Arrange a Yearly Inspection
All chimneys should be inspected and cleaned by a chimney cleaning professional at least once a year, or about once every 80 fires. A thorough cleaning will remove any buildup of creosote, an oily and highly flammable byproduct of burning wood, giving you a safer fireplace.
Check for Cracks and Damage
Check for cracks and loose joints of the firebricks inside the fireplace, and check the exterior masonry for damage. Hire a professional mason to do any repairs—never try to repair firebrick with regular mortar, as the mixture cannot stand up to high heat.
Inspect the Chimney Cap and Damper
Make sure the fireplace damper is working properly and that there is no debris preventing it from opening and closing. Confirm that the chimney cap is firmly attached and in good condition. The cap should include protective screening to keep birds, squirrels, bats, and other pests from entering the chimney.
Clear Away Tree Limbs
Clear Out Ashes
Consider Heatproof Glass
Consider installing heatproof glass doors to improve the energy efficiency of your fireplace. Doors can also prevent sparks from escaping the fireplace and damaging the surrounding flooring. If your fireplace already has glass doors, clean them with a paper towel and glass fireplace door cleaner.
Clean Brass Fireplaces
Clean a brass fireplace surround naturally by spreading a thin film of tomato paste, tomato sauce, or ketchup on it; letting it sit for an hour; and then cleaning with hot soapy water. Alternatively, you can use a good-quality commercial brass polish and a soft microfiber cloth. Avoid using highly abrasive scrubbing cloths, metal-bristled brushes, or steel wool.
Store Wood Outside the Home
Stock up on good-quality firewood, and store it away from the house to avoid attracting pests. Hardwoods like oak, maple, and birch burn hotter and longer than soft woods like pine. You can also burn specially made fireplace logs, like Duraflame or Pres-to-Logs. Never burn treated or painted wood, which both produce dangerous fumes.
Maintain Your Gas Fireplace
Maintain Your Electric Fireplace
If you have an electric fireplace, check all the wires to make sure none are frayed or broken. Also, make sure that all connectors are securely fastened. Finally, be sure to vacuum and dust the fireplace on a regular basis.
A Safe and Cozy Season
Do your due diligence on fireplace maintenance; then cozy up by the fire all winter long.
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