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Maintain your fireplace this season

You enjoy the warmth and ambiance your fireplace adds to your home, but a poorly maintained fireplace can pose fire and health hazards. Know how to maintain your fireplace and chimney to keep it burning safely and efficiently.

Clear ash from your fireplace

fireplace and chimney maintenance near goochand vaTo keep your fire burning efficiently, make sure you regularly clean out excess ash from the firebox. A little ash can help maintain a fire, but too much ash can impede airflow into your fireplace. Ash should be cleaned out of the fireplace when it reaches the fireplace grate. Make sure that the ash is cool before you clean the fireplace, and be sure to wear a mask and gloves.

Check your draft

If air isn’t flowing correctly through your fireplace and chimney, hazardous smoke and carbon dioxide can be drawn back into your home. You can check your chimney’s draft by holding a piece of firewood vertically in the firebox and lighting the top. Smoke should be drawn up into the chimney, and no smoke should escape back into the house.
If smoke isn’t flowing up into your chimney properly, you will need to have your chimney inspected by a certified chimney sweep. The chimney sweep will be able to clear away any buildup, debris or animal nests that could be blocking your chimney. He or she also will be able to advise if other issues are causing the draft problems.

Choose the right firewood

Make sure you are using properly seasoned firewood in your fireplace, as unseasoned or “green” wood creates too much smoke and leads to a buildup of dangerous creosote deposits. You should be burning hardwoods, such as oak, ash and maple. The wood should be split and should have been left to dry under cover for six to 12 months.

Have your fireplace cleaned and inspected

The best thing you can do to keep your fireplace burning safely and efficiently is to have your chimney cleaned and inspected once a year by a certified chimney sweep. The chimney sweep will clear away the buildup of soot and creosote in your chimney, which can cause fires if it’s allowed to accumulate. The sweep also will inspect your fireplace and chimney for any potential structural problems or hazards. http://www.csia.org/about-csia/faq.aspx

Prepare your home

There are a few things you can do to prepare your home around your fireplace to ensure that your fire will burn safely. Keep any flammable items, such as carpets, drapes or furniture, away from the fireplace when a fire is burning. Put up a screen to keep children and pets away from the fireplace, and consider installing glass doors to keep embers in the fireplace.
Finally, install carbon monoxide detectors to ensure that the dangerous gas isn’t making its way into your home.

While your fireplace adds value to your home, a poorly maintained fireplace can pose a danger. A dirty chimney, clogged with soot and creosote, can bring on a chimney fire, or can cause the backdraft of smoke, soot and carbon dioxide into your home. Make sure you are maintaining your fireplace and chimney with the help of a certified sweep so your family can enjoy a roaring fire safely.

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