The majority of us forget about the fireplace as soon as the summer has arrived, but watch out, you will not want any unpleasant surprise when the hot sunny days are gone and the winter has come. During the summer, when the fireplace is not used, is always a good idea to check the status of the fireplace, for safety or to prevent performing reparation tasks during the cold season when it is needed and the conditions make harder the completion of the work.
Poorly maintained fireplaces can be dangerous for the occupants of the house, and they can lead to fires or potentially deadly leaks of combustion gases like carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides, this gases can leak through the walls or can invade the house because of clogging or damper malfunctions.
This is a basic checklist of things to do when the fireplace is not in use that will prevent any issue when the time of use has come.
1. Clean the Ashes and Any Wood Remains
Not only will make the fireplace clean and tidy for the next use, but will reduce the risk of fire. For this, remove the excess of ashes with a shovel and next use a vacuum for the remains, to clean it deeper you can use a mix of water and household cleaner and clean everything with a sponge. Also check places where sooty materials can gather, and clean them.
2. Get a Chimney Cap Installed
This is useful to avoid any animal or bug to find inviting living in your fireplace, also will prevent the leaves to enter and clog during the autumn season.
3. Check the Air Quality
The smoke generated by burning wood or any fuel can pollute the air inside the house with hazardous gases. You can have the chimney tested for leaks with the help of smoke pellets and if there sign of leaks it should be fixed before the fireplace is used again. It would be helpful having CO alarm to detect any gas problem, not only from the fireplace, also of other appliances that can have carbon monoxide leaks.
4. Schedule a Sweeping
Having an expert cleaning and checking everything is alright with the fireplace is the best way to know if there is any problem with the structure, smoke problems, clogging or anything else, it should be done ideally once or twice a year, at any point in time before the arrival of the winter. This way also you have enough time to perform reparations of tiles, cracks, restoration of cast iron, and the fireplace will be clean, good looking, and will work more efficiently and it is not an expensive price compared to having to repair the results of neglecting or even worse, having to rebuild or replace the whole thing. Look for a sweep that is registered in the NACS (National Association of Chimney Sweeps).
5. Do Any Needed Repair
For an optimal and safe operation of your wood burning fireplace, it is necessary to fix any unsolved issue with the heart of your house, also in the summer the weather conditions will allow to accomplish any work faster and without problems and setbacks, especially important if there are major structural repairs to be done.
When you are preparing for the winter make sure your logs are kept dry and clean and that they are seasonal, otherwise there will be more sooty deposits when you use it, making the maintenance harder due to the creosote and the sweep necessity will increase, also dry wood is more efficient and will avoid the appearance of black smoke.
The United Kingdom’s Clean Air Act states it is an offence to emit smoke from a chimney of a building and you could have a fine up to £1,000, the only way to avoid this is with a clean and properly maintained fireplace.
So – do not forget about the fireplace, keeping it in good condition should be an essential part of the house maintenance. It would be really annoying if the winter surprised you with a badly maintained fireplace that will not be warm enough and maybe will break down the last minute, better get it ready for warm and cosy nights in front of it.