There’s nothing cozier than a warm fire on a chilly night. A fireplace is an additional heat source that helps reduce energy costs. But before you light that first fire, take steps to prepare your fireplace for use to keep your home and family safe.
1. Prepare Your Fireplace with a Good Cleaning
Begin the season with a good cleaning. Remove any old ashes and clean out the dust and cobwebs. Grab a scrub brush and clean the fireplace walls with soapy water.
If your fireplace has a brass inset, clean it with good commercial brass polish and a soft cloth. Glass doors can be cleaned with glass cleaner. As the season goes on, remove ashes when they reach an inch deep.
2. Inspect the Inside Firebricks and Exterior Masonry
Cleaning the fireplace gives you an opportunity to inspect the inside firebricks and exterior masonries, such as brick and stone. Prepare your fireplace by checking for loose joints and cracks in the interior firebricks. Left unrepaired, this becomes a fire hazard.
Masonry damage should be repaired by a professional mason. Don’t attempt to make any repairs with regular mortar as it won’t tolerate the high heat of a fire.
3. Check the Chimney Cap and Damper to Prepare Your Fireplace
Prepare your fireplace by making sure the damper is working properly. Remove any debris that hinders it from opening and closing smoothly.
If you have a chimney cap, check to make sure it’s in good condition and firmly attached. Consider adding a chimney cap if you don’t have one. The protective screening keeps birds, bats, and other animals out of the chimney where they may try to nest.
4. Have the Chimney Swept
Experts say a chimney should be swept after about 80 fires. If you use your fireplace often, this means having it inspected and cleaned every year to remove the build-up of highly-flammable creosote.
A certified chimney sweep has the knowledge and tools to do the job correctly. Find one in your area at the Chimney Safety Institute of America’s website.
5. Prepare Your Fireplace with Heat-Resistant Glass Doors
Does your fireplace have heat-resistant glass doors? If not, consider having them installed. Along with improving energy efficiency, glass doors protect your home from embers and keep sparks from escaping and damaging the floor.
6. Stock Up on the Right Wood
Dense hardwoods like oak, birch, and maple burn slower and hotter than softwoods like pine. Cut wood should be cured for at least six months before burning in your fireplace. Fresh wood and softwoods produce more creosote, so they are not recommended.
Store wood in a dry place away from the house to avoid attracting termites and other pests. Avoid treated or painted wood, as they produce dangerous fumes when burned.
7. Gas and Electric Fireplace Maintenance
Gas and electric fireplaces eliminate the dangers of burning wood but still need maintenance for safety. For a gas fireplace, check to make sure vents are clear and the pilot light is on. Replace any damaged logs, liners, and burners.
Electric fireplaces should be checked for frayed or broken wires. Make sure that connectors are secure. Vacuum and dust your electric fireplace regularly. Accumulated dust keeps the motor from cooling properly.
8. Observe Fireplace Safety
After you properly prepare your fireplace, make sure to follow fireplace safety each time you use it. Use a firescreen or glass doors to keep embers from escaping. Remove any hanging decorations before building a fire.
Keep in mind that the glass on a gas burning fireplace takes 45 minutes to cool down. A hearth gate will keep children and pets safely away. Always make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are functioning properly before using your fireplace.