Fireplaces: How To Get Yours Ready For That First Fire
Nothing says Winter like sitting in front of a warm, inviting fire. A fireplace makes a great focal point for any room. They also serve as a heat source for many homes. Use these tips to make sure your fireplace is in good working order before lighting the first fire.
Check for Cracks in the Masonry
You should always inspect your fireplace for signs of damage. Small cracks today can lead to larger cracks, or worse, down the road. If you notice loose bricks or cracks in the masonry, hire a professional to fix them for you. The last thing you want is for your chimney to fall and damage your house.
Check the Chimney Damper
If you have a working chimney, you’ll want to check the damper to make sure it works correctly. The job of a damper is to allow smoke to leave your home. Make sure the damper is open before lighting any fires. Otherwise, the inside of your house will fill with smoke! When you aren’t actively using the fireplace, make sure the damper is closed. This will keep the cold air from entering your home through the chimney.
Clear Away Debris on the Outside
Leaves and sticks can fall on the roof of your house and clog up your chimney. This makes it hard for the smoke to exit through the vent. It could also lead to fires starting in unwanted places. You can remove any debris by hand. For hard to reach places, professional chimney cleaners can take care of that for you.
Clean Out Ashes or Clean Your Gas Logs
Any fireplace that gets used will experience a build-up of soot and ashes. Before lighting your first fire of the year, make sure your fireplace is clean. Remove ashes with a dustpan or shop vac. This process can get messy. Make sure you cover furniture or move it away from your fireplace before cleaning.
Soot can be hard to remove from brick or stone. You can buy chimney cleaners at your local hardware store that will make cleaning the soot a bit easier. If you have gas logs, you’ll also want to remove dust and dirt from the logs before lighting. Carefully dust the logs with a feather duster or dry-cleaning cloth. When you light the gas logs, turn them as high as they will go and leave them like this for an hour. This high heat will help burn off any dust or dirt particles that were left behind.
Inspect Gas Lines
Gas logs run on natural gas or propane. You should always inspect the lines running inside your house for any tears or leaks. These gases are hazardous if inhaled. You can’t see the gas, and typically they don’t produce a smell. If you do smell something strange, immediately turn off your gas logs and call your gas company. They can run tests that will find any leaks and can fix them. It’s also a good idea to install carbon monoxide detectors in your home.
If you have a wood-burning fireplace, you’ll need a good deal of firewood to get you through the cold winter months. The wood will burn best if it is dry. Damp wood will burn, but it will produce more smoke than dry wood. You don't need more smoke filling your home. Keep the wood dry by placing it in a garage or covered area of your home. If you must store the wood outside, keep it covered with a plastic tarp.
Install a Protective Screen
Captain obvious here: fire is hot! If you have pets or children living in your home, you need a way to keep them safe around the fire. If your fireplace doesn’t have a protective screen on the opening, buy one. Most home improvement stores carry screens for standard-sized fireplaces. If your fireplace is too wide, hire a professional to make you a custom screen.
Install Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Monitors
When you are making fires inside your house, there’s the chance you’ll be producing smoke and carbon monoxide. All homes should have smoke and CO2 detectors inside. You’ll want to make sure your home has a detector near your fireplace. In the event of a gas leak or fire starting outside the chimney, the alarm will let you know.
What is your favorite feature of your fireplace?