As the weather grows cooler this fall, you may want to start using your fireplace. Curling up in front of a warm, crackling fire is so comforting. But before you bring your wood inside, make sure you look over your fireplace and perform some basic maintenance. After all, a lack of proper maintenance increases your risk of a house fire, and that would surely put a damper on your fall fun!
Luckily, basic fireplace maintenance is not too difficult. There are five key tasks you should tackle each fall.
1. Check the Chimney Cap
If you're comfortable climbing on your roof, you can do this yourself. Otherwise, hire a professional to take a look. The chimney cap is designed to keep wildlife, pests, and debris from going down your chimney. If the cap is missing or has a hole in it, you should have it replaced before lighting your first fire of the season.
2. Inspect the Chimney Itself
Get as close to the chimney as you can, and look it over thoroughly. Keep an eye out for the following problems, in particular:
- Cracks in the brick
- Missing bricks or pieces of brick
- Chipped mortar between bricks
- Dark stains down the side of the chimney
- Peeling flashing around the base of the chimney
It is hard to tell, just from looking, how serious chimney damage is. So, until you're able to have a professional come make repairs, do not light a fire with a damaged chimney.
3. Clean the Flue
Take a look at your flue. If you notice some black soot buildup, use soft cloths to wipe it away. If the soot is really thick, does not come off easily, or seems to have a really greasy texture, it may actually be creosote. This is a substance generated when wood burns at too low of a temperature. It's flammable, so you need to have it removed by a professional chimney cleaner before lighting a fire in that fireplace.
4. Open and Close the Damper
To operate a fireplace safely, you must be able to easily open and close the damper. Try opening and closing the damper before you light your first fire. If you feel any resistance, then try lubricating the hinges. If this does not free up the damper, have a professional come take a look.
5. Check Your Fire Extinguisher, Smoke Detector, and CO Detector
While these tools are not technically part of your fireplace, they are all essential for safety. Make sure your fire extinguisher is fully charged and accessible. Change the batteries in your smoke and CO detectors, and remind yourself to check these monthly throughout the fall and winter.
Proper fireplace and chimney maintenance are essential for your safety. If you're looking for a professional to come care for your fireplace, contact Hassle Free Home Services. We offer fireplace maintenance as a part of our monthly and seasonal home maintenance packages.