Fireplace Maintenance and Safety

Before use, tend to your chimney with care with these pointers.

Enjoying a warm, cozy fire requires your fireplace to be clean and safe. Instead of large blazing fires in your fireplace, enjoy a nice little romantic fire instead. Here are some tips by HGTV for keeping your fireplace safe and enjoyable:

  • Fireplaces should not be used as a furnace. Use a fireplace for a short-duration. No longer than 5 hours.
  • Keep the glass on your fireplace open to allow air to be drawn up to cool the chimney, but keep the screen closed to prevent sparks from landing onto the carpeting.
  • Do not leave a fire unattended when children are in the house. Children should not be allowed to play near a fire or with fire tools and equipment.
  • Open a window when using the fireplace to prevent the room from becoming too smoky. The air that you let in from the window will go up the chimney.
  • Before lighting a fire, open the fireplace glass doors, pull aside the screen, and place the kindling, newspaper and wood inside. Next, open the damper and a window. The window needs to be open only a couple inches. You can check to make sure the smoke will go up your chimney properly by lighting a match, quickly blowing it out and watching the smoke to see whether it’s going up through your chimney.
  • Keep a nonflammable rug in front of your fireplace so that sparks won’t melt or damage your carpet.
  • Use fireplace tools to handle a burning log. Do not use your hands.
  • Use a chimney cap to prevent water damage, to keep animals(birds, raccoons etc.) from nesting and to keep debris from blocking the chimney and causing carbon monoxide to flow into the house. Use a spark arrester to help prevent sparks from flying out of the chimney, which could start a fire on the roof or lawn.
  • Over time, your glass doors may develop tough stains from flames and heat. For cleaning them, make sure the glass doors are cool, then scrape off any thick gunk deposits with a razor blade. Add a little bit of liquid dishwashing detergent to a bucket of warm water, or add a cup of vinegar to a gallon of water. Spray or sponge the cleaner on, and then wipe it away with newspaper (which is lint-free). You could also buy glass cleaner at a fireplace store.
  • One should wait at least 3 days before removing the ashes from a fireplace, because coals can remain hot enough for that long of a time to start a fire. At that point, open the damper so that the airborne ash will be drawn up the chimney instead of into the room. Open a window to prevent negative air pressure and be sure to wear a dusk mask. Use a shovel to scoop the ashes into a metal container. Store the container outside far from combustible materials and surfaces, and wood floors.
  • Never use a vacuum to clean up ashes, because hot coals may remain in those ashes and start an unwanted fire.
  • Have a certified chimney sweep inspect and clean the chimney when necessary. Have them show you how to check it yourself, too. The chimney should be checked every year or after about 80 fires.
  • Shine your brass fireplace utensils with Worcestershire sauce and a toothbrush.
  • Clean the firebox at least once a week during the months you use it, when ash builds up. Leave about one inch of ash because it acts as insulation, allowing coals to heat faster and retain the heat easier. Keep the firebox completely clean during the months when the fireplace is not in use.
  • Coat your slate hearth with lemon oil ever 6 weeks to make it shine (After cleaning normally). For cleaning the exterior brick hearths, buy a brick cleaner at a fireplace shop.