With cooler weather on the way, get your fireplace ready, so you can heat your home safely when temperatures drop. The fireplace is a wonderful way to stay cozy and reduce your reliance on the HVAC system. However, a poorly maintained fireplace can lead to a house fire. Late summer is an excellent time to prepare your fireplace for winter.
Gather Your Firewood to Prepare Your Fireplace for Use
Whether you purchase firewood or chop it yourself, make sure you have enough to last through the winter. Milder fall temperatures provide good weather for splitting firewood, but newly cut wood won’t be ready to burn in the same season. Choose quality hardwoods seasoned for at least six months for the best results. Soft woods – like pine – smoke and produce more creosote as they burn. Creosote is a flammable substance that accumulates in the chimney and may ignite.
Stack your firewood in a covered area outside your home. Keep it 10 to 20 feet away from the house to reduce the risk of attracting termites and other wood-destroying insects into your home.
Hire a Chimney Sweep
In the warmer months, birds, squirrels, and bats may choose to nest in the chimney. The creosote build-up from last season and leaves and twigs in the chimney needs to be removed. Hire a professional for this job. A chimney sweep has the tools to clean the chimney safely and efficiently.
Inspect the Fireplace Before Use
Before building a fire, thoroughly inspect the fireplace, checking for problems. Look for gaps and cracks in the mortar and broken bricks. Test the damper to make sure it opens and closes smoothly. The damper must work properly to control airflow to the flame. You’ll also want to empty the ash container and remove charred wood and ashes from last season from the firebox.
Install a Chimney Cap
A chimney cap is a metal structure with metal mesh to prevent debris from blowing into the fireplace. The chimney cap covers the opening at the top of the flue to block leaves, twigs, and animals from entering your chimney. It also provides some protection to your roof. Embers from the fire may float up the chimney, and a cap can keep them from landing on the roof and starting a fire.
Tips to Prepare Your Gas-Burning Fireplace for Winter
Before the weather gets cold, hire a professional to inspect and clean your gas-burning fireplace. The professional will clean the burners and make sure the unit operates as intended. Clean the blower to remove dust and prolong the life of that component; if your blower has a filter, clean or replace it. Make sure you have fuel for the fireplace before temperatures drop.
As you prepare your fireplace for winter, take a moment to test the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Dust these devices and verify they operate correctly to improve safety when heating your house with a fireplace.