How to Ensure Your Fireplace is Safe and Clean

Fireplaces are a wonderful asset to any home, but they can also be a dangerous fire hazard if not properly maintained. To ensure that your fireplace is safe and clean, it is recommended that homeowners undergo an annual chimney inspection and regular chimney cleaning. This will remove any accumulated soot, blockages, or creosote from the chimney liner. Most homeowners choose to do a chimney clean every year as well, especially if they use their chimney on a regular basis.

Other ventilation systems connected to ovens and stoves should also be cleaned regularly to maintain safer operation. Fireplace, stove, oven and heating systems are important for the safety of your home and family, and not an area to neglect or reduce expenses. Don't risk the possibility that an undiscovered defect will turn into a costly repair or, worse, a chimney fire. You must have an annual chimney inspection by a reputable chimney sweep organization, such as Petro. Depending on how often you use the fireplace to burn wood, creosote residue will build up in the chimney.

There are many factors that influence the amount of creosote attached to the chimney walls, such as the volume of air flow entering the chimney and the burning of improperly cured wood, that encourage such buildup. Creosote will also accumulate in the chimney if there is unburned wood in the combustion chamber. Both the NFPA and Spisto recommend that a qualified professional clean and inspect your chimney once a year. Carli says that regardless of the type of chimney, you should have them clean the chimney at least once a year. If you have fireplaces that burn oil or wood, Spisto says you should clean them twice a year, depending on the use.

Annual maintenance is recommended, including cleaning and inspection. As with a wood burning installation, gas fireplace chimneys should be inspected and cleaned once a year. It's not so much creosote to worry about, as a bird's nest may need to be removed. This question also depends a lot on how often you use your fireplace or stove. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says: “Chimneys, chimneys, smoke ducts and ventilation systems should be inspected at least once a year for reservoir-free, soundness, and proper spacing. Maintenance, repairs and cleaning will be performed if necessary.

Even if you don't use the fireplace often, raccoons, birds, squirrels, and other animals may use the fireplace as a nesting area. This will make the chimney unsafe to use without removing accumulated pest debris. Wind, rain and snow also drag leaves and branches into unprotected chimney openings. You should inspect and clean the chimney at least once a year, and provided that you have creosote glaze. If you plan to use your fireplace regularly starting in the fall, you should try to have it cleaned in late summer.

During cleaning, most soot and creosote will be removed from the smoke chamber, chimney liner, damper area, and combustion chamber. Homeowners are urged to inspect their chimneys for creosote buildup and clean if necessary in the spring of each year. Have the tools needed for this DIY chimney cleaning project ready before you start; it will save you time and frustration. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), all chimneys should be cleaned at least once a year regardless. Even so, some homeowners continue to ignore this significant risk and don't take appropriate steps when it comes to cleaning their chimneys. Before lighting your fireplace this season, you should do your due diligence and have your chimney properly cleaned and inspected.

An examination by an experienced chimney sweep is the only way to know if your chimney needs cleaning; whether masonry or metal. To do this Spisto recommends keeping the combustion chamber clean; making sure the damper is open before using the chimney; investing in a chimney cap or crown which are designed to prevent debris and even small animals from entering the chimney; and repeating this step with an additional pipe to go further down the chimney until you have cleaned the entire length of it. Fireplaces are a wonderful asset to any home but an annual system cleaning and inspection is essential for preventing them from becoming dangerous fire hazards. The NFPA recommends that all chimneys be cleaned and inspected annually so if you haven't already add your often neglected chimney to your cleaning list.