The cooler weather is fast approaching. We recommend, as part of winterizing your home, to have your chimney inspected and cleaned. Now is a great time before the cold weather hits. There is no rule saying how often you should have your chimney cleaned and inspected. It varies on how much you use it. But, if you have a wood burning fireplace and have not had it inspected, now may be a good time. Every year more than 120 million dollars’ worth of damage is caused by chimney fires. Most of these fires could have been prevented if the homeowners had followed these guidelines for fireplace and chimney care
Fireplace Chimney Care Guidelines
1. Hire a chimney sweep once a year.
Chimney sweeps don’t just exist in movies. They do more than remove soot and creosote. They also perform an inspection to ensure that your chimney is safe to use. Even though chimneys are built to last, the high temperature and caustic chemicals they endure can cause damage like a cracked liner. Chimney sweeps are trained to notice and repair chimney damage. Fire safety experts recommend a chimney cleaning and inspection once a year to ensure your fireplace and chimney are safe to use.
2. Waterproof the chimney.
Moisture can seep into bricks and mortar. During the winter, as that water freezes and thaws, it can cause serious damage to the structure of the chimney. One of the ways to avoid this is by having your chimney waterproofed once a year. The waterproof sealant that is applied to the masonry can prevent costly water damage.
3. Have a Chimney Cap installed.
Another way to prevent water damage to your chimney and decrease the risk of a chimney fire is to have a chimney cap installed if your home doesn’t already have one. The chimney cap acts like an umbrella, stopping rain and snow from falling down the chimney. It also has mesh around the sides to prevent animals, leaves and lawn debris from getting into the chimney and clogging it.
4. Put the damper in the correct position.
The damper is a hinged flap or vent that controls air flow in and out of the chimney. When you are not using the fireplace, it should be closed to prevent outside air from coming into your home and stop heat from escaping. When you are using your fireplace, it should be open so that smoke can escape and air from outside can feed the fire.
5. Only burn seasoned wood.
When you build a fire, only use seasoned firewood (wood that has dried out for six months to a year). Seasoned wood burns more efficiently which means it produces more heat and less smoke. Unseasoned, or green, wood has a higher moisture content. It produces less heat and more smoke which also means more flammable creosote build-up in the chimney. Be sure not to burn dyed or treated paper like wrapping paper or wood that is painted or treated. They contain chemicals that may be toxic and can cause irritation to your lungs and eyes.
6. Don’t hang stockings on the mantel.
Stockings hanging from the mantel may make your fireplace look more festive, but they also increase the risk of a house fire. Stray sparks could easily ignite them. The high heat from the fire can also damage them. If you plan to use your fireplace during the holiday season, make sure to hang your stockings in another location at least 3 feet away.
7. Keep the area around the fireplace clear.
Rugs, furniture and other household items should be kept at least 3 feet away from the fireplace as well. Even if your fireplace has a screen around it, it is still possible for stray sparks to escape and ignite furniture or other flammable items that are within 36 inches of the hearth.
8. Leave a little ash in the fireplace.
You should clean ashes out of your fireplace at least once a month during the burning season. When you do, make sure to leave about an inch at the bottom of the firebox. These ashes will retain the heat from the fire and help you build a long-lasting fire.
Whenever you remove ashes, make sure to store them in a metal container outside for at least a week before disposing of them so that any hot embers in the ash have time to cool.
9. Consider a fireplace insert.
If you want your fireplace to be an effective space heater, consider a fireplace insert! Fireplace inserts are designed to increase the heat input of your fireplace. They can improve its efficiency by up to 70% and make it cleaner energy source.
If you need to hire a chimney sweep, give these local folks a try
- Top Hat Chimney and Roofing – Locations throughout NW Arkansas
- Arkansas Chimney Tech
- The Complete Sweep