I can’t believe it’s August already! We’ll be having Labor Day cookouts soon, and then, before you know it, it’ll be fireplace season. Winter happens every year, but it somehow always manages to sneak up on most of us. With that in mind, here’s a brief “fireplace checklist” to help you make sure you’re ready for that first chilly evening:
- Annual chimney cleaning. The Chimney Sweep Institute of America recommends having your chimney cleaned and inspected once a year by a certified technician. If you use your wood stove, fireplace, or insert only a few times a season, you may only need to have your chimney cleaned every couple of years; if you use it almost daily during the season, you may need to get it cleaned more often, sometimes multiple times over the course of a winter. If you have a gas-burning appliance, we also recommend having it cleaned and inspected by a certified technician once a year. Note: our fall schedule is already filling up, so fill out our online service form and avoid the weeks-long wait time during our busiest season.
- Check your firewood supply. Using properly seasoned firewood is CRITICALLY important. In short, it is the difference between failure and success at heating your home with a high efficiency wood-burning appliance. Seasoned firewood is firewood that has been cut, split and stacked in a way that air can circulate around the wood (cross hatch pattern, covered loosely and open on the sides) for one year or more. A moisture content between 15 and 20% is ideal; a moisture meter will tell you if your wood is ready to burn, or if you need to let it dry out for a while longer. Before getting a firewood delivery (for those of us not lucky enough to live on several acres of timber), read some reviews of suppliers in your area; tree removal and service companies often split and sell the trees they take down, reducing the strain on forests and tree lots.
- The pictures to the right show a significant buildup of creosote, which is usually the result of burning improperly seasoned firewood. Wet wood makes for a colder, smokier fire, and that smokes condenses on the inside of your chimney as creosote (the shiny picture is actually creosote which has hardened into a glass-like substance. It’s pretty, but very dangerous). These large buildups of creosote, at the very least, can make your chimney draft less effectively, and at worst, are very prone to catching fire.
- Hearth tools. Do you have everything you need for maintenance of your fire and appliance? If you need thermometers, fireplace gloves, hearth protector pads, (metal) ash buckets, or anything else, make sure you have it before you need it. There’s nothing more annoying than gathering around the fireplace for a nice warming fire, then realizing that you don’t have fireplace gloves or a metal bucket for wood ash.
Winter is coming, and with it, the joy of a hearth fire. With just a little bit of planning, you can be ready to “bask in the warmth” this fireplace season!