Nov 12, 2020

Home Maintenance

Fireplace Maintenance

Know the do's and don'ts of maintaining your fireplace to keep your home and family safe and warm.

Cold weather is here. Embrace it! Lower temps mean fun activities like tobogganing, ice skating, and cozy nights spent by the fire! While stoking a fire is one of our most primal instincts, it takes a little more know-how to properly care for an indoor fireplace. Rümi’s fireplace maintenance tips for the winter months will ensure you can turn the heat up while keeping everyone safe, cozy and comfortable.

1. Burn the right wood

Hardwoods like birch, oak and ash burn hotter and longer. Softer woods, like pine and cedar, may be less expensive, but they won’t burn as efficiently. They also tend to create more smoke and buildup.

Additionally, make sure your firewood has been seasoned (i.e., dried), for at least 6-12 months. Newer “green” wood contains too much moisture and will create a lot of smoke when burned as a result.

2. Watch for smoke, soot & creosote

An efficiently burning wood fireplace should not send smoke into the home (assuming you aren’t burning green wood). If you notice any smoke from the fireplace, it could be a warning signal that your fireplace and chimney need to be cleaned. We recommend hiring a professional who will do it properly.

Soot can also combust if too much is left behind. Clean soot deposits regularly. They should never be more than 1/8-inch-deep at the bottom of your fireplace.

Creosote is a dark, hard, crust-like flammable substance that appears after an incomplete combustion of wood. Poorly dried and stored woods produce a large amount of creosote, as do softer woods. An excessive buildup of creosote can actually cause your chimney to catch fire, so scrape it off areas that you can reach, and hire a pro to clean the rest of your chimney at least on an annual basis.

3. Evaluate the condition of your fireplace

If you have a fireplace that may be very old or not working properly, have a W.E.T.T. (wood energy transfer technology) inspector do a proper evaluation of the fit and function of the fireplace to ensure it’s safe to use. In some 50+ year old homes the fireplaces used to be a structural part of the home. If gone unchecked, they can deteriorate over time and lean into the attic, not what you want to see!

4. Clean the interior of both woodburning & gas fireplaces

Dirt, dust, ash and creosote can build up when you burn wood, so make sure you clean the interior part of the fireplace regularly. Not only will it look better, it will also burn wood more efficiently.  

Dust and debris can also settle onto gas fireplace logs or lava rocks. Make sure to vacuum them to extend the life of your unit.

Material buildup is a potential danger to the home as well. Fine particles transmitted through the air can cause health and breathing problems, not to mention they are flammable, so don’t allow buildup to sit in your fireplace.

5. Install heat-proof glass doors & blower or fan

Heat-proof glass and a fan add safety and efficiency to both woodburning and gas fireplaces. Heat-proof glass can contain burning material like embers and dust particles, and a fan or blower help to increase the efficiency of your home by circulating heat over a larger area.

Glass doors also act as a barrier between your home and your chimney. An open fireplace is just like an open window. When left open in the winter, warm air can escape up and out the chimney and, in the summer, cool air-conditioned air is able to exit. In both cases, fireplace glass doors increase efficiency by minimizing the amount of air lost up the chimney.

6. Check the cap

Most modern-day chimneys are capped with a metal or stone slab to keep rain and snow out, as well as with a screen to prevent birds and animals from entering. Screens serve another use, too: They prevent sparks from exiting the chimney by containing any embers which happen to make it all the way up to the top.

7. Install smoke & carbon monoxide detectors

The reasons to keep smoke detectors in working order around a fireplace are obvious. But did you know that any chimney, particularly a poorly maintained chimney, can also release carbon monoxide back into the house?  

A poorly maintained gas fireplace also runs the risk of leaking carbon monoxide. Improper ventilation can result in incomplete combustion, creating carbon monoxide. To be sure your gas fireplace is safe, have it inspected annually.

To ensure you can continue to safely enjoy your fireplace for many seasons, it’s critical your carbon monoxide alarms are in working order in addition to smoke detectors.

The pros at Rümi can properly install these detectors for you.

Warm, toasty & totally safe

Enjoy your fireplace this winter season. By keeping it clean and safe, you and your loved ones will spend less time worrying about a fireplace that doesn’t run efficiently and way, way more time perfecting your marshmallow roasting techniques. S’mores can be considered a complete meal, can’t they?

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