With the official start of winter today, December 21st, chances are you might grab a blanket and cuddle up by the fireplace to stay warm these next few months. Before doing this, however, it is important to schedule your annual chimney sweep and inspection, especially if you own a wood burning fireplace.
By hiring a professional (the Chimney Safety Institute of America is a good place to look) to sweep your chimney, you will eliminate creosote, a tar-like droplet that is a byproduct of burning wood that can hinder your chimney’s ventilation and cause chimney fires. They will also check for any damages and/or leaks that might have popped up during the summer. One common cause of damage is the presence of small animals living in the chimney. If critters get inside your chimney, a simple chimney cap or chimney screen will help prevent that.
For those who use their fireplace on a regular basis during the winter months, consider cleaning the firebox between uses. The firebox is the place where the wood burns and can be kept clean by shoveling the ashes, putting them in a bag and disposing of them in the trash, or by simply vacuuming. Whether you shovel or vacuum the ashes, it is important to allow the ashes to cool for at least four days to prevent any live ashes from sparking.
If you have a lower maintenance gas fireplace you’re not completely in the clear when it comes to maintenance. Although there is less upkeep needed with a gas fireplace, as it does not create much soot or creosote, it is still important to keep the vents of the heat exchanger clear (if you have one) and the interior as clean as possible to keep your fireplace as safe as possible.