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The yuletide hearth:  It’s a cornerstone of the holiday season, with the calming warmth, the delightful scent of  the yule log, and the general well-being created by an old-fashioned holiday gathering by the fire.

But the most enjoyable fireside experience is the one by the fireplace that has been well-maintained.  So, what are the steps to do that? This guest post is contributed by Kate Willson, and here she outlines the basics.

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Although the winter months bring with it chilly weather, by far one of the best parts of the holiday season is snuggling up in front of a warm fire with your loved ones. A fireplace isn’t just a decorative piece, nor is it merely a useful heating method it’s a center for socializing and sharing special memories. As wonderful as fireplaces can be, they do require quite a bit of care and maintenance. Here are some tips to ensure that a safely running fire is ready for the holiday warmth and good cheer.

1. Clean your fireplace often.
The most important thing you can do to make sure that your fireplace continues to work properly is to clean it often. Use a vacuum cleaner to pick up any accumulated dust. With a  solution of one gallon of warm water and one cup of bleach, brush off any soot that’s collected in the fireplace interior. You can use the same solution to clean the grating.

2. Prevent creosote buildup.
Creosote is a tar-like substance that builds up in your fireplace and chimney over time. Creosote can be dangerous if it catches on fire. One good way to prevent creosote buildup is to start each day with a roaring fire, instead of a small one, so as to burn up any of the creosote that may have built up overnight.  For more information on creosote, check out this Hearth.com article about hearth care.

3. Get your fireplace checked by a professional once or twice a year.
Even though you may not be using your fireplace during the spring or summer months, it’s important to get it checked out throughout the year, to make sure that warm, humid weather hasn’t affected its proper function. A professional chimney sweep can inspect all parts of your fireplace, including the harder to reach places for a pretty small fee.

4. Before setting up your fireplace, check for blockages.
Aside from creosote, other things could potentially block your chimney. It’s not uncommon for birds to nest up there, effectively ruining your fire. Before setting up your fire, open the damper and using a strong flashlight and mirror, look to see if there is any sort of debris. If you have any doubts, call a chimney sweep.

5. Make sure the wood is hard and seasoned.
Using the proper wood is as instrumental to burning a safe, effective fire as taking any other measure. Wet, green wood aids in creosote buildup, and it’s also just plain hard to light and keep going. Dry, seasoned wood is best. There are several methods for drying out wood and storing it properly to ensure you have plenty ready for use. Here are just a few.

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Thanks, Kate

Kate Willson writes on the topics of top online colleges.

Feel free to leave your comments on this post.  Kate also welcomes your comments at her via email: katewillson2(at)gmail dot com.

Cheers!

Rob.

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Cate Morgan-Harlow

Cate Morgan-Harlow is an all arounder, writing about how-to, DIY, and design with gusto. She is a shadowy figure with a mysterious past.