How to Winterize a Fireplace

As we head into the coldest months of the year, it’s time to get your fireplace up and running for the busy season. There’s nothing like huddling around your mantle as you enjoy a crackling fire in the comfort of your home. But if not cared for properly, your fireplace can turn those soothing evenings into a fire hazard. Fireplaces require regular upkeep, whether it pertains to masonry fireplaces, wood burning fireplaces, or any other kind.

While fireplaces are excellent for people who want to conserve energy during cold weather, if not properly maintained, they can have the opposite effect, bringing air leaks and cold drafts right into the home. If it’s been a while since you’ve inspected your fireplace, you might want to think twice before lighting up your living room this winter. Use these tips to pull your winter fireplace out of retirement.

Hire a Professional Chimney Sweep

The chimney lets air and smoke flow freely out of your house. If there’s anything blocking or trapping air in your chimney, your entire house will fill up with smoke. Unless you know your way around your chimney, it’s best to hire a professional chimney sweep to clear away any debris. You’ll also want to hire a professional to remove a chimney balloon if you have one installed. (A chimney balloon is used to control the flow of cold air and cold drafts.) If you hire a fireplace professional, you can also ask them to inspect the unit for damage, including the foundation, damper, flue, and other potential problem areas.

Clean Out the Firebox

Cleaning out the firebox should be a part of every fireplace owner’s routine. If you haven’t cleaned out the soot, ash and burnt kindling sitting in your firebox in a while, you’ll need to take care of that before you start a fire. You can keep the ash contained by sprinkling a little water on the firebox before you start sweeping.

This is also a perfect time to check the function of any glass fireplace doors or grates. This is especially true if it’s been quite a while since you’ve installed glass doors or have had anyone check the integrity and function of them.

Inspect the Damper and Flue

The flue controls the opening to the chimney, while the fireplace damper allows you to quickly adjust the strength of your fire. Make sure that the flue and damper open and close properly. You can use a mirror and a flashlight to see what’s happening up the chimney. Be sure to wear protective eyewear any time you take a look upwards!

If you notice any problems, you can try cleaning the damper or the switch that controls the flue. These parts tend to rust or get stuck after a while, so you’ll want to keep an eye on them throughout the season. Be sure you can see all the way to the top of the chimney during your inspection; if you can’t, call a professional.

Test All Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Alarms

Make sure that all the smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in your home are working properly. They should have a full battery as you head into winter. It’s recommended that you have an alarm fairly close to your fireplace, in addition to having alarms in various rooms throughout the house on all levels – especially if there are any areas in which smoke tends to build up.

Cap Off Your Chimney

As a final touch, inspect the cap on your chimney. If you’re unable to get up on your roof, a professional will be more than happy to do a quick, thorough inspection for you for little cost. If you live in a heavily wooded area, animals can crawl their way inside the opening and wreak havoc on your home. Tree limbs and debris can also slip inside if your chimney isn’t properly covered. Have the cap inspected every autumn; just because it was in good condition last year does not necessarily mean it’s in good shape this year!

Don’t take a chance with your fireplace. Be a responsible homeowner and make sure that your winter fireplace has met all the necessary safety requirements before you light a fire.

Come to BT Architectural Stone and browse our selection of elegant stone fireplace mantels. Contact us today and we’ll help you create the perfect addition for your home.