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Fireplaces fill a home with warmth and comfort and quickly become the favorite area of the house. Using your fireplace during the winter months can save money on heat and keep your whole family nice and warm. There is nothing quite as cozy as curling up in front of the fireplace with a warm cup of cocoa.
With the changing seasons comes thoughts of maintenance items to keep your house in perfect shape all winter. Your fireplace is one area that requires annual maintenance so it will be safe to use during the colder months. Generally, it is best to perform these items during the spring and summer before you need it.
Regardless of what type of fireplace you have, they all require different levels of maintenance as well as a safety check at least once a year. These tips should keep your fireplace in great shape all year round and ready to fire up the moment winter hits.
Regular Maintenance for Your Masonry Fireplace
If you have a wood-burning masonry fireplace, this type will require the most maintenance, but it is cheap and easy to do yourself. First, you will need to check the brickwork for any cracks. If you find any, you need to seal them properly. Water and other elements can get in the cracks and weaken your entire chimney.
Check for other types of debris blown in from the wind as well as nests created by birds or other small animals. A chimney cap is a great way to keep animals out of there all year long. You don’t want anything blocking the airflow of your chimney during fire season. Small twigs and leaves can present a fire danger.
Creosote is another potential problem and can cause a fire in the chimney if left untreated. Creosote builds up over time, and you need to clean it after every winter season. You can do this easily yourself with a chimney brush or call the local chimney sweep to do it for you. You will also want to clean out the firebox itself with warm water and soap. You can also use an ash vacuum to get all the soot and dust.
Maintenance for Other Types of Fireplaces
Electric fireplaces are easier to maintain because they burn no fossil fuels. However, you will want to ensure that the electric wires are intact and have not been frayed or chewed upon by pets or small animals. Have an electrician fix any loose or damaged electrical components. Unplug it during the summer months. Check with the manufacturer on how often to replace the light bulb.
Gas fireplaces are lovely but also require an annual checkup. You will want to consult a licensed gas technician and have them check all the vents and look for leaks which could pose potential safety issues. You also need to check the box, logs, and the gas lines for any wear and tear damage. During the offseason, turn off the main gas valve.
You can also clean the logs, stones, or other internal parts of a gas or electric fireplace with just soap and water. Be sure not to leave any other materials in the firebox, which could present a safety hazard. Do not move or rearrange the logs. If they become disheveled, contact a licensed technician to fix them.
Staying Warm All Winter
While preparing for winter, it doesn’t hurt to check all the other areas of your home for preparedness for the upcoming cold and snow. Before jumping into winter, make sure your home has adequate insulation and weatherstripping. A quick energy audit from a professional will help you identify areas that need work before the snow flies.
If you live in particularly harsh areas where winter is worse than in other parts of the country, you might consider building a root cellar to store warm blankets, food, fuel, and water. You never know when a power outage may last for days and that stockpile could be what keeps you and your family comfortable.
Be sure to check your roof for durability and safety before winter. Snow can be heavy at times, and that added weight can put a lot of pressure on your roof. It is better to have it evaluated in fall before the cold weather sets in. During the winter, if snow builds up, invest in a snow rake to clean it off and alleviate the weight. You can also hire a company to shovel it off if there is a substantial amount.
Winter can be a magical time with everything covered in a delicate blanket of white. Fires can make the cold winter months more comfortable and fun, but first, you have to make sure you are prioritizing safety. Regular maintenance of your fireplace can help you enjoy the entire winter with confidence and comfort.