Using your wood- or gas-burning fireplace can cut down on heating costs during the cold winter season. But before you burn a log or ignite the pilot light, here are a few things you should do to ensure your fireplace is safe and ready for use.
Clean the Firebox
Remove and clean the grate and any other accessories that are inside the firebox. Vacuum or sweep the ash and store it in a metal container with an airtight lid. There are many ways you can recycle the ash. You can use it in your garden as a fertilizer, to melt ice and even clean the fireplace doors, for example. Be sure to reserve a small amount of ash. It will help with starting your first fire of the season.
Sweep the Chimney
It is essential to start the fire season with a clean chimney. Creosote residue in the fireplace is the single leading cause of house fires. Since this is a vital safety issue, you should hire a qualified chimney sweep that is certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) or National Chimney Sweep Guild. It is your assurance that your chimney will be safe and ready for use.
Remove Flue Obstructions
You will need to climb on top of the roof to remove any debris, nests, and pests stuck inside the flue. Blocking the flue or vent restricts the venting of smoke and toxic fumes that will back-up into your living space and could sicken occupants with carbon monoxide poisoning. Your chimney sweep will do this for you. Also, installing a chimney cap will keep out most moisture and prevent obstructions. And don’t forget to trim tree branches that are close to the chimney.
You will need to inspect the entire chimney system to look for any damages or other problems that will impact its safe operation. It includes, but is not limited to checking the damper, smoke shelf, cap, and other components. It is highly recommended that a qualified and licensed chimney technician performs annual chimney inspections.
- Check for masonry cracks, chipped or missing bricks and mortar both inside the fireplace and chimney exterior.
- Look for signs of water damage and mold inside the fireplace and flue.
- Inspect the flue and liner for signs of wear and fire damage.
- Make sure the damper is free of rust. It should open and close smoothly and form an airtight seal when closed.
- Inspect the smoke shelf for rust or other signs of damage.
- Inspect the fireplace doors.
- Check the chimney cap and crown for cracks.
Make Chimney Repairs
Any problems, like spalling bricks or water leaks that are uncovered during the chimney inspection, will need to be repaired so that your fireplace will be safe for the winter season. Your chimney technician will review any items that require repair or replacement. It’s essential to make timely chimney repairs. The chimney is a vital safety system, and it needs to be in good working condition to keep your home and family safe.
For Gas Appliances
While gas burns cleaner than wood-fueled appliances, it still leaves residue and stains in the flue. It’s necessary to clean your chimney or vent at least once per year.
Also, fire safety experts highly recommend homeowners have gas appliances inspected annually by a qualified gas heating technician. The technician will inspect the blower motor, gaskets, pilot light igniter, and other components. The inspector will also check for any leaks to make sure your gas heating appliance is safe for use.
Test Carbon Monoxide Detector
If you haven’t done so already, now is an excellent time to install a carbon monoxide (CO) detector in your home. It should be installed on every floor of households with a gas or wood heating appliance. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas. And its effects can be deadly. A CO detector is the only way to know if your home has unsafe levels of carbon monoxide. Make sure to test the unit every six months and replace the batteries every year.