Home Tip Tuesday: Top 8 Tips for Fireplace Maintenance

A poorly maintained fireplace wastes energy and puts you at risk for a home fire.

Every season brings a new set of chores to the top of the list. When the chill of fall makes you want to go indoors and huddle around a warm fire, it’s time to complete that all-important fireplace maintenance. A poorly maintained fireplace wastes energy and puts you at risk for a home fire.

Top 8 Fireplace Maintenance Tips:

1.  Go outside and give your chimney a visual assessment. Look for chipped bricks and holes or cracks in the masonry. On metal chimneys, look for loose sections, corrosion or staining. Is the chimney leaning? A chimney that's off plumb may be a sign of serious construction problem. Next, head into the attic and inspect that portion for the same issues.

2.  A trip to the roof is necessary for a full maintenance check, so don’t wait until ice and snow make that trip dangerous. Check to see if the chimney cap is free of damage and intact. Remove any debris left behind by birds or pests.

3.  Use a flashlight and a mirror to look into the clean-out door of the flue for signs of damage and soot buildup. The clean-out door is typically located either in the basement or outside the house.

4.  Inside, check the ceiling around the top of the chimney for signs of water damage such as staining. Leaks and stains may indicate a damaged flue or damaged flashing at the roof line.

5.  Another inside job is checking the brick or masonry for wear and stability. Also make certain the damper opens and closes with ease and that there is no soot buildup in the smoke chamber located above the damper.

6.  Remove last year’s ashes from the firebox if you haven’t already. Allow approximately an inch of ash to remain for insulation and easier fire starting.

7.  Clean glass doors and surrounding masonry before fireplace season begins. A solution of one cup vinegar and a few drops of dishwashing liquid in a gallon of warm water should remove smoke stains and normal soil.

8.  Make certain your fireplace accessories are in working order. Andirons, one or more pokers for adjusting logs and a shovel and broom are the basic necessities for safety and convenience. Fireplace tools are more than decorative. They should be sturdy enough to do the job.

If your inspection uncovers any cause for concern, call a professional to further assess and repair any problems. Unless you are highly experienced in the area of chimney inspection, the safest decision is to let a pro handle it.

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