How to Prepare your Fireplace for the Winter Season
With cooler weather ahead, many of us are looking forward to the soothing comfort and warmth of their fireplace this winter. No matter where you reside in the great state of WI, it is important to prepare your fireplace for the winter fire season.
Inspect and clean the Chimney
Your chimney is an important safety barrier protecting your home and family from fire and dangerous fumes while enjoying the fireplace. The most important part of preparing your fireplace for the winter season is to have it inspected and cleaned by a certified chimney sweep. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the leading cause of home fires is from an accumulation of creosote in chimneys that have not been swept. Hiring a certified chimney sweep is the best way to properly clear out all the debris, creosote and soot. They will not only thoroughly inspect and clean the fireplace, but will also remove any bird nests, leaves, branches, and other foreign objects which might be obstructing the flue.
Check the Damper
The damper is a metal or aluminum door that is supposed to form an airtight seal when it is shut. But environmental conditions like heat, rain, soot and other debris can cause it to rust and warp letting in the outside elements including air and rain that can cause additional damage to the chimney and fireplace, not to mention an increase in energy costs. When preparing for the winter fire season, make sure you inspect the chimney damper ensuring it opens and closes smoothly and tightly.
Inspect the Chimney Cap
The chimney cap is like a rain hat that is secured atop the flue to prevent water, small animals and other debris from blocking the smoke and dangerous gases from venting through the chimney. Before lighting your first fire for the season, you should make sure that the chimney cap is properly fitted, with the protective wire mesh screening to prevent obstructions. Because it sits on top of the exposed roof line, high winds, monsoons and the occasional dust storms can damage the chimney cap. Birds, raccoons and other critters have been known to occasionally damage the wire mesh. If the cap is damaged or missing, it should be replaced. For added protection, make sure chimney caps have a spark arrestor that prevents burning embers from sparking a roof fire. Also, trim any nearby branches away from the chimney.
Stock Quality Seasoned Firewood
To make sure you get the best quality, start hunting for your firewood early. You will want to choose dense (seasoned) firewood like maple or oak which has been dried for at least 6 months. The lower
moisture content in seasoned wood reduces the creosote buildup that occurs inside your chimney during combustion. It also burns longer and produces more heat which lowers your heating costs. You can also buy fresh cords of maple or oak and store it in rows in an open and ventilated area exposed to the sun to dry. However, be careful to protect the wood from getting wet or it could rot and develop mold.
Test your Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detector
You should never use a fireplace without a working smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector. The beginning of winter is a good time to replace any batteries and make sure both are in good working order. Both gas and wood-burning heating appliances create carbon monoxide as a by-product of combustion. And leaks or blockages in the chimney can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon Monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas, known as the silent killer, and is responsible for hundreds of injuries each year. This is also a good time of year to have your fire extinguisher checked and inspected by a certified professional.