Fireplaces can add value to a home, reduce energy costs, and make a house feel more welcoming. But homeowners lucky enough to have one will need to prepare their fireplace for winter or risk a house fire.
Here are some great ways to get your fireplace ready to use:
Clean the Chimney and Fireplace
Debris and creosote can build up in wood-burning fireplaces and chimneys, posing a house fire risk and trapping gases inside. Gas fireplace pilots and burners can also develop build-up over time, which reduces their performance.
Hire a professional to clean the fireplace and chimney, no matter the fuel source. It’s best to clean them each year before the cool season starts.
Check the Damper
The fireplace damper should open and close easily. A broken damper can trap fumes in the house, including dangerous carbon monoxide. Check it as you ready your fireplace and repair or replace it as needed.
Inspect for Damage Before You Prepare Your Fireplace
Check the interior of the fireplace for damage. Look for cracks, missing bricks, and a deteriorating gasket around the door. These should be repaired or replaced before lighting the season’s first fire.
The chimney should also be checked for damage. Cracks, missing bricks, leaning, and other changes indicate potentially dangerous problems. A chimney sweep will often inspect the chimney and fireplace for you while cleaning them.
Inspect the Chimney Cap
The chimney cap—which helps prevent water, animals, and debris from falling down the chimney—should be checked yearly for damage or debris. Remove debris like bird’s nests. Damaged caps should be repaired or replaced.
Clean the Fireplace Blower
Some fireplaces have a blower that needs cleaning to get the fireplace ready for use. Dusting the blades and replacing the filter (if there is one) will help keep the blower in good condition.
Inspect the Fire Screen
A fireplace should have a heatproof screen or door in front of it to keep sparks and coals inside the fireplace. Make sure that the fire screen is in good condition. Replace or install one if needed.
Other Things to Do Prepare Your Fireplace for Winter
Check the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in the fall. Test them monthly during the cool season. Also, make sure that anything flammable in your home is away from the fireplace. Clutter, rugs, and furniture should all be at least five feet from the flames.
Remove any tree branches hanging over or near your chimney. These can pose a hazard during winter storms and after ice build-up.
Make sure that your firewood is well-seasoned. Green wood creates dangerous creosote build-up, so only use wood seasoned for at least a year.