10 Top Tips for Maintaining a Wood Burning Fireplace

by / Friday, 12 December 2014 / Published in Articles, Fireplaces
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A wood burning fireplace is a perfect addition to any home, adding warmth and style to any space. To save your money and time, it is imperative to keep your fireplace maintained and in tip top condition. Having a maintained fireplace will add tremendous value to your home and excite your guests. Today we bring you ten tips for maintaining a wood burning fireplace.

1. Clean the interior

Often we forget that burning wood can cause buildup of a variety of dirt, ash, dust and creosote inside of the fireplace. Make sure that you clean the interior regularly. Not only will it look more presentable, the fireplace will burn more efficiently when you keep it clean. Also worth noting is that the buildup of creosote and other materials can be considered a safety hazard. Many of the fine particles can be transmitted through the air and can cause health issues over a longer period of time. Cleaning will also help prevent any of the material from catching fire when you don’t want it to. We recommend using a dust mask when cleaning to prevent inhalation of any dust particles.

A vacuum can be used to clean ash and dust.

A vacuum can be used to clean ash and dust.

2. Install a stainless steel liner

Consider installing a liner for your fireplace to keep the embers and any other materials contained in a safe manner. We can help you find the correct liner for any size of fireplace, and even help with the install! A quality liner will be able to withstand the high temperatures of a wood burning fireplace with ease.

3. Install Heat Proof Glass and Blower or Fan

Heat Proof Glass will help with safety and the efficiency of your fireplace. Glass doors can help with containing any burning material such as embers or dust particles. Safety of your guests and family will also be strengthened by adding another layer of protection. A fan or blower can increase the efficiency of heating your home by distributing the heat over a larger area. The glass doors should be cleaned regularly to prevent buildup of material and to keep your fireplace looking presentable. For any buildup of material, you can use a light sandpaper to lightly sand off any tougher buildups.

4. Watch For Smoke

A properly vented and maintained wood burning fireplace should not send smoke into your room. If you notice any smoke entering your room from the fireplace, make sure you immediately take notice as this could be a warning sign that something needs to be cleaned or maintained. There are a number of causes such as a dirty chimney with too much soot or creosote buildup, debris in the chimney blocking the venting of smoke, a damper may not be open or is only partly open, or the wood itself could not be burning properly. It is always important to play it safe when you see smoke, always pay attention.

5. Burn the Right Wood

Wood burning is an art, and a science. You should always know what kind of wood you are burning in your fireplace. It also pays to know what kind of wood you are burning, different kinds of wood may be cheaper but burn lousy, causing you stress and increased cleaning duties. One type of wood is hardwood which includes maple, oak, ash and birch. A few advantages of hardwood are that they burn hotter and longer, they have less pitch and sap which makes them cleaner to handle, and they cause less creosote buildup. Softwoods on the other hand are a cheaper alternative, but have a trade off in being a bit more difficult to deal with in terms of mess and clean up. Fir is the best, and other softwoods include pine, balsam, spruce, tamarack, alder and poplar. Do not burn green wood, it will not produce enough heat and will produce a large amount of smoke and creosote.

6. Look for Soot

Soot is another byproduct of burning wood and can be an issue if not properly handled. Soot is generally softer than creosote and is able to be disturbed easily, causing a mess in a larger area which can be difficult to clean up. Soot can also catch fire if in a large enough volume. We recommend cleaning the soot deposits regularly and to watch out for when it gets larger than 1/8 inch deep.

7. Remove Creosote

Creosote is a flammable substance that is hard, dark, and crust-like. Creosote will appear after incomplete combustion of burning wood. Wood that is wet by improper storage will produce a larger amount of creosote than wood that has been dried and properly stored. A buildup of too much creosote can cause chimney fires as creosote is highly flammable. A hotter fire will produce less creosote, and a higher airflow will help with maintaining a proper burn. We recommend using a chimney brush to remove any building in the stove pipe. Make sure you inspect the stove pipe regularly with a flashlight to guarantee you have cleaned it thoroughly.

Creosote before and after

Creosote Before and After cleaning

8. Check the Cap

Your chimney likely has a cap on the top or sides to keep unwanted materials and animals from entering. Cleaning the cap and removing debris regularly will enhance airflow and allow smoke to successfully escape. If there is a blockage, you run the risk of having creosote build up inside the chimney, adding a fire risk. We always recommend that you consult a professional chimney sweep if you are noticing any major issues with your chimney. Following these regular inspection tips will allow you to save money as keeping your chimney unobstructed will result in less calls to the chimney sweep professionals.

9. Inspect Your Chimney

Depending on whether you have a metal or masonry chimney, there are a few factors to watch out for. With a masonry chimney examine the outer mortar between bricks or stone to make sure it is intact. Any cracks could be a sign that there is a larger problem or could be the start of one. Any crumbling mortar should be replaced, and any cracked tile liners or missing bricks should be noted and immediately replaced. A metal chimney should be inspected for dust, dents, and rust. Look for any missing screws or dents and rust at the joints as these are the most common areas that show the first signs of weakness.

Common problems to watch out for

Common problems to watch out for

10. Annual Inspection and Maintenance

Many fireplaces need to be inspected once a year by a Certified specialist or installer in order for the warranty to be maintained. Getting your fireplace maintained is just one step in keeping your fireplace efficient for years to come. Keeping your fireplace safe for your family is easy if you follow the suggestions above, and will be cost effective as you will avoid any large repair bills with keeping maintenance and inspection regular. At Alsip’s we can help you with Annual Inspection and Maintenance, starting at $149.99 per fireplace. We can set you up with a home visit and our certified maintenance team will help you with any fireplace issues and maintenance requests. To start the process, give us a call at 204-667-3330 or email at info@alsips.com. We also have an online contact form to send a message directly to our maintenance team. Fill out the contact form below to start your fireplace maintenance!

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Further Reading:

Maintaining a Wood Burning Fireplace

Firewoods That Burn More Efficiently in a Heat Stove

How to Clean a Wood Burning Stove