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.

fireplace insert, fireplace inserts, heat reflector, heat reflectors

Did you know that there are products that actually maximize useful heat from gas and wood fires, while reducing the amount of fuel needed to heat your home with fire? Many don’t know about heat reflectors for the fireplace, so they accept the efficiency they’re accustomed to. Yet fireplace heat reflectors are a great investment! They not only maximize heat reflected into the home, but they also protect your firebox from any potential heat damage.

If you have a brick and mortar fireplace, it’s susceptible due to the constant cooling and heating from fires. Because of this, fireplaces will crack and shrink over time. Using a fireplace heat reflector or “fireback” will decrease how much heat is absorbed by the back wall of the fireplace, translating to less damage in the long run.

How To Install A Heat Reflector

Installing a heat reflector is fairly easy, and many chimney care companies will do it for you. You’ll want to first measure the back of the wall of the fireplace in inches, and measure the grate where logs rest. A heat reflector is made using a non-combustible metal and features feet that allow it to stand. Measuring your wall will ensure that the grate will either fit in front of or slightly under the reflector.

Once you have the measurements, you know what size heat reflector to get. At home, remove the fire grate and place the reflector at the back of the clean firebox. Do make sure to read the directions that came with the reflector. You’ll want to make sure that the reflector is upright and that it’s stable. When that looks right, replace the fireplace grate and then use your fireplace as normal. You’ll find yourself with a noticeably cozier fire.

Sometimes low tech solutions reap great benefits. If you haven’t invested in a heat reflecting fireback yet, ask us about them at the Irish Sweep.

earthquake preparedness, earthquake safety planning

Earthquake preparedness is a Californian duty. We don’t know when earthquakes will happen, but we do know we live in an area where they do happen with some regularity.

It’s easy to let years slip by since the last time you evaluated your earthquake kit. Or maybe you don’t have one? Some things to consider about earthquake kits is that they are not evacuation bags or “bug out bags”. You can assume that in an Earthquake you can stay in your home, or at least not have to go far. What you need to plan for is possibly long periods of time without electricity, and possibly without working plumbing or natural gas, as sewage systems may be damaged, or gas may be turned off for safety.

 

Here’s what you should consider for earthquake preparedness:

Fresh Water

Store enough unopened jugs of water for about a gallon per person per day according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Three days is usually considered generous. Don’t forget, we don’t just drink water, we cook with it, wash dishes and ourselve with it, and more. Even though bottled water generally has a one to two year expiration date on the package, there’s no reason for it to become unusable unless the package is opened or damaged. Do not drink distilled water unless there is no other option, and not for long periods. Purified, filtered or spring water is fine.

Food Supplies

Having fresh food it the refrigerator does you no good when the fridge has no power. For the special occasion of feeding your family after a sizeable earthquake, you’ll want to have non-perishable food set aside. You can pack cans of tuna and boxes of crackers, but you’ll likely be happier with dehydrated meals that can be rehydrated. They tend to taste a lot better than the dry goods and canned meats.

First Aid Kit

A well-stocked first aid kit can be bought in many stores, and the pre-stocked variety like this works just fine. No need to put together your own selection of bandages and medications. When selecting your first aid kit, do consider how many people it needs to serve. And make sure to periodically remove expired items and replace them with fresh ones.

Lighting

After an earthquake, power is often out. Flashlights or headlamps for everyone in the home, plus one lantern is usually a good amount of lighting. Even if you only spend one night without electricity, it’s hard to enjoy your evening in a completely dark home.

A Radio

Either a transistor radio or a hand-crank powered radio is a good choice. In an emergency, your internet router will likely be down, and the radio is a reliable way to access news and information. This can help you know where to get supplies if needed, prepare for the weather, or know how when to expect power to come back on.

Extra Batteries

Extra batteries will serve you well, but don’t just put aside an hodge-podge of options. Choose the specific type of batteries needed for each other item in your Earthquake Kit: your radio, headlamps, lantern, flashlights, and anything else in the group. Have a larger amount of the batteries you expect to go through fastest.

Structural Safety

Chimneys that are either known to be damaged, or whose structural integrity is unknown, are dangerous in an earthquake. This is because they can fall and hurt or kill people either indoors or outdoors. Don’t take this risk, have your chimney inspected by a professional with a camera to view its interior. If structural flaws are found, reduce risk by having them repaired immediately.

Family Plan

This is extremely useful in earthquakes as well as other emergencies. To create your family plan, gather everyone who lives with you and agree on what you’ll do after an emergency. This should include when, where, or how to meet up if you’re not together. Also who’s responsible for accounting for pets or young kids, who’s going to check on older relatives near by, or anything else. A great start is declaring a physical place to meet in an emergency that is outdoors and not under power lines or tall buildings.

With the right preparation, the hours and days after a large earthquake can be safe and even organized. You’ll be glad you had taken steps to create order and minimize risk in advance.

September 30 – October 6 is
Chimney Safety Week

In the spirit of the Chimney Safety Institute of America’s mission to advance public awareness while educating and certifying industry professionals, National Chimney Safety Week was created to specify a week of outreach and education to the public about chimney and venting safety. Celebrate by scheduling your chimney inspection and cleaning today!