Fireplace Warmth and Safety
How can we have both?
Here we are in March. We have been using our chimney and fireplace for months, and we still have a month or two of use ahead of us. While we are amid high usage, it is imperative to keep in mind that our warm, cozy fireplaces must be kept clean and safe. Please find our top tips for maintaining safety.
- Fireplaces should not be used for heating purposes. Use a fireplace for a short-duration fire — no longer than five hours.
- Keep the glass open to allow air to be drawn in to fuel the fire, but keep the screen closed to prevent sparks from jumping onto the flooring.
- Never leave a fire unattended when children are in the house. Adults, even if near, should not allow children to play near or with fire tools and equipment.
- Open a window if your fireplace becomes smoky. The air coming in from the window will go up the chimney.
- Before making a fire, open the glass doors, pull aside the screen curtains, and place the kindling, newspaper, and logs inside. Next, open the damper to access the flue. You can check to make sure the smoke will go up the chimney properly by rolling up newspaper, lighting the end on fire and holding in the damper frame area. Watch to see if the smoke goes up and out. You can also hold here for a few minutes to create an updraft before lighting. It’s called warming (or priming) the flue.
- If you do not have a hearth extension, keep a nonflammable rug or hearth pad (available at fireplace-supply stores) in front of the fireplace so that sparks will not melt or otherwise damage your floors.
- Use a chimney cap to prevent water damage, keep animals from nesting, and keep debris from blocking the chimney and causing carbon monoxide to flow into the house.
- Glass doors may develop tough stains from flames and heat. To clean them with common household items, make sure the glass doors are cool, then scrape off any thick gunk deposits with a razor blade. Add a squirt of liquid dishwashing detergent or a cup of vinegar to a gallon of warm water. Spray or sponge the cleaner on, and then wipe it away with newspaper.
- Fireplace coals can remain hot enough to start a fire for up to three days, so always wait at least that long before removing the ashes. At that point, close the damper to prevent cold air in the flue from stirring up excess dust while you are removing the ashes. Be sure to wear a dust mask and open a window in the same room as the fireplace to prevent negative air pressure. Use a shovel to scoop the ashes into a metal container. Store the container far from combustible materials and surfaces, and wood floors.
- Clean the firebox (the area where the logs burn) at least once a week during the months you use it when ash builds up, but it is wise to leave about an inch of ash because it acts as insulation, allowing the coals to heat faster and retain the heat easier. Keep the firebox completely clean during the months when the fireplace is not in use.
- To clean an exterior slate hearth, wash, dry, and coat it with olive or lemon oil every six weeks to make it shine. For cleaning exterior brick hearths, you can find concentrated brick cleaner at a fireplace shop or hardware store.
Have a certified chimney sweep inspect and clean the chimney regularly. Ask us about operation and how you can check it yourself in between servicing, too. The chimney should be professionally inspected at least once a year or after about 80 fires. Feel free to call Boston Best at 1- 781 -996- 5400 or even schedule your appointment here!
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