cleaning. If you’re not sure whether your chimney is due for a cleaning, simply scratch a finger against the chimney wall. If you uncover over one-eighth of an inch of build-up, it’s cleaning time.
Install a chimney cap. Leaves, bird’s nests, and other debris can quickly catch fire when exposed to loose fire embers. A chimney cap will help keep unwanted critters and debris out and prevent escaped smoke from re-entering your chimney and home. Chimney caps also prevent rainwater from entering and corroding the chimney.
Starting a Fire. Stick to well-seasoned wood or CSIA-approved logs in your fireplace of wood-burning stove. Never use kerosene or propane, which are highly flammable and combustible. Stick to dried branches or twigs for kindling, and pine cones or newspaper for tinder. Cardboard and glossy magazines contain chemicals that can emit toxins when burned.
Use clean burning techniques. A hot, fast-burning fire leaves less vapor, smoke, and unburned wood behind than a low-temperature, slow burning fire. To achieve a fast-burning fire, place large logs vertically and crisscross from each other inside your stove or fireplace, with the bottom of the logs facing you. Add four or five horizontal layers of kindling, top with tinder, and light. Always extinguish a fire before going to bed or leaving the house. Use a fireplace poker to spread out the wood and embers, then use a fireplace shovel to cover them with existing ash. Douse the cooled wood and embers with baking soda and cover them completely. Let the firebox cool for at least 3 hours before shoveling the ashes into a metal container. Fill with water and store outside away from your home or any flammable materials until you can properly discard of the ashes.
And yet, as pleasant as they are, a fireplace is no substitute for a well-maintained home heating system. Speaking of which, when was the last time you had yours professionally cleaned and inspected? If it’s been a year or longer, contact Optimum Air today for the kind of home heating maintenance that will help keep you warm and comfortable, all winter long.