With the autumnal equinox behind us, fall is finally here, and with it, hopes for cooler weather, fuzzy sweaters, and all the pumpkin spice you can get your hands on. If you've been in a store recently, you've probably seen the signs of the impending holiday season. While many of us are still working on Halloween and Thanksgiving, retailers are happy to remind us that Christmas will be here soon. For many people, this is their favorite season, as the oppressive heat and humidity of summer give way to fresh, cool air and warm, comfortable memories. One of the upcoming joys of fall is the pleasure of sitting by a roaring fire, warming your toes in its flickering glow. But before you light your first fireplace, you must make sure your chimney and fireplace are prepared for fall.
The Benefits of Preparing Your Chimney
Preparing your chimney and fireplace for fall has a number of benefits. First, it is a critical safety measure. Lighting up a fire under a dirty chimney could be a recipe for disaster. But there are other benefits, too. When you have your chimney inspected and cleaned, this is what you get:
- Remove creosote to prevent dangerous fires in your chimney
- Improved air quality in your home
- Keep your home warmer when the fireplace is not in use
- Save energy
- Catch damage before it can get worse
What's Included in Chimney Cleaning
Chimney cleaning includes several critical steps to keep your home and your family safe as you enjoy your cool-season fires.
Perhaps the most critical service your chimney sweep performs is the cleaning and removal of creosote from your chimney. Creosote is a byproduct of burning wood. It is released any time you burn natural wood and builds up on the inside of your chimney as a black, sooty coating. It can be a dark black gummy substance or a hard, flaky substance. Creosote is extremely flammable and burns very hot. It is the substance responsible for horribly destructive chimney fires. If you burn wood in your fireplace, it is crucial that you have the chimney cleaned and creosote removed every year to prevent a dangerous buildup.
Clearing the Chimney
Another important part of chimney cleaning is clearing out any obstructions that may have developed in your chimney. Common obstructions include natural debris like leaves and twigs. Chimney sweeps also find animal obstructions, like nests left by birds or rodents. If these obstructions aren't removed, they could catch fire, lit by a floating ember. The resulting chimney fire could burn down an entire home.
Cap and Cage
In addition to clearing out any debris from the chimney, a chimney inspection will include checking the chimney cap and replacing it, if necessary. The chimney cap prevents rain and large debris from getting into your chimney. For added protection, make sure that you have a screen cage that keeps blowing leaves and small animals from getting it. Your cap and cage also prevent floating embers from escaping your chimney where they could cause a fire on your roof or a neighbor's property.
It is critical to inspect the chimney flue before lighting a fire in the hearth. The flue must be open and clear to allow smoke and gasses to exit out the chimney. If the flue is blocked or doesn't open fully, you could be accumulating dangerous gasses in your home. This is why it is also vital to have at least one working carbon monoxide detector in the same room as your fireplace.
Your chimney sweep will inspect your flue to ensure nothing is blocking it and that it opens and closes properly. While making sure your flue can fully open is critical, it is also important to make sure it can close. If your flue doesn't close completely, cold air and moisture can get into your home, cooling your room and driving up your heating costs.
An essential part of any chimney cleaning and inspection is looking for structural damage. A chimney company, like these TrustDALE certified chimney experts, can find cracks, loose bricks, crumbling mortar, and other problems that could weaken your chimney. Over time, repeated heating and cooling can cause parts of your chimney to weaken or crack, and it is important to fix the damage before it spreads.
Preparing for Your First Fire of the Season
Before you light your first fire, make sure that you have prepared your chimney, your fireplace, and your home. If you've already had your chimney cleaned, you've taken the first step, but there's more to ensuring a safe, healthy fire for you and your family.
The crackling of a real wood fire is music to some people's ears. If you are the lucky owner of a real wood-burning fireplace, make sure that you have the right wood before you light up. If you are cutting your own firewood, always use hardwoods that have dried for at least six months. Never use green wood or soft, resinous species like pine. Green and soft woods create more creosote when they burn, increasing the risk of a chimney fire.
For Gas-Burning Fireplaces
Nothing beats the convenience of a gas-burning fireplace. While they have fewer safety concerns than their wood-burning counterparts, gas-burning fireplaces still require maintenance. Before each season, make sure your check and clean your fireplace's blower. Unlike a heating furnace, most fireplace blowers do not have a filter, so cleaning is extra important. You should also get your entire system cleaned and inspected every other year. Make sure to check the airways for both the main burners and the pilot. Also, if your fireplace uses a remote, take the opportunity before the season begins to check the batteries and swap out any dead batteries in the remote or the receiver.
Prepare Your Home
Make sure that your home is ready for a roaring fireplace. Check the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the rooms near your fireplace. Locate your fire extinguisher and make sure it is fully functional. If you don't have one, get a fire screen. It will prevent burning embers from floating out of the fireplace and landing on anything in your home. Also, if you have pets or children, consider a hearth gate. If you have a gas-burning fireplace with a glass cover, remember that the glass can get up to 400º or more and stay hot for 45 minutes after the fire is turned off. Always make sure that you have some kind of protection to keep people from accidentally touching the hot glass, especially while it is cooling since you have no way of knowing the glass is hot.
Find a Reliable Chimney Service
If you're leaping for joy at the sight of your first falling leaf or breathing a sigh of relief as cool, autumn air hits your face, you're ready. You're ready to get your fireplace up and running, and we don't want to slow you down. Just remember to be safe. Before you light your first fire, you need to find a reliable chimney service to clean, inspect, and give you the go-ahead to safely start the official fireplace season. Try one of these TrustDALE certified chimney and fireplace experts, and enjoy!