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Fireplace Safety and Maintenance

wodo fire in a cozy hearthWith winter firmly entrenched over Pennsylvania, many of us look forward to curling up in front of a warm fireplace to take off the chill. Wood-burning fireplaces, especially, conjure a rustic ambiance with the snap and pop of logs in the hearth, the smell of wood-smoke permeating the air outside. To help keep your wood-burning fireplace in top working order, we’ve rounded up the following tips and safety guidelines:

Have your fireplace inspected and cleaned by a professional chimney sweep at least once a year, or after approximately eighty fires. Always monitor use and look for any problems, including creosote buildup. Creosote is a dark or black substance that accumulates on the interior chimney walls when wood doesn’t burn properly. Soot, softer than creosote, but equally flammable, may also build up on the walls. Check for both and clean as needed.

When choosing wood, look for seasoned wood. For hardwoods, this usually means the wood was split over a year ago. This ensures the wood burns cleanly and produces the least amount of creosote buildup. Some people habitually purchase this year’s wood for next year, guaranteeing it is properly seasoned before burning.

living room setting with wood burning fire in hearthRemember that fireplace coals can remain hot for up to three days after a fire has been extinguished. Wait at least that long before removing the ashes. Clean the firebox (the area where the fire burns) once a week during use as ash accumulates. For insulation, leave approximately an inch of ash, which will allow the coals to heat faster. During those months when the fireplace is not used, the firebox should be kept clean and free of ash.

When cleaning, wear a dust mask and gloves. It also helps to open the damper, allowing airborne ash to be drawn up the chimney rather than into a room. Opening a window in the same room will prevent negative air pressure. And finally, to prevent unwelcome visitors in the night (such as squirrels, birds and bats), check the chimney cap and replace when necessary. This will also prevent debris from blocking the chimney, causing carbon monoxide backup.

Soaking in the warmth of a fireplace is one of winter’s most appealing indoor treats, so break out the cocoa and marshmallows and enjoy your time hearthside!

Candy Ortenzio
Executive Administrator
Brownstone Real Estate