Colder temperatures are just a few weeks away, and now is the time to prepare your home for fall and winter. Some tasks, like raking leaves and boosting insulation, are obvious. Other projects might slip to the bottom of the to-do list. Before you light a fire, here are a few tips to prepare your fireplace for use.
Clean Up Around the Fireplace
During the summer, clutter can accumulate, especially with the children home from school. As you prepare your fireplace for the fall and winter, declutter the living room and verify there is nothing flammable close to the fireplace. Move furniture back and keep rugs, draperies, books, and toys at least five feet away from the fireplace to ensure your family’s safety.
Test the Damper to Prepare the Fireplace
The damper is a critical feature of the chimney If the damper does not open completely when burning a fire, carbon monoxide and smoke can enter the home and compromise your health and safety. If the damper won’t close, drafts enter through the chimney, forcing your HVAC system to work harder to keep the house comfortable. If your damper is not opening and closing correctly, have it repaired before building a fire.
Choose the Right Firewood
The wood you burn in your fireplace directly impacts how quickly creosote accumulates. Creosote is a flammable substance that builds up in the flue as a by-product of burning. This material can ignite, leading to a chimney fire.
Purchase seasoned wood, or allow it to dry for at least six months before use in the fireplace. Avoid softwoods like pine or wood cut recently, as these produce more creosote and do not burn as cleanly due to the higher moisture content.
For optimal burning conditions, cut each piece of firewood to less than 6 inches in diameter. Store the wood off the ground in a covered space safe from your home to avoid attracting termites. If you are not sure whether the firewood is dry enough to burn, test it with a moisture meter to confirm moisture levels are 20% or less.
Prepare Your Fireplace: Schedule a Fireplace Inspection
You may be able to spot problems with your chimney, but the only way to get a thorough look at the structure is with help from a chimney inspector. During your inspection, a professional will carefully examine the interior and exterior of the chimney, the fireplace, and the surrounding area. You’ll receive a detailed report of any concerns you can use to schedule repairs.