Few things are nicer than a warm fire on a chilly night in fall or winter. Before you light the first fire of the season, be safe by following these five ways to prepare your fireplace for use:
1. Prepare Your Fireplace For Use by Having the Chimney Swept
Before using your fireplace, hire a chimney sweep to clean your chimney and firebox. There could be blockages in your chimney like animal nests that you don’t notice until smoke billows into your room. Make sure your chimney is clear and clean by having it swept.
2. Watch for Creosote and Soot
There may be a buildup of creosote and soot from previous use. Creosote is a byproduct of fires that is flammable and can only be removed by a professional chimney sweep. Soot is the black dust that is produced when something is burnt all the way down. It is lightweight and can end up anywhere in the house. In fact, the tradition of spring cleaning originates from cleaning soot from homes after using fire to heat them all winter.
3. Check for Damage
Before you prepare your fireplace for use, check to see if there are any cracks, loose brick, or crumbling mortar. Also, check the structure of the chimney. Call in a professional home inspector if you don’t feel comfortable doing any of this yourself.
4. Buy the Right Accessories
Fire screens set up a barrier between the fire and the room. They protect the room and its furnishings from stray sparks and embers. Screens also keep pets and young children from getting too close to the fire. Another type of accessory, the fender, prevents burning logs from accidentally rolling out onto the floor.
Andirons and grates secure the logs inside of the firebox. Because they lift the logs up from the floor, they allow air to circulate beneath and around them. This produces a hotter fire that burns for longer. Buy tongs, pokers, brushes, and shovels to move the logs around and clean up afterward.
5. Choose the Right Wood
Whatever type of wood you burn must be dry. Wood that’s just been cut has too much moisture and will smolder. Wood should be seasoned for at least six months. The best types of wood to use in a fireplace are hardwoods such as maple, beech, oak, or ash. Fruitwoods such as apple and pear lend fragrance to the fire, and birch logs burn without leaving ash behind.