Nothing is more pleasing when the temperature drops than the soft amber blaze of a crackling fire. But before you light up that firewood, there are numerous steps you need to take to get your fireplace ready, and for excellent reason. Prepping your fireplace for fall can:

  • Improve the air quality in your house
  • Avert fires
  • Save energy
  • Keep your home warm

Chimney preparation steps are given below:

Arrange a Yearly Inspection

All chimneys should be examined and cleaned by a chimney cleaning company at least once a year. A careful cleaning will eliminate any buildup of creosote, an oily and extremely flammable byproduct of burning wood, gives you a safer fireplace.

Clean the Firebox

Eliminate and clean the grate and other accessories that are inside the firebox. Vacuum or remove the ash and store it in a metal container with a sealed lid. There are several ways you can recycle the ash. You can use it in your backyard as a fertilizer, to dissolve ice, and even clean the fireplace doors, for example. Be sure to keep a small amount of ash. It will help with starting your initial fire of the season.

Check for Cracks and Damage

Check for cracks and wobbly joints of the firebricks inside the fireplace, and check the external masonry for damage. Hire an expert mason to do any repairs—never try to repair firebrick with ordinary mortar, as the blend cannot stand up to high heat.

Examine the Chimney Cap and Damper

Ensure the fireplace damper is working accurately and that there is no wreckage preventing it from opening and closing. Make sure that the chimney cap is firmly attached and in good condition. The cap should comprise protective screening to keep birds, squirrels, and other pests from entering the chimney.

Clear Away Tree Limbs

While you are outside examining the chimney cap, trim any overhanging tree limbs that may be squeezing on the chimney. Tree limbs can restrict the proper draft of the chimney and spoil the cap.

Clear Out Ashes

Clean out the firebox once in a week, or whenever the ash is more than an inch deep. Coals can stay hot for up to three days, so ensure everything is completely cold. Remove or vacuum the cold ashes and dispose it outside—wood ashes are just right for garden beds and compost piles.

How to Prep a Gas-Burning Fireplace

Clean the blower

Check your gas-burning fireplace to see if it has a blower. If it does, clean it. Distinct from furnace blowers, the blowers of gas-burning fireplaces do not have a filtering system to stop buildup. Dust buildup can cause early wearing of the bearings. Dust can insulate the motor, which prevents it from cooling correctly, eventually leading to motor failure.

Replace batteries

Before every season, change the batteries in any remote transmitters and receivers, if appropriate. Also, replace the batteries and examine any smoke or carbon monoxide detectors to ensure they are working properly.

chimney inspection, chimney sweep appointment,

If you’ve never had your chimney inspected, you might be wondering what exactly happens when the inspector comes. Annual inspections and chimney cleanings are recommended for safe fireplace burning. You’ll want to get it done between your last fireplace usage last year and your first fire this winter to ensure that it’s in good working condition.

At your scheduled chimney inspection, your chimney sweep will likely use a special camera to look inside the system, affording them a better view of what’s going on where your fire and smoke travel.

Here’s what they’ll look for:

1.     Structural Elements and Flue

The chimney sweep will first look at the exterior and interior of the fireplace and chimney, looking for any problems of wear and tear, including the fireplace, chimney, flue and hearth. These structural elements can affect whether your chimney stays standing after earthquakes or severe weather.

2.     Combustibles are Secured

They’ll also look at the structure of the chimney. This is to be sure that combustibles can’t contact any other building materials, which would be a fire hazard. Your fire should stay within a completely secure firebox area. The risk of slow-burning fire within your walls is something to take very seriously.

3.     Obstructions

Your chimney sweep will look for any obstructions. These could possibly block the venting of smoke, combustible byproducts and gas, such as animal nests, leaves and other debris. An obstruction could cause these gasses to build up dangerously inside your home instead of leaving like they should.

4.     Volume and Kind of Combustible Deposits

A chimney sweep will look at the volume and nature of any combustible deposits building up on the walls of the chimney to see if they pose a danger. Creosote can ignite within your chimney or flue and is highly flammable.

To see what a chimney sweep inspection looks like using a camera like we use here at Irish Sweep, watch this video:


fireplace chimney cleaning, chimney sweep, fire safety

 

Chimneys need to be swept to remove residue that can block the flue and prevent proper drafting. This also removes flammable deposits which can cause a chimney fire. All types of appliances which burn fuel and vent to the outdoors should be inspected annually and cleaned when needed.

Plenty of homeowners assume they don’t have to clean their chimneys out if they don’t use them. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work out that way. If you don’t use your chimney, nature will. If you infrequently use your chimney, it can start to look like a great place for a nest to birds, squirrels, or raccoons. Their nesting debris, along with any sticks or leaves blown in, need to be removed to ensure that your chimney isn’t a fire hazard. Have a professional inspect and sweep your chimney to make sure it’s safe.

Have chimneys cleaned at least once a year, usually before cold weather sets in. Scheduling a fall cleaning will also clear out anything that might have fallen into the chimney during the summer.

Signs you need a fireplace chimney cleaning even if you haven’t been using your fireplace:

 

Strong Odors

If you had strong odors coming from your chimney the last time you used it, you probably have an issue with your chimney. Fires should produce a pleasant odor from the burning wood rather than from the soot that is stuck within your chimney. A drafting problem can easily cause smoke to gather in your home rather than going up through the chimney. Avoid smoke damage by paying attention to strong smells when burning a fire.

Creosote Build Up in Fireplaces

Creosote is a flammable substance that builds up in fireplaces and needs regular cleaning to prevent chimney fires. If the last time you had your chimney cleaned was before the previous burning season, then you have creosote in your chimney. Especially if you haven’t had the chimney cleaned since moving into a new place, you can’t know how much creosote is in there, waiting to light at the next fire. The only safe choice is to start a new fall/winter season with a clean chimney.

Hearing Animals Inside

Chimneys that are not in use are warm, dry places for animals and birds to call home. Chimneys are notorious for hiding birds nesting spots, and this can be a safety hazard. Nests can block the exit point of a chimney and cause smoke to back up into your home. Nests can also cause a fire on top of your home. If you hear animals or birds inside your wall or chimney you’ll need help clearing them out.

A Year Has Passed Since Your Last Cleaning

As we noted above, you don’t know who’s been nesting in there, or what’s fallen or blown in from the outdoors. That alone creates enough risk to have a fireplace chimney cleaning before you start using your fireplace again.

Look for a chimney sweep credentialed by the National Chimney Sweep Guild or the Chimney Safety Institute of America, like the Irish Sweep.

Annual cleaning and inspections are very important to the safe and efficient operation of your home’s fireplace. The chimney sweeping process averages 45 minutes to one hour.

Many older homes have fireplaces that hearken back to a time when fire was relied on as a major heating source. However, with the advent of central heating, your fireplace may no longer be in use, and be kept for decoration and pleasure. Fireplaces make a great centerpiece for a room, making it look more classic and even stately. Fireplaces are becoming standard features even in areas of the country with warm climates, where a fire is not even practical.

Many people never use their fireplaces because there’s no need or because they don’t really like fires. You may think that if you never use your fireplace, you can get away with never having it cleaned or having chimney maintenance. There are many reasons you still need to have your fireplace serviced.

 

Chimney Maintenance Protects a Whole Home

 

If your fireplace is powered by gas or oil, then it is connected to the larger systems in your home. A malfunction in your fireplace, if left unnoticed, could have greater repercussions on the functioning of your central heating, water heater, and stove. These are resources and appliances that you likely do use every day. Having your fireplace regularly maintained helps catch problems before they grow into something worse and harder to address.

Your gas burning fireplace chimney is also connected to the exhaust venting for your whole-home. This is the path that toxic gases and by-products (such as dangerous carbon monoxide) leave the home. If there is a blockage, these things can’t exit, which is very dangerous.

 

Keeps the Chimney Clear

 

You may know that when you have a wood-burning fireplace that you use, the chimney can become coated with creosote. Oil-fueled fireplaces can also generate soot. These substances can become dangerous and flammable when they build up in the chimney, risking a fire if left unattended.

Now, you may be thinking that if you don’t use your fireplace there’s no reason to have that chimney cleaned. After all, there is no soot or creosote built up and no risk of fire. However, with the use of other oil-fueled appliances, soot can build up in the chimney system, which needs to be cleaned. Left unchecked, that soot build-up can lead to flue deterioration or cause blockages that prevent fumes from exiting.

Many more things than creosote can enter and block your wood-burning chimney. Leaves and debris can blow into the chimney opening and create a block. Insects and rodents can also enter and set up nests. This is even more likely when the chimney is not frequently used. Their nests block the chimney and they may leave behind materials that over time decay and cause a foul odor.

 

Maintains Chimney Structure

 

Even when you don’t use your fireplace, the structure of the chimney is there, extending to the exterior of your home and exposed to the elements. Weather events such as storms, drought, and earthquakes can all effect the structural integrity of your chimney. It is important to have your chimney inspected, maintained, and repaired when damage occurs, to protect your entire home structure from chimney collapse.

There are many reasons to have fireplace and chimney maintenance, even if you don’t regularly use your fireplace. Consulting with a professional fireplace maintenance company can be helpful. A professional chimney sweep company can even put you on a cleaning schedule, according to their safety recommendations, so you will be assured regular cleaning and maintenance, without needing to keep track of it yourself.

 

As winter approaches, you may be looking forward to cozy days around the fire. If you are lucky enough to have a wood burning fireplace, it can be easy to neglect through most of the year up until time to set up that first winter fire. Wood burning fireplaces do require chimney cleaning, inspections, and maintenance. Now you may be wondering, why should I have my chimney cleaned and when?

Advantages of Regular Chimney Cleaning

As wood burns in your fireplace it releases smoke and ash, and over time, creosote can build up. If you have not heard of creosote, it is a flammable substance that builds up like a glaze, coating the interior of your chimney. Creosote needs to be removed regularly so it doesn’t build up and prevent the flow of smoke leaving the chimney. Also, because creosote is flammable, it needs to be removed to prevent chimney fires.

You should have your chimney inspected at least yearly and cleaned as needed. If you recently purchased a home, have the chimney inspected before using the fireplace. Regular maintenance and cleaning help to prevent larger problems and more expensive repairs. Having your chimney inspected, cleaned, and maintained each year will help keep your home and family safe.

When professionals clean your chimney, they remove soot and dangerous creosote built up on the interior. They will also check for any blockages, which could cause smoke to build up in your home if not removed. A professional will make sure everything is in working order for safe and effective operation.

chimney cleaning, the right time to clean your chimney, get your chimney swept.Advantages of Spring or Early Summer Chimney Cleaning

Some say that spring is the best time to have your chimney inspected and cleaned. This is because winter weather might have damaged the masonry, which you would want to catch and repair right away during warm summer months. Additionally, a spring cleaning will get you ready for fall and winter fires, well ahead of the peak cleaning season, so you can avoid waitlists and have it done quickly.

Advantages of Late Summer or Fall Cleaning for your Chimney

Others would argue that fall is the better time to have your chimney cleaned. This is because when your fireplace has not been used in a while, such as during the spring and summer months, pests can enter and set up their homes. Rodents and birds can build nests that clog the chimney. This could be dangerous as smoke is then unable to flow through, and additional creosote could build up, increasing flammability.

Contracting a chimney cleaning company that will provide regular inspections and cleaning is your easiest option. They will remind you when it is time for your inspections. Given the advantage of both spring and fall cleanings, you may opt to have them both in order to maintain your fireplace if you use it often. During inspections, the professionals will look for any problems, clean as needed, and perform or recommend necessary maintenance on your chimney. This can all help to prevent more serious operational issues and maintain a healthy, efficient function of your fireplace all year round.