Keep Your Fireplace Clean and Safe
Our fireplaces get a lot of use here in Southeastern Wisconsin. An efficient prefabricated fireplace or fireplace insert can reduce your energy costs and keep you cozy during our long winters. A professional cleaning once a year is the most important maintenance you can schedule to reduce severe fireplace risks like carbon monoxide poisoning and structural chimney damage. These five safety tips below can keep your home safe between your annual professional cleanings.
Check the Damper
Leaves, twigs, and other debris can pile up on your damper and prevent it from opening. It is essential to check that the damper can open and close before lighting a fire. Otherwise, the carbon monoxide produced by the flames will be unable to escape. Carbon monoxide poisoning can be deadly! Since it’s tasteless, odorless, and colorless, you may not realize how much is accumulating in your home until it is too late.
Only Burn Dry, Hardwood
If you have a wood-burning fireplace, burning the right type of wood is crucial to improve efficiency and cut down on creosote buildup. (Creosote is a highly flammable chemical byproduct produced by burning fuel.) It is best to burn hardwood that has adequately dried out for at least six months (also known as seasoned wood). Seasoned hardwood burns longer and hotter, resulting in far less creosote than softwood or wet logs.
Routinely Clean Out Ashes
Your fireplace shouldn’t have more than about an inch of ashes below the grate. Once it starts to rise about the grate, it is time to clean it out. Be sure to follow the proper procedure when cleaning out ashes:
- Allow the ashes to cool for at least three days.
- Wear a mask and protective eyewear when you’re ready to clean ash out of the firebox.
- When you sweep or vacuum out the ashes, place them in a metal bucket or container.
- Place the ash container on concrete, gravel, or pavement instead of a flammable surface like a deck or lawn.
- Wait about a week to dispose of them in a trashcan or your yard encase hot embers are hidden in the ashes that could cause a fire.
When your fireplace isn’t in use during the spring, it is a good idea to clean out all of the ash. During the fall and winter, you can leave about an inch in the firebox.
Trim Overhanging Tree Branches
Overhanging tree branches could cause damage to your chimney or become a fire hazard if you don’t trim them back. During high winds, branches could scratch or rip off the chimney cap or flashing. In addition, dry, wintery tree branches that hang over the chimney could be ignited by stray embers in the smoke. Trimming any branches that are too close to the chimney can prevent these severe chimney problems.
Take a Look at the Chimney Cap
It’s wise to check the chimney cap from time to time, especially after high winds blow through. The chimney cap has a crucial job: keeping out pests, debris, and precipitation. Critters love to nest in chimneys. They can bring bugs and viruses with them. Critters’ nests and debris can clog up the chimney preventing airflow and increasing the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Without a chimney cap, water could also flow freely into the chimney, damaging the chimney’s structure and nearby walls. It’s essential to keep an eye on your chimney cap to prevent these problems. If you notice that it is damaged or missing, call on a chimney expert like us to repair or replace it.
You can keep your fireplace safe and clean by following these five tips. Don’t forget to schedule a professional chimney cleaning and inspection as well! Certified professional chimney sweeps, like us, have the training and experience to spot chimney problems you could miss. We can also clear out tough creosote deposits that you can’t remove with the best DIY methods.