Last week we discussed general winter preparation, this week, we’ll discuss the how to prep your fireplace for the upcoming cold. After all, we want to make sure you’ll be able to safely throw a yule log into the fireplace AND make sure that Santa won’t hurt himself.
The National Fire Protection Association recommends that chimneys be swept at least once a year. They recommend that it’s done at the beginning of winter to remove the previous year’s soot and debris. But you shouldn’t do this yourself. Hiring a chimney sweep is the best way to guarantee that your fireplace is free of any issues. Chimney sweeps will clean out the fireplace with a high powered, special vacuum so no soot or dust will enter the home.
However, chimney sweeps won’t only clean the fireplace. They will check and inspect your chimney’s structure as well as the chimney’s flue. They’ll be looking for missing mortar, loose bricks, deterioration, and cracks in the structure. If you’ve noticed anything wrong in your own examinations of your chimney let the chimney sweep know so they can check it out.
Also, you should make sure to check out the cap that covers the top of the chimney. This cap (with wire mesh sides) keeps animals, rain, and debris, from entering your home. If you or a chimney sweep notices a problem with it, whether it’s missing or damaged, you need to replace or repair the cap.
Once this is all taken care of, how should should you continue to take care of your fireplace during the winter season? Well, you should first make sure you’re choosing the right wood! Make sure to choose dense wood (like oak) that has been split and dried for a long time. You can buy these types of wood at a store or have them dropped off to you. Just don’t use lumber that you’ve chopped off from the woods, at least not for a long time (you’ll need to wait months). There’s a lot of moisture in that type of wood especially when it’s first chopped off.
But why do you need to avoid that sort of wood? Well, greener, thinner, and wetter woods produce more creosote and are liable to smoke much more than dry wood. Creosote can build up in the chimney very quickly causing chimney problems, sometimes even chimney fire. The U.S. Fire Administration says that 36 percent of residential home fires are caused by heating fires in fireplaces and typically these fires are due to creosote buildup in chimneys. This is another reason why hiring a professional chimney sweep every year is so important. Chimney sweeps can clean out that buildup of creosote.
If you’re going to use synthetic wood instead of real lumber, make sure to follow the directions. They may burn out unevenly if you don’t pay attention and if that happens, the synthetic logs will put out higher levels of carbon monoxide. So pay attention and follow the instructions on the packaging.
Also, when you’re placing the wood in your fireplace try to place logs at the back of the fireplace on a metal grate. Don’t use liquids to start a fire – just use kindling! Also, smaller fires are better, with less smoke there’s less of that creosote buildup in your chimney. Plus a fire that’s TOO hot can damage your chimney, causing cracks and other fissures in the chimney.
If you’re worried about embers popping out of the fireplace, add or use or a mesh metal screen or glass fireplace doors to keep the fire in your fireplace and out of your actual house. This will protect your home from embers and from children from trying to touch the fire. Many children are fascinated by the fire so it might even be a good idea to add another barrier so they don’t touch the hot screen.
Of course, remember to open up the chimney flue before you start a fire in the fireplace. If you don’t open the flue, smoke can quickly fill up a house. But if you do open the flue the smoke can exit the house and the air can feed the fire, keeping it going for a while. Just remember to close the flue when the fire has been extinguished to keep animals, weather, and debris out.
At Accord Construction, we want to make sure you and your family are safe. Whether it’s from floods or fires, or if you just need to replace a few shingles, we’re eager to help your family feel comfortable in your home. Call us at at (405) 302-5520 for more information.