Keeping the Flame Alive

IMG_3907Although Valentine’s Day is approaching, this article won’t be covering relationship tips. I’m talking about the fireplace. If you’re still lighting your fire with matches, kindling, and wood, make sure your chimney is in tiptop shape (so you can properly celebrate with your Valentine).

Curling up by the fireplace is part of any picturesque Valentine’s Day scene, but only if your chimney and fireplace are properly maintained. First, make sure to schedule a yearly chimney sweep and inspection. The Chimney Safety Institute of America provides a well-stocked FAQ and list of credentialed professionals around the country. A professional will help remove creosote, a byproduct of burning wood that can cause chimney fires, and will check for leaks or damages.

After the sweep, repairs may be necessary. Common issues include odors, water leaks, and damages from animals (ever had a raccoon stuck in your chimney?!). A simple chimney cap or screen can prevent unwanted critters from “visiting” and protect your chimney from damaging elements.

In between checkups, consider cleaning the firebox (where the wood burns) at least once a week when the fireplace is in use to prevent ash buildup. You can use a wet or dry vacuum with a disposable bag (after ashes cool for at least four days), but – even better – save them for those tomato plants you’ll be planting this summer! Want more tips on reusing fireplace ashes? This Old House has a great list. 

In 2013, I replaced my 1955 wood-burning fireplaces with new gas inserts. Need a recommendation for a contractor? Check out Mr. Roger’s Recommendations.

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