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With the cold winter season upon us, homeowners across Southern Middle Tennessee and the Tennessee Valley will be looking forward to lighting the fireplace to stay warm. However, for the chimney and fireplace to operate safely and efficiently, proper maintenance and cleaning are essential. Here are a few tips on how to care for your chimney and fireplace in the winter.
Before lighting the first fire of the winter season, take the time to clean the firebox. Burning firewood creates several different substances, including creosote and soot, that adhere to the walls inside the fireplace. Some of these substances are corrosive and will stain and damage the firebrick if not regularly cleaned. It can also cause a foul odor.
Although an inch of ash is necessary to help build and maintain a fire, too much ash will produce excess moisture that will douse the flames early. When the fireplace cools, shovel excess ash into a metal container. You can use a general all-purpose cleaner and a nylon brush to clean the firebox during the winter. If you haven’t done so already, now is a great time to schedule that professional chimney cleaning.
Then it will be much easier for you to maintain a clean firebox in between professional cleaning.
The chimney cap is an essential device that helps protect the chimney by keeping precipitation, curious critters, and debris out of the flue. Normal wear and tear and inclement weather can damage, loosen, or even dislodge the chimney cap increasing the risk of exposure to carbon monoxide gas. That’s why annual chimney inspections are a vital part of chimney and fireplace care in the winter. Our chimney professionals perform most of the work outside the home, including checking the exterior masonry for spalling bricks without having to ring your doorbell.
The type of firewood that you use to fuel the fire makes a difference. Fresh or green firewood has high moisture content and will burn faster at lower temperatures. More importantly, it also creates more creosote and pollution. Firewood that has been seasoned or dried has significantly less moisture content and will burn slower at higher temperatures. You will have more heat with less fuel. It also burns cleaner with less creosote. It takes about 6 to 12 months for wood to season when properly stored.
Creosote is a natural by-product of combustion that sticks to the interior masonry and other chimney components. It begins as a mostly powdery and sooty substance that is easy to remove with regular chimney sweeping. The creosote will continue to accumulate until its removed. Over time, it will thicken into a dark, tarry, and flammable substance that will be very difficult to remove without professional chimney cleaning. A build-up of 1/8” or more of creosote is hazardous and should be removed, according to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA).
Glass fireplace doors are an important fireplace accessory that will help radiate heat throughout the room while keeping children and pets a safe distance from the flames. Soot and corrosive gases will also stain the glass fireplace doors. Cleaning the fireplace doors weekly will prolong its useful life, reduce fire hazards, and give you a clear view of the fire.
A quick and easy way to clean them is to dip a damp paper towel in ash and wipe the door glass until clean.
Caution: Don’t get burned. Always wait at least 12 hours for the fireplace and chimney to cool completely before performing any maintenance or cleaning. Contact us to schedule a professional chimney inspection and cleaning appointment today!