FIREPLACE MAINTENANCE, 6 EASY TIPS FROM A CHIMNEY PROFESSIONAL

Fireplace maintenance is very important and there are 6 things you can do each year, 1. Inspect your firebox, 2. Check your Carbon Monoxide detector and Smoke Alarms, 3. Clean fireplace brick and stone, 4. Visually inspect your chimney for problems 5. Clean fireplace glass doors 6. Hire a professional chimney sweep.

Why is Fireplace Maintenance important?

For most people that own a house with a wood-burning fireplace, it is a focal point in the room, it’s what keeps you warm in the winter and gives you and your family hours of enjoyment and a great spot to entertain friends.

Like everything that gets used you need to do regular maintenance to keep it functioning properly, and by doing regular fireplace maintenance you can prolong your fireplace’s life span dramatically.

Now it is true that your fireplace doesn’t have a motor like a car or even many moving parts, but they do receive a lot of heating and cooling over the years causing your fireplace to expand and contract, also on the outside it has to put up with all the elements of weather like sun, rain and temperature changes that can all affect the brick or metal chimney,

To help ensure that your fireplace continues to provide comfort for years to come, consider some best practices for fireplace maintenance.

1. Inspect and clean your firebox

Having a fireplace that looks great is very important with it almost always being the focal point in a room, so what can you do to improve on that? seeing how you are burning wood in your fireplace causes a lot of extra byproducts to be left behind like ashes, and if those ashes are left in the fireplace during the summer months when it is not being used they can start to smell and cause unwanted odors all through the house

Fireplace firebox visual inspection
When doing a visual inspection of your firebox look for cracks in the brick or panels where heat could transfer

So cleaning the interior of your fireplace is very important and will make a big difference aesthetically.

This is definitely DIY fireplace maintenance, and to do this you will need only a few basic tools:

  • Broom head or brush
  • Gloves
  • goggles or protective glasses
  • vacuum preferably a shop vac style vacuum
  • 5-gallon pail preferably metal
  • a small garden shovel or scoop
  • dustpan
  • a headlamp or trouble light

Tips: so one tip I would like to share with you is when scooping out your ashes from the firebox don’t vacuum them up because they are so fine that they can damage your vacuum filters and motor, but what you can do to keep the dust level down is have it running with the vacuum hose on the hearth facing the fireplace, this will help reduce any ashes that get in the air.

Don’t be afraid to slowly brush any ashes down that are accumulated on the back wall of your fireplace, do this before scooping any ashes out. If you have a garden don’t throw those ashes away because you can use them in your garden as a fertilizer.

cleaning the ashes out of your fireplace is one of the more important things you can do in fireplace maintenance

For more information on how to use fireplace ashes, take a look at my post on FIREPLACE ASHES, 16 GREAT WAYS TO DISPOSE OF THEM

2. Check your Carbon Monoxide detectors and Smoke Alarms

So it is true a fireplace can be very enjoyable but having one also comes along with responsibility, although most fireplaces are very safe to use they can be dangerous if not taken care of or used properly,

Now because carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless this makes it very hard to detect, and if it is lingering around your home it could possibly be causing harm to your family or others.

This hazard can be caused by many things in your home including a chimney or fireplace that is not proportioned and is causing smoke to puff into the room, a dirty chimney and many other things can cause this, and if you don’t have carbon monoxide detectors or smoke alarms that could go unnoticed.

So to have peace of mind and safety in your home have carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms installed in your home if you don’t already have them, and if you do have smoke alarms take a look at the back of one to see what the expiration of the unit if it is overdue then it needs replacing, these are needed in each different room so you will need more than one, this is not direct fireplace maintenance but it is a very important safety factor and it will tell you if your fireplace is working properly

Check out this great video on how to replace your smoke detectors if they are expired

3. How to clean fireplace brick and stone

Fireplaces sometimes have the tendency to get dirty on the outside face with soot and creosote and this generally happens when the fireplace has an internal problem, possibly with the damper or the flue being dirty among other things.

Seeing how most fireplaces are built with brick, stone, or cultured stone these materials tend to be rough and the soot and smoke cling to them easy, the problem with this is it becomes very hard to clean them especially if you want to use a natural cleaning method, there are many chemical cleaning agents and if not applied right they can make your fireplace look even worse and they are also very dangerous to use like acid, I would never recommend using a chemical cleaner unless you have experience in using them so instead I’d like to recommend some simple natural cleaning agents to clean fireplace brick and stone.

Fireplace maintenance brick smoke stains
An important part of fireplace maintenance is cleaning any smoke stains that can accumulate on the brick or stone

It is true these methods can take a little longer to work and also require for the most part a little more elbow grease, but you won’t have to worry about damaging anything or harming yourself.

So let’s take a look a few easy methods that you can try if you have smoke stains on your brick fireplace or stone fireplace

Tips: two natural ways you can clean soot and creosote from brick and stone

  1. Dish detergent: clean fireplace bricks or stone with dishwashing detergents like dawn or dove, try wetting the bricks first with a spray bottle of waters and then with dish detergent mixed in a pail you can use a rag or sponge to rub it in, creosote, and soot are oily and the grease-cutting agents in dish detergent are effective at lifting them, you will need to use some good old elbow grease also to help with the prosses, if it doesn’t all come off you can try the prosses again.

2. Vinegar: You can use distilled white vinegar as another option, it being acidic it can lift stains and eat away at creosote or soot stains, If you decide to use vinegar just mix it equal parts with warm water and rub it into the stains let it sit a few minutes and wipe away then repeat the prosses as many times as you need to.

4. Visually inspect your chimney for problems

Any homeowner can do their own visual inspection of their chimney and its important to do one each year to avoid problems or safety hazards, and in this way doing your own DIY fireplace maintenance at the same time

First: take a lookup inside your chimney with a flashlight look up and try and see if there are any cracks in the brick or clay flue tiles if you have a masonry fireplace, if you have a metal chimney look for what is called buckling, this looks almost like a dent that is forced inward or almost like a wrinkle in the metal.

Second: you should take a look at your damper that it is not warped and is moving freely, if you move your damper and you see soot fall you’re probably overdue for a chimney sweep.

Fireplace maintenance visual chimney inspection
Fireplace maintenance visual chimney inspections are important, as you can see this chimney has a cracked clay tile and loose bricks that are a safety hazard

Third: Check your fire brick in the firebox to see if there are any cracks or broken pieces, and if you have a factory-built fireplace you will have refractory panels that simulate brick, visually inspect them to see if they are not cracked or broken.

Forth: do a visual inspection of the outside of your chimney to look for cracks and broken brick, if your chimney is metal look for rust on the chimney or broken brace poles in the roof, make sure it has a rain cap to keep out the rain and animal.

If your fireplace or chimney has anything out of place then don’t hesitate to call your local chimney sweep and ask for an inspection because it is possible you have had a chimney fire.

To find out more take a look at my post on A CHIMNEY FIRE, 3 IMPORTANT THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW

5. Clean fireplace glass doors

Cleaning your fireplace glass doors really makes a big difference and to me is a big part of fireplace maintenance, making an impact on how your fireplace looks especially in the offseason and there is a natural and very effective way to clean them.

Fireplace maintenance glass doors
Cleaning your glass doors with ash is an easy DIY project that contributes to fireplace maintenance

Tip: All you need to do is take some of the fine ash that is in the fireplace put it in a dish with enough water to make a paste and just rub it in the creosote stains on the glass, this will remove them with ease and when you finish just wipe it away and rinse with some Windex and paper towel.

6. Hire a professional chimney sweep

Hiring a professional chimney sweep is the most important thing you can do for fireplace maintenance, everyone asks me how often they should have their chimney swept? and my answer is always the same, for proper fireplace maintenance and safety you should have your chimney cleaned and inspected at least once a year and if you burn a lot of wood each year then you may need to have it done more often.

A proper cleaning each year will give you peace of mind that everything is working well and that you will be able to avoid a possible chimney fire because of creosote buildup, so you can see why this is the most important part of fireplace maintenance.

Fireplace maintenance conclusion

I really hope that some if not all of these tips can come in handy for you as a homeowner and please don’t take fireplace maintenance lightly and you will be able to enjoy your fireplace for years to come.

If you thought this post was informative please leave a comment and if you would like more fireplace tips and ideas please subscribe to my newsletter, thank you for reading

2 Comments

  1. My sister’s fireplace is already cracked, and that is why she has decided to start looking for repair service. Well, you made a pretty good point that it would be smarter to have the ashes removed regularly. Thank you for sharing here as well the importance of using the right chemical cleaner.

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