Fireplaces are a key comfort in fall at home. Here are some basics on annual fireplace maintenance that is an important part of home maintenance overall.
With the crisp days of fall here and the even colder days of winter around the corner, now is the best time to get your fireplace ready for the cold weather. Since the National Fire Protection Association reports that 28 percent of home heating fires are the result of failure to clean the chimney, it’s important to make sure your fireplace is ready for those toasty fires.
Inspect the exterior
Take a look at the exterior of your chimney and make sure it isn’t leaning and you don’t see any cracks, loose sections, or holes. This is also a good time to check your chimney cap. A chimney cap will protect your chimney from weather and wildlife.
It prevents snow and rain from entering the chimney and causing water damage, and it stops small animals from making nests that will clog your chimney. A good chimney cap will also protect your roof from sparks and embers.
Clean the interior
Once you know your exterior chimney is ready for the season, it’s time to check the interior part of your fireplace. If you have a glass front to your fireplace, you can clean it using a combination of water and vinegar or a cleaning solution made specifically for fireplaces.
Next, use a vacuum to clear away any dust or pet fur that may have built up around your fireplace so it doesn’t get pulled in the first time you use it.
Look for creosote
Creosote is a highly flammable grime that builds up in fireplace chimneys from burning wood. Over time, creosote can solidify along the sides of your chimney, and a flame or spark can cause it to ignite.
Creosote is created whether you burn softwoods like pine, cedar, or fir or hardwoods such as oak, maple, or birch. This is why it’s important to have your chimney cleaned at least once a year by a professional chimney sweeper.
Schedule an inspection
A professional will check your chimney and fireplace from top to bottom and both inside and outside for anything that can cause an issue when you use it. They’ll use specially angled mirrors to inspect any hard-to-reach places in the chimney and make sure that the inside of the chimney is smooth and free of bumps or cracks.
They’ll make sure the outside of the chimney is free of damage and inspect the roof around the chimney. They’ll check the flashing where the chimney and roof meet as well as make sure there are no tree branches growing over the chimney.
Prepare your electric or gas fireplace
While electric and gas fireplaces don’t require as much maintenance as a wood-burning fireplace, it’s still a good idea to clean out any dust that may have accumulated inside. Have the pilot light on a gas fireplace serviced regularly, and change the light bulbs on an electric fireplace every two or three years.
Before you enjoy the warmth and coziness of a crackling fire, make sure you take the proper steps and precautions to get it cold-weather ready.