It’s that time of year, time to get ready to crank up the fireplace to add warmth and ambiance to your home. But before you jump in, there are a few things you should know.
Fireplaces and stoves, and the vent systems attached to them, will operate correctly and safely only when certain maintenance tasks are completed on a regular basis. Before you light your first fire of the season (or even if you’ve already done so), review the checklist below.
Chimney cleaning and inspection
A long winter season is enough to require a thorough inspection and cleaning before kicking your fireplace into high gear the next season. A professional chimney cleaner, or chimney sweep, can remove the soot and creosote that has built up, making the heating unit safe and efficient to operate. The National Fire Protection Association recommends annual inspections by a trained professional.
A critical element of chimney and fireplace inspection is checking for cracks in the flue liner. Even the tiniest cracks in the liner can lead to a dangerous house fire. A thorough flue liner inspection should be included in any inspection services you contract for.
Bricks and mortar
Materials used to build chimneys are strong and can withstand intense heat. But they don’t last forever. After 40 years or so, bricks and mortar can start showing signs of deterioration, which can result in moisture entering the chimney system. By having the chimney looked at every year, you avoid potentially big and expensive problems down the line.
If your chimney isn’t fitted with a chimney cap, ask your chimney sweep about having one installed. Chimney caps, particularly those with wire mesh, do a great job at keeping debris, bird nests, small animals and more out of your chimney. For ultimate operating safety, all chimneys should have caps.
When it’s time to fire up for the winter, make sure you’re firing up with dry, or seasoned, wood. Firewood should be purchased or chopped sufficiently in advance of the cold season to make sure it has time to dry properly. Using “green” wood in a fireplace or stove will create significantly more smoke and therefore toxic substances that adhere to your chimney or vent pipe walls. Whether you’re burning softwoods or hardwoods, make sure the wood is fully dry.
Starting your fire
With a clean and operational fireplace and chimney, it’s time to start your fire. Kindling placed beneath loosely stacked logs is the time-proven way to accomplish this. (Remember – softwoods will ignite faster than hardwoods.) The way not to accomplish this is with lighter fluid or some other flammable substance. Great danger comes with using chemicals to light a fire, a practice that isn’t even necessary.
Marsh’s Stoves & Fireplaces of Toronto stands behind safe fireplace practices. To view a full line of fireplaces and stoves to warm and beautify your home, stop by our showroom at 3322 Dundas Street West. For more information on all of our products, call (416) 762-4582.