By Brian Mc Donald HowToDoThings.com
Cold weather is at our doorsteps. How often do you take the time to thank your fireplace for all the times it kept you warm during cold fall and winter nights? How about those nights when its flickering flames sparked an evening of romance, or when its unmistakable smell brought comfort and calm to your life? There's a great way to thank your fireplace: take good care of it!
No matter how well you care for a fireplace, the flue inside your chimney suffers a gradual build-up of creosote (hard-layered residue from the wood-smoke), which can catch fire. Periodic chimney-cleaning is necessary in order to avoid such a catastrophe. This isn't a do-it-yourself project; you need to hire a professional to clean your chimney. Have your chimney cleaned once a year if you use it a lot. If you use your fireplace two or three times per week during colder months, have it inspected and cleaned each year. Another handy method is to inspect and clean after every 70 fires. Ask the chimney inspector about the condition of your flue liner and (if you have a masonry chimney) mortar.
So how can you reduce creosote build-up and keep your fireplace and chimney as clean as possible this season?
First of all, encourage good draft up your chimney, simply by keeping a window open a crack when you burn a fire. The air entering your room will get sucked up the chimney. Opening a window also ensures that your indoor air quality stays good while you burn the fire.
If you have glass fireplace doors, invest in a screen to block the fire instead of using glass. Doing so will also aid in ventilating the fire and encouraging airflow through the flue.
In addition to the aforementioned ventilation tips, you can reduce creosote build-up by using only dry hardwood logs, which burn more completely.
Clean the ash out of the fireplace. Wearing a dust mask, open a window in the room and then open the damper to let the draft suck any airborne ash out of the fireplace. Then, using fire gloves, remove the old coals. Carefully sweep the remaining dust into a dustpan. Remember to wait about three days after your most recent fire to do any of this; embers stay hot for a surprisingly long time!
Cap your chimney. Not only can an uncapped chimney collect gunk and debris, but it can also cause your damper to rust or even invite animals to make it their unlucky home.
Glass cleaners, brick cleaners and other appropriate cleaners are available for purchase to maintain the happy appearance of your fireplace. If you have dish soap handy, simply dilute it to make your own glass cleaner.
These simple steps can ensure that your enjoyment of the fireplace is not dampened by lingering doubts about safety.
For related "how-to" articles, go to www.howtodothings.com/home-and-garden.
Brian McDonald is a senior editor at www.HowToDoThings.com. For more info on this or explanations of how to do many other things, go to www.HowToDoThings.com.
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