Even though the wood-burning fireplace remains the most elegant and traditional form of home heating, it also needs regular supervision and care to remain working in peak condition.
Chimney Maintenance and Repair
Brick, stone, and masonry chimneys are subject to cracks and fissures that develop after prolonged exposure to the elements. In particular, water that seeps into cracks expands when it freezes in chilly weather, creating ice crystals that further weaken the masonry’s integrity. Repairing all such gaps and ruptures helps keep the fireplace working at maximum efficiency.
The tops of chimneys, especially those covered by a hood or bonnet, are a favorite nesting spot for birds and even other forms of wildlife. Using a chimney cap will prevent animals from making their way inside the chimney and creating nests and other structures that can block smoke rising through the flue.
Storms and high winds can also hurl debris into the flue. Fireplace experts recommend cleaning the flue once a year or hiring a professional chimney cleaning company to make sure the flue and top are clean and clear.
Avoiding the Dangers of Creosote
Creosote is a gummy corrosive by-product of burning wood that is left behind when burning oils and gasses mix together along the flue walls. It actually helps create more of itself, as accumulating creosote layers trap more oils and gasses that in turn coalesce into more creosote.
A significant fire hazard that severely hinders proper ventilation, creosote also gives off a noxious odor when exposed to humidity. According to the National Chimney Safety Institute of America, chimneys should be cleaned as soon as creosote buildup reaches 1/8 inch thickness. Factory-built fireplaces should get cleaned whenever creosote buildup becomes readily apparent.
Cleaning the Firebox, Doors and Screens, and Fireplace Tools
The firebox, or area “inside” the fireplace that contains the fire, can be cleaned using warm soapy water or cleansers recommended by the fireplace manufacturer. Experts additionally recommend using a manufacturer-recommended creosote remover and wire brush to remove deposits inside the firebox, while screens and doors can be cleaned with regular household solutions. Brass fireplace tools can be cleaned without scratching using Worcestershire sauce and a dry rag.
Finally, use an ash vacuum to remove soot, debris, and creosote from the firebox and hearth. The ash vacuum’s higher filtration capacity will make sure no particulate matter escapes into the surrounding room.