Preparing for Winter: Maintain Your Gas or Wood Fireplace

 Make a habit of checking fireplaces as part of your regular home winterizing procedure.
Don't risk your family's safety by using a poorly maintained fireplace. Both gas- and wood-burning fireplaces should be inspected before their first use each winter. Make a habit of checking fireplaces as part of your regular home winterizing procedure. Savvy homeowners can handle part of the regular maintenance but some jobs need to be done by a professional.

Wood-Burning

A buildup of creosote in the chimney can start a dangerous chimney fire by throwing sparks onto the roof of your home and into overhanging trees. With the right equipment handy homeowners can remove creosote themselves, but hiring a professional chimney sweep may be easier than climbing on the roof to perform such a messy job. Call a professional to inspect gaskets and seals if your wood-burning fireplace includes an airtight front appliance. Excess air entry can cause permanent damage to your firebox. If a visual inspection reveals damage on the interior or exterior of your fireplace it's time to call a pro.
Maintenance jobs a homeowner can complete include:

*A visual inspection of the chimney, looking for loose or cracked bricks or cracked mortar between bricks which can indicate interior damage
*Clear the exhaust pipe or chimney of birds/rodents and install a chimney screen to prevent reentry
*Inspect the damper and make sure it opens/closes correctly
*Indoors, clean the blower if your fireplace has one
*Change batteries in smoke detectors and check them for service


Hiring a professional chimney sweep may be easier than climbing on the roof to perform such a messy job.

Gas-Burning

While there's less concern about a buildup of unburned fuel in the chimney of a gas-burning fireplace there are other safety concerns to consider. A leaky or poorly ventilated gas fireplace will emit carbon monoxide into your home. Have your gas fireplace serviced by a qualified technician once a year. A complete inspection includes cleaning to appliances airways, checking valves for leaks and cleaning the blower and filter system for models with a blower. Homeowners can keep their system safe and functioning properly by:

*Perform a visual inspection of exterior and interior chimney looking for damage or debris
*Clear the exhaust pipe and install or replace a chimney screen
*Replacing batteries in remote transmitters/receivers
*Install or check carbon monoxide detectors

Don't risk your family's safety by using a poorly maintained fireplace.

Extra Precautions

During the holiday season it's tempting to adorn the hearth and mantel of your fireplace with decorations, but make sure combustible materials are kept at least three feet away from a working fireplace. Limit the amount of paper or paper products you burn in your fireplace and if you use newspapers for starting fires remove the colored comic section first; some of the colored inks release toxins when burned. And as cozy as it is, avoid building a "roaring" fire. Tossing in too many logs at a time may start a bigger fire than you intended.

For more home tips, please visit homechanneltv.com.






Sources: http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/how-to-prep-your-roof-and-gutters-for-winter.seriesId-335363.html, http://www.msue.msu.edu/objects/content_revision/download.cfm/revision_id.499670/workspace_id.-4/01500595.html/, http://www.houselogic.com/news/fireplaces-chimneys/tips-how-prepare-your-fireplace-season/#.

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