The cold winter months are just around the corner, and for many homeowners, that means warm, toasty fires in their fireplaces. Before you light that first fire of the season, though, it’s important to ensure that your fireplace and chimney are clean and in good repair. Here are some important tips for ensuring that you are ready for those warm winter fires that keep you comfortable.
Have Your Chimney Cleaned
One of the most important things you can do to prepare your chimney for winter is have it professionally cleaned by a technician who is certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America, or CSIA. Soot and creosote buildup are not only unsightly, but they can cause several problems.
- Odor – Creosote has an incredibly pungent odor, especially when it is penetrated by moisture. This odor can find its way into your home where it settles in your furniture, drapes, and carpet. Unfortunately, it is a difficult odor to remove.
- Illness – Creosote particles are respiratory irritants, and studies have shown they are also carcinogenic. Professional chimney sweeps can remove this creosote safely to help keep you and your family healthy.
- Fire – Finally, creosote is incredibly flammable. The longer you go between cleanings, the more creosote that builds up, and the more flammable it becomes. Always clean your chimney before the heating season, and be sure that you have it cleaned again after every three dozen or so fires to prevent buildup.
Schedule a Chimney Inspection
When hiring a professional to clean your chimney, you can schedule an inspection at the same time. These inspections allow technicians to carefully look over your fireplace and chimney for potential issues that may affect your home or family’s safety. Trained professionals can easily spot problems and repair them right away, therefore preventing many costlier issues that could arise later down the road. Annual inspections are also ideal; they can help prevent leaks, carbon monoxide poisoning, fires, pest infestations, and more.
Stock Up on the Right Wood
Now that your fireplace and chimney have been cleaned and inspected, it’s time to prepare for your winter fires. Remember that you should only burn dry, seasoned wood in your fireplace. Green, damp wood puts off a great deal of smoke, and with that smoke comes excess creosote buildup. To determine whether your wood is seasoned, strike one piece against another. If you hear a sharp ring, and if the ends of the wood appear cracked and dry, it should burn cleanly with no steam and minimal smoke.
Keep Your Fireplace Clean
Once each week, after the last fire you lit has the opportunity to cool completely, be sure that you carefully remove any leftover ash and dispose of it appropriately. Built-up ash can be carcinogenic, and because it’s so lightweight, it can be carried through your home with even the slightest draft. Those who have sensitive skin may be particularly at risk for skin irritation from fire ash, too. Finally, removing the ash allows for more oxygen to flow around your firewood in the future, creating a cleaner-burning fire.
Your fireplace is a wonderful source of heat and enjoyment during the winter months, but it’s up to you to take the right steps to ensure it is safe and efficient. Following these steps – having your chimney cleaned and inspected, burning only seasoned wood, and keeping your fireplace clean – will go a long way toward promoting safety and comfort throughout the cold winter.