Many homeowners are familiar with the crackling and popping sounds of burning wood. The fireplace is a focal point in many of today’s homes. Preventive maintenance helps ensure your wood-burning fireplace continues to provide warmth and comfort in style for years to come. This article offers tips to maintain a wood burning fireplace in your home.
Cleaning The Interior Of The Fireplace
Although a wood-burning fireplace helps improve the aesthetics of your home, you have to deal with a variety of byproducts from burning all those pieces of wood. You need to remove these byproducts regularly to improve the efficiency and aesthetics of the fireplace. A well-maintained fireplace will provide more heat to keep your loved ones comfortable during the winter months. Ashes are a byproduct of burning wood, and they are a great source of nutrients to the plants in your garden. Just sprinkle them in your garden to stimulate plant growth. Don’t forget to use a dust mask when cleaning the interior of your fireplace.
Installing Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Alarms
A wood-burning fireplace is an excellent source of warmth inside your house. But it can also be a potential source of health hazards when the fireplace technician does not install it properly. When there is a clogged chimney or vent system, carbon monoxide poisoning can result. Carbon monoxide can be hazardous because homeowners can’t easily detect the gas due to its colourless and odourless nature.
Smoke is considered another hazard of having a wood-burning fireplace in your home. Most homes have chimneys to send smoke out of the house. But when dirt and debris block the chimney, the smoke will find its way into your house. A smoke alarm & carbon monoxide detector are vital installations to make sure your wood-burning fireplace functions properly and reduce potential health hazards in your home.
Removing Creosote & Soot Buildups
Creosote is one of the many components that remain after burning wood. It’s a black or brown residue that lingers on the inner walls of the chimney when you don’t use adequately stored and thoroughly dried wood in your fireplace. Creosotes are flammable, and professionals consider them one of the most common causes of chimney obstruction or fire.
Soot is another byproduct of wood burning. It’s softer than creosotes, but soot is also a fire risk. Another hazard of soot is that it sticks to a much broader area in the chimney. You should professionally remove the buildup of creosotes and soot in the chimney to prevent them from blocking the airflow – which could aggravate fireplace problems.
Checking The Chimney And The Cap
An efficient fireplace should have a well-functioning chimney. Most homes have a metal or masonry chimney. You should regularly check the chimney for cracks, dents, or rust. These signs can result in more significant problems over time.
Every chimney has a cap made of metal or stone materials, which keeps water, birds, and other objects from the chimney. The chimney cap has a screen on its side that works as a spark arrester. You should check the cap & screen and replace them when needed.
Using The Right Type Of Wood
All burning wood is not the same. You need to use seasoned hardwood, including birch, maple, and oak, and steer clear from softwoods such as pine and cedar when operating your fireplace. Properly dried and seasoned wood contains 20% less moisture. Please make sure you dry the wood for at least six to twelve months before making use of them in your fireplace. When using faster drying wood, make sure to split the wood into small pieces before burning them in the hearth.
Hardwood is expensive but produces more heat and burns longer. Moreover, it doesn’t make as much soot and creosotes as softwood. You are better off using hardwoods in the hearth than softwoods in the long run.
Testing The Hearth Before Using It
Make sure the hearth functions appropriately before using it. First, light a few hardwood pieces to see if the smoke goes out through the chimney. If the smoke enters the room instead, you need to correct the problem before using the fireplace. There are many causes for smoke entering your room instead of releasing through the chimney, including chimney duct obstructions, wet wood, closed damper, and too much soot or creosote buildup.
Installing A Heat Proof Glass Door & Blower
A heatproof glass door and blower are two critical components of a wood-burning fireplace. They ensure the fireplace is more efficient, safe, and easy to maintain. The glass door prevents embers and sparks from exiting the hearth and keeps your child or pet from getting too close to the heat.
In addition, you can easily maintain a heatproof glass door. Cleaning is easy with a paper towel or damp newspaper. Dip the newspaper or paper towel into the ashes and wipe the soot off the glass. If there is soot that is tough to remove, use light sandpaper to scrape it off the glass.
Installing a blower or fan is essential to circulate the heat from the fireplace to cover a bigger space. It helps make the hearth more efficient.
Troubleshooting And Correcting Problems As They Arise
One should be proactive in correcting problems as they arise when maintaining a wood-burning fireplace. A tiny crack in the chimney’s mortar can lead to a bigger problem in the long run. It can be harder and more expensive to repair over time. Here are some of the most common signs of fireplace problems that you should be aware of:
- Smoke is filling your room instead of going out through the chimney.
- White stains in the chimney bricks (known as efflorescence) are a sign of too much moisture due to leakages in the chimney wall. It progresses to mould infestation, causing more damage to the chimney. On the other hand, rust is another sign of water damage.
- Spalling bricks are a sign of ageing masonry. It means the chimney is in dire need of a sealant. If not, the bricks would disintegrate and cause other issues.
Considering Safety Precautions
Safety is part and parcel of maintaining a fireplace. Here are some tips to ensure safety is at the forefront of maintaining a wood-burning fireplace.
- Keep combustible carpets & furniture away from the fireplace. If you need to place a rug in front of the hearth, make sure it’s fireproof.
- Douse the fire before you leave the house or go to sleep.
- Use the proper tools to clean the fireplace.
Hiring A Professional Chimney Sweep
An annual certified chimney sweep inspection is mandatory to ensure the proper functioning of the fireplace. While some fireplace problems are apparent and easy to correct, others may require professional intervention.
A wood-burning fireplace adds appeal to your home. But you need to maintain it properly to ensure that the fireplace works efficiently and without posing any safety risk to your family.