How to Care for Your Chimney & Fireplace in the Winter
Chimney care is important to ensure that you can enjoy your fireplace throughout the winter. Proper upkeep of your fireplace will also help to ensure that the fires can keep burning all season. Most agree that a fireplace is a pleasure, but many people don’t realize how important it is to schedule chimney maintenance and take steps for care of the fireplace. The following are a few tips to take care of your chimney and fireplace this winter.
Clear Out Ash Often
Air is one of the necessary components to have steady fires in your fireplace. If ash buildup gets to the point that the fire is obstructed from getting the air it needs, your fireplace will be less efficient and produce less heat.
On a regular basis, scoop up ashes from the fireplace, leaving about one inch of ash on the floor of the firepit. Place the ashes in an appropriate bucket to ensure that hot embers cannot start a fire. Put the bucket somewhere away from your home on a surface that is not flammable while any remaining embers cool thoroughly. The reason to keep an inch of ash in the fire pit is that doing so helps more heat to be reflected into the room.
Watch for Spalling & Other Signs of Damage
Winter is harsh on chimneys, often accelerating the deterioration of bricks that contain moisture. Check for signs of spalling occasionally. Spalling is when the brick face pops and flakes off, leaving debris around the chimney or on the ground below. Spalling occurs as a result of freezing and thawing cycles in winter. As the moisture expands and contracts inside the bricks, the masonry also moves and begins to break down.
Avoid Over-Firing Your Fireplace
Fireplaces aren’t one-size-fits-all appliances when considering the size and temperature of the fires burned inside of them. It is dangerous when the fires in a fireplace are hotter or larger than what is recommended by the manufacturer. Burning fires too hot for an appliance is referred to as “over-firing.”
Use Only the Correct Kind of Firewood
Only seasoned firewood should be used in a fireplace. When a live tree is first cut for firewood, it is full of moisture. At that point, the wood is green and is not suitable for fireplaces. When burned, the unseasoned wood smokes excessively and the fire’s energy goes toward burning out the moisture. It takes between six and eight months for firewood to have a sufficiently low moisture content of 20% or below, which is a general definition of seasoned firewood.
Schedule Annual Chimney Inspections
It is essential to schedule annual chimney inspections, according to the leading fire safety experts in the U.S. Chimneys are vulnerable to damage but the damage often goes unseen. With an inspection by an experienced chimney sweep, homeowners can learn about repairs that are needed. Depending on the timing of the inspection there may or may not be time to make needed repairs before winter. Scheduling chimney inspections in spring or summer is recommended.
The biggest issue with chimneys has to do with moisture intrusion. Although the structures are built to keep moisture out, their various protective components tend to crack, deteriorate, and become vulnerable to leaks.
Schedule Chimney Cleaning
The leading cause of home fires related to heating appliances is a dirty chimney. Every time a wood fire is burned in a fireplace, more flammable creosote is deposited in the chimney. Over time, if chimney cleaning is neglected, creosote can obstruct the chimney flue. The presence of creosote, at the same time, increases the risk of a dangerous chimney fire. Some chimney experts recommend annual chimney cleaning and others recommend chimney cleaning after there is 1/8-inch of creosote buildup in the flue.