Best Tips For Fireplace Maintenance In Home
There is nothing as comforting as having a wood-burning fireplace chimney in your house during winter. The crackling sound and dancing flames look absolutely mesmerizing. However, unlike a gas fireplace, a wood-burning fireplace requires regular maintenance. For your safety and comfort, follow these tips to keep your fireplace well-maintained.
Fix Gaps Between Firebox Brick Mortar
For ensuring proper fireplace maintenance, it is important to fill in all the gaps in the inside of the fireplace that develop over time. Due to the extreme heat in the fireplace, constant contraction and expansion of materials occur, which loosens up the mortar and causes it to fall, thereby creating gaps. Fire can find a way through these gaps and burn the structural element of your house. Fix all the mortar gaps inside of the fireplace using a mineral-based filler called refractory caulk. This is a very quick and simple fix; all you need is a putty knife to get rid of all the loose mortar and compressed air in a can to blow it out. Then use caulking to fill in all the gaps.
Clean The Chimney
Unlike gel fireplace and gas-powered fireplaces, a wood-burning fireplace generates heat and smoke in huge amounts. This leads to the buildup of creosote inside the fireplace and increases the chances of a chimney fire. To have any mishappening in the future, make sure to follow proper chimney maintenance procedures. Chimney cleaning helps in removing all the hazardous creosote and flammable debris. Clean the chimney from top to bottom, including getting rid of the ashes from the firebox. Buy chimney cleaning tools and get this work done yourself, or you can even call a cleaning service company.
Install Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide
The fireplace is the most enjoyable source of warmth in winters during the house. However, it can also become a source of health hazard. In general, if a fireplace is installed correctly, it does not cause any problems. Carbon monoxide problems generally arise due to a clogged vent system or chimney. One biggest problem is the carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas, and it is hard to detect. Smoke is another hazardous element. Due to excess buildup of dirt, the chimney gets blocked, causing smoke to release into the house. For the proper functioning of the fireplace and the safety of your family, maintenance is very important. Get a smoke alarm and carbon monoxide alarm installed.
Use the right wood
Not all woods are created equal. The quality of the wood has a direct impact on the quality of your fireplace. Poor quality wood creates more dirt inside a fireplace, demanding more frequent cleaning. It also creates creosote faster than good quality wood. These include softwoods like poplar, cedar, balsam, spruce. The general rule is to stick with hardwood like maple, birch, and oaks. Wood should be properly dried for 6-12 months before burning in Chimney. You can split the wood log into small pieces to help them dry out quickly. Hardwoods are comparatively more expensive than softwoods; however, they produce more heat and burn for a longer time while producing less creosote. If you want to follow proper fireplace and chimney maintenance, use hardwood for the long haul.
Clean Fireplace Bricks
No matter how airtight the fireplace is or how well it draws fire, at times smoke can inevitably find its way out of the firebox. Depending on the grease’s intensity collected on the fireplace chimney, you have to choose the cleaning method accordingly; mild or strong.
In Mild methods, mix warm water with detergent. It acts as an effective grease cutter. If you want an abrasive scrub, use table salt.
For moderate cleaning, use ammonia, dishwashing detergent, and pumice stone to up your cleaning game. Ammonia is a very strong grease cutter, and pumice stone acts as a harsh abrasive.
If there is heavy grease, then use a strong chimney cleaning method using hot water and trisodium phosphate.
Fix the Outer Chimney Brick
Use an extension ladder and masonry tools to repoint any patch cracks or missing brick mortar and to replace the bricks. You can use a caulking gun to caulk the crown area and the flue.
Replacing the Fireplace Screen
If you want to keep the house clean from ashes and burning embers, then prevent them from leaving the firebox. If you are facing problems with embers, then it is a sign that you need a new fireplace screen. Fireplace screens can be kept against or near the fireplace. These are available in a wide range of metals and styles. Prevent the smoke from getting out of the fireplace by installing a good quality glass screen. The glass is heatproof and holds back the smoke while allowing the heat to still pass inside the house.
Build, Spruce, or Repair the Mantel
If you have a mantel in your fireplace, chances are it might have started looking old, or you might be bored of it. Why not build a new fireplace instead of following a hectic chimney maintenance procedure? You can use walnut stock or live-edge wood to build a fireplace mantel. If you love doing woodworking, then redecorate your mantle to get a completely new look.
Properly Store the Firewood
Always store your firewood in racks outside the house in a dry area. Make sure the place is not home to vermin or insects, or else these will get transferred to your house from the firewood.
Call a Professional
Repairing the exterior of a chimney is a big task. Instead of taking the matters in your hands, it is best to call a professional who provides fireplace fixing services. At times, minor exterior chimney defects can become big due to outside elements and turn into a major problem. Damp attic, wet ceilings, and mushy drywall are the chimney’s common interior problems, which are a result of poor fireplace maintenance.
Test Fireplace before using
Always ensure that the fireplace is working properly before using it. First, burn a few pieces of wood and check whether the smoke releases through the chimney. If you notice that the smoke is coming into the house, then work on correcting the problem first. Some common problems like too much dust in the chimney duct, soot buildup, creosote, wet wood, or closed damper can cause fireplace issues.
Troubleshoot and Correct the Problems
Always work on the fireplace problems as soon as they arise to ensure the safety of your family. Sometimes even a small crack in the brick or mortar can cause larger issues, which can become harder to repair.
A common trouble for a fireplace that you should know about:
- The smoke was released into the house instead of going up through the chimney.
- While efflorescence, the stains in the bricks is a sign of moisture due to leakage. These can further increase the chimney damage and cause mold infestation. Rust is also a common sign of water damage.
- Spalling bricks is a sign that the masonry is in need of sealant. If the brick disintegrates too much, it can cause more problems.
Fireplace Safety Tips To Follow:
With owning a fireplace comes the responsibility of ensuring everyone’s safety. We have mentioned some quick fireplace safety tips to include in the maintenance routine.
- Keep combustible furniture and carpets away from the fireplace. If you want to keep a rug in front of the hearth, always use non-flammable ones.
- When you clean the fireplace, always use proper tools.
- Never leave the fire unattended. Extinguish the fire before you leave the house or go to bed.
Hire Chimney Sweep Services
To ensure the fireplace safety and efficiency, hire a certified chimney sweep inspector at least once every year or more as soon as you notice the creosote buildup for any sign of trouble. Some problems can be easily identified and corrected while others cannot. There are issues that require professionals to spot them and correct them.
The fireplace definitely adds to the appeal and charm of your house. However, it is also essential to keep in mind that fireplaces come along with the responsibility of maintenance and safety. Follow the above-mentioned tips to ensure proper working of the fireplace and chimney. If you find this article helpful, leave a comment!