A fireplace is a wonderful asset to a home as it can provide a cost effective heating solution and add to the overall appeal of the property. However, keeping a fireplace operating smoothly requires attention to maintenance and detail. These are seven tips for using and keeping a fireplace in tip top shape.
Install a chimney cap
Most newer chimneys already have a cap installed to prevent rain, snow, and objects from entering them. If yours lacks a cap, you should consider investing in one as soon as possible. Caps are equipped with ventilation in order to simultaneously allow smoke to escape while blocking out unwanted debris from the chimney. You can purchase a quality chimney cap anywhere in the range of $50 to $200.
Never leave your home while a fire burns in your fireplace
Even if you’re just running to the neighbor’s house, you should always leave a person in your house to oversee an active fire. Fires that are dwindling down or only consist of embers should also be closely monitored. Simply put, if the rubble is still producing smoke, you should continue supervising the fire.
Build a fire that scales to your fireplace
In short, you shouldn’t keep adding to a fire if your fireplace can’t accommodate it. Building large fires in small fireplaces is exactly how many uncontrollable disasters begin. If the fire is sustaining itself on the wood you’ve already added, leave it alone until it begins to show signs of dying down. In theory, you should only be adding wood every one to two hours.
Keep your fireplace doors closed if the structure has ventilation
If your fireplace is equipped with folding doors, it might make sense to you to leave them open for better heat circulation in the room. However, this isn’t necessary if the fireplace is equipped with vents to push heat into the room. If ventilation isn’t included, it’s fine to leave the doors open. Keep burnables, such as furniture and magazine racks, away from the fireplace.
Only burn firewood
While it may seem tempting to get rid of unwanted materials such as painted wood, construction scrapping, or crates by throwing them into the fireplace, burning these types of materials can compromise the air quality in your home. If you’re going to throw anything other than firewood into the fireplace, it should be a log starter. You can use log starters to initially get a fire going, but they should only be used extremely sparingly due to how hot they tend to burn.
Build your fire slowly
Never, under any circumstances, throw a heap of logs into your fireplace, douse them in lighter fluid, and ignite them with a lighter. The key to building a solid fire is building it slowly by periodically adding more wood as the temperature rises. During these stages, keep the damper completely open to facilitate draw and move smoke up through the chimney.
Lastly, don’t underestimate maintenance
As a fireplace sees regular usage over a long period of time, cresote and soot tend to build up on the surface of the chimney walls. Because these substances are flammable, you should have the fireplace regularly inspected to clear it of buildup. Regular chimney maintenance will keep you ahead of issues with your chimney long before they actually happen.
Charlie Teschner started MESA Plumbing, Heating, and Cooling in 1982. Charlie has a journeyman and master plumber’s license. He was raised with a strong work ethic and he now applies those values to tasks such as Boulder heating repair.