Curling up by the fireplace is part of any picturesque winter scene, but only if your chimney and fireplace are in tiptop shape. To keep the cozy fires going safely all winter long, start thinking about your fireplace now with these maintenance tips.
First, make sure to schedule a yearly chimney sweep and inspection. It’s best to hire a professional certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America. Check www.csia.org for a searchable list of professionals in your area. The pros will help remove creosote, a byproduct of burning wood that can cause chimney fires, as well as check for leaks or damages that might have occurred during the dormant summer months. After the sweep, repairs may be necessary. Common issues might include odors, water leaks and damages from animals that might have been calling your chimney home.
A simple chimney cap ($50 or more, depending on materials and size) or screen can prevent unwanted critters 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. Use a wet or dry vacuum with a disposable bag, but make sure the ashes cool for at least four days after a recent use to avoid any live sparks in the vacuum bag.