Winter is here, meaning you might be looking to start using your fireplace again. Before you do, though, make sure it’s ready to safely warm your home for the holidays.
If you have a wood fireplace that was converted to gas, meaning it is opened and just has a gas log in it, make sure it has a safety clamp on the damper. When I check the damper and it does not have a safety clip, which means I can shut the damper tight, this will allow gas fumes to come into the house from the pilot light. The safety clip is a simple device that attaches to the damper and will not allow the damper to close all the way. If not, call a fireplace specialist to inspect and install a safety clip.
When you have a regular gas fireplace, you should vacuum under it, usually there is a door below it that opens. Dust builds up around the fan if there is one. With the fan in the on position, some units have to warm up for a while and will automatically turn on when the fireplace is hot enough and turn off by itself when the fireplace cools down. Some units have a fan switch that just turns on right away. If the glass on your gas fireplace is all white and milky, there is a product you can buy at your local fireplace dealer that will help remove this.
If you have a wood-burning fireplace, make sure your damper is in good condition and operates freely. The fire brick and grate should also be in good condition. If you have some cracks in the fire brick and they are not very wide, there is cement that can be used, which you can purchase at your local fireplace specialists or home centers. This refractory cement withstands high temperature that you have when burning wood. Doors or a screen are also recommended on a wood-burning fireplace.
Dry wood should be burned and for the best results burn dry hardwoods (firewood that is not freshly cut). If you don’t clean the flue of a wood fireplace on a regular basis, there could be a build-up of creosote, which may start a chimney fire. I have seen some chimney flues so dirty that you can tell they have not been cleaned for years. This could cause a chimney fire and possibly burn your house down. There was one home that was about 12 years old and I asked because of the buildup in the flue when was the last time it had been cleaned. The answer I received was, “I thought the heat of the fire would keep it clean.”
Remember, only burn dry seasoned wood! A yearly cleaning and check-up of your fireplace are recommended, especially if you use your fireplace on an ongoing basis.
If you have never had a fireplace before and feel uneasy about the operations of a fireplace call a fireplace specialist for their advice.