Don’t you just love curling up by a crackling fire in dreary, cold weather? While fireplaces add ambiance and comfort to your home, they do require periodic maintenance to keep them burning brightly. Here are steps you can take to keep your fireplace in flame-ready condition.
WOOD BURNING FIREPLACES: The first time you use your fireplace, be sure you have it properly outfitted before doing anything else. Every wood-burning fireplace must have a hearth, andirons or a grate and a properly-sized screen to prevent embers from popping onto your flooring. First, test your fireplace to ensure all is set to begin using. Open the damper, place a newspaper on the andirons/grate, and light it. Take note to see that the smoke is drawn up the chimney. If so, you may begin using your fireplace.
When using your fireplace, you must always open the damper first. But when not using the fireplace, close the damper to avoid losing warmth or coolness in your room.
A hazard of wood-burning fireplaces is a substance called creosote. Creosote is created when tar and moisture combine in your chimney and build an increasingly thicker residue. It is dangerous because it becomes a fire hazard. You can take several steps to deal with creosote. First, never burn fresh wood or a soft wood such as pine logs – both create tar. Second, avoid large, smoldering fires. Third, get the fireplace and chimney professionally inspected and cleaned on a yearly basis.
During the burning season, you may do simple cleaning to keep your fireplace looking like new. Avoid chemicals and abrasive cleansers. For glass and the exterior surfaces, just wipe with a soft, damp cloth.
GAS FIREPLACES: Gas fireplaces have less maintenance than wood-burning ones. Gas fireplaces may have a chimney, or they may simply vent outside through the wall. At the onset of the season, check that the vent or chimney is clear of bird nests or debris.
As with any other gas appliance, gas fireplaces should be used wisely. Never smoke while cleaning or lighting the pilot light. Also, if you think there is a gas leak, evacuate your home and call your gas company from outside the home, as a mobile phone can ignite gas.
To clean the fireplace, use a damp cloth on the metal parts and a glass cleaner on the glass. Annually, vacuum and brush the burner/control area (with the pilot and the gas turned off). Carefully dust the fragile logs with a soft brush. If a log breaks, do not use the fireplace until you have replaced it.