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Maintaining Your Wood-Burning Fireplace

Schenectady home Inspectors Maintaining Your Wood-Burning Fireplace
Maintaining Your Wood-Burning Fireplace

Your wood-burning fireplace is a warming addition to your home, but keeping it in good shape is essential for both health and safety.

First and foremost, eliminate ash out of the firebox either through the ash dump or right from the firebox once the fire is completely out and the ashes are cold. The ash can be sprinkled around flower beds as it is a fantastic supply of plant nutrients.

Sweeping the chimney and doing a yearly review of it is the most significant part keeping your chimney and fireplace in good order. As time passes, the chimney may get coated with soot and creosote, which are byproducts of flames that aren’t burning efficiently. When the coat builds up, it can possibly catch fire in what's called a "chimney fire".

When the chimney is cleaned, a drop cloth is put down on the hearth. A respirator must be used to guard the sweep from breathing the soot and creosote dust, which may be damaging to their health.

Plastic or metal chimney brushes and tools are utilized, together with a vacuum machine, to brush the soot and creosote from the inside walls of the chimney along with the damper ledge. The chimney cap can then be inspected and cleaned of creosote. On occasion, a chemical cleanser may be used.

For safety purposes, always follow these tips:

  • Install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and maintain them in working order.

  • Keep combustible materials such as carpets, curtains and furniture away from the fireplace if a flame is burning. A guard in the front of the fireplace can help keep children and pets from injury. Make certain that there are no combustibles over 12 inches over the lintel (the metal plate near the peak of the fireplace opening), such as a wooden mantel.

  • Clean ash by the fireplace if it reaches the base of the grate because it may impede airflow. Put on a dust mask and gloves first.

  • Have your wood-burning chimney and fireplace cleaned and inspected by a certified sweep at least once every year.

  • Test your fireplace by lighting a couple of tiny parts of wood, lit from the top down. If smoke does not depart vertically from the fireplace to the chimney, but enters the space, instantly troubleshoot and fix any issues.

  • Burn only seasoned (not “green”) timber. This is wood that's been trimmed and dried under cover at least 6-12 months, holding less than 20% moisture (measured using a meter). Split wood dries more extensively and burns better than entire logs. Well-seasoned timber creates a sharp ringing sound when two logs have been knocked together, while green timber creates a dull thud. Green wood won't burn off as completely, making for more soot and creosote.

  • Burn hardwoods, not tender forests. Hardwoods like walnut and ash are thicker, delivering more heat than lighter softwoods such as pine and foliage.

Maintain your stove properly and you’ll be able to enjoy it for years to come!

The Author Schenectady NY Home Inspections LLC is a locally owned and family operated Home Inspection Company. Schenectady NY Home Inspections is located in Schenectady NY and has performed over 6500 Inspections Book online

Phone: 1-800-603-5194

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