Nothing is more appealing when the temperature drops than the soft amber glow of a crackling fire. But before you light up those logs, there are several steps you need to take to prepare your fireplace, and for good reason. Prepping and cleaning your fireplace can:
- Improve the air quality in your home
- Prevent fires
- Save energy
- Keep your home warmer
Ideally, wood-burning fireplaces should be cleaned once a year, while gas-burning fireplaces should be cleaned every other year. Here’s how to make sure you stay cozy and safe this fall and winter.
How to Prep a Wood-Burning Fireplace
Step 1: Hire a professional chimney sweep. A professional has the tools and know-how to clean out fire hazards like creosote and soot. Find a certified sweep in your area by visiting the Chimney Safety Institute of America’s website.
Step 2: Check for any damage or debris. Inspect the damper to ensure that it opens and closes smoothly, and check the chimney for birds, bird nests or other rodents. Finally, inspect the mortar and bricks, both in and surrounding the chimney, for cracks or signs of damage. If not repaired, these can be serious fire hazards. It’s best to hire a professional if you find extensive damage.
Step 3: Install a chimney cap/screen. Make sure you install a chimney cap fitted with wire-mesh sides at the top of the chimney to keep rain, birds, squirrels, and debris from entering. If you already have a cap, make sure it’s not damaged and in good working condition.
Step 4: Stock up on wood. Choose dense hardwoods such as oak, and split and store the logs in a high, dry place for at least six months. Green wood and resinous softwoods like pine should always be avoided; they produce more flammable creosote, which can build up in the chimney.
How to Prep a Gas-Burning Fireplace
Step 1: Have it serviced regularly. Every other year, you should have a qualified technician service your gas-burning fireplace. The service call should include cleaning the airways of both the pilot and main burners to ensure they are operating correctly.
Step 2: Clean the blower. Check to see if your gas-burning fireplace has a blower. If it does, clean it. Unlike furnace blowers, the blowers of gas-burning fireplaces do not have a filtering system to prevent buildup. Dust accumulation can cause premature wearing of the bearings. Dust can also insulate the motor, which prevents it from cooling properly, eventually leading to motor failure.
Step 3: Replace batteries. Before each season, replace the batteries in any remote transmitters and receivers, if applicable. Also, replace the batteries and test any smoke or carbon monoxide detectors to ensure they are operating properly.
Before you throw on a log to enjoy your first fire of the season, familiarize yourself with these safety tips to keep the whole family safe:
- Never use charcoal in a fireplace as it can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Use a screen or glass enclosure to keep sparks and embers from jumping out of the fireplace and starting a fire.
- Keep your children and pets away! The glass barrier of your gas-burning fireplace can reach over 400 degrees Fahrenheit and can take 45 minutes to cool down to safe temperature. Look into buying a HearthGate to keep the family out of harms way.
- Remove any hanging decorations before lighting a fire.
- Make sure to open the damper before lighting a fire and keep it opened until the fire is completely out.
- Always follow proper local fire codes to make sure you’re not putting your family, neighbors or home in danger.