Fireplaces provide extra warmth during colder months. Whether you use the fireplace as a primary heat source or need to rely on it in case of a power outage, regular maintenance is necessary for safety. Before you light your first fire this season, take the time to prepare your fireplace for use.

Schedule an Inspection to Prepare Your Fireplace for Use

Schedule a chimney inspection at least once a year, in late summer or early fall. A professional inspector will check your chimney’s overall condition and recommend needed repairs. The inspector will look for loose bricks, missing mortar, deterioration, or cracks.

An inspector will also make sure that your chimney is still properly attached to your house. You can then seal any cracks that may lead to water and ice damage. Hire a chimney sweep to remove leaves, animal nests, creosote, and other debris from the chimney.

Cap the Chimney

Get your fireplace ready by checking that the chimney cap is securely attached. The cap helps keep leaves, rain, and pests – like birds and squirrels – out of the chimney. Installing a chimney cap also promotes fire safety by keeping flammable debris out of the flue.

Inspect the Damper to Prepare Your Fireplace for Use

The fireplace damper allows smoke to exit through the chimney. It also regulates the airflow to provide oxygen to the fire. Make sure your damper is working properly and opens and closes completely.

Clean Out the Ash

Remove the ash from your fireplace. An inch of ash provides good insulation for a burning fire, but more than an inch should be shoveled out. Wait for the ash to cool completely before adding it to your compost pile.

Prepare for Winter by Stocking up on Firewood

Stock up on seasoned hardwood that burns longer and hotter compared to pine and other softwood alternatives. Seasoned hardwood won’t produce as much creosote as damp or softwood, helping reduce the risk of a chimney fire. When enjoying a fire, don’t burn painted or treated wood because it will release dangerous fumes into your home.

Maintain Your Gas or Electric Fireplace

If you have a gas-powered fireplace, have a professional inspect the condition of the vents and pilot lights. Replace worn-out burners, logs, and liners. For electric fireplaces, the wiring should be in excellent condition. Generally, both types of fireplaces need regular maintenance and cleaning to remove dust build-up and prevent untimely breakdowns.

Test Smoke Alarms as You Prepare to Use a Fireplace

Before building a fire, make sure your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors are in proper working order. Test your alarms monthly and replace the batteries as needed.

Prepare your fireplace for use during the winter season. Proper maintenance and timely repairs will help prevent dangerous conditions and breakdowns.

RMI Inspection Services provides home inspections to South Florida. Contact us to schedule an appointment.