How to get your fireplace ready for fall

How to get your fireplace ready for fall

There's nothing quite like snuggling up in front of a toasty warm fire on a cold winter's night.

If you're lucky enough to have a fireplace in your home, you certainly know the joy of one of life's little pleasures. Before fall rolls around, you need to make sure your fireplace is cold-weather ready so that you can safely enjoy the comfort of that crackling fire all winter long.

Check out all you need to know about proper cleaning and inspection of your fireplace, and why you should hire a professional for this service.

Does my fireplace really need to be cleaned every year?

Absolutely! According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the leading cause of home heating fires was failure to clean heating equipment, primarily chimneys, with an estimated 26 percent of home fires being attributed to this.

What's more, most of those fires would have likely been prevented had the chimney been properly cleaned. When you start a toasty fire in your fireplace, the wood releases a byproduct known as creosote that gradually builds up on the inside walls of your chimney. Creosote is highly flammable, so if your current fire lets off a few sparks, say when you are stoking the fire up, the creosote can ignite, and your entire chimney can become engulfed in flames very quickly.

Chimneys and fireplaces that aren't properly maintained cause numerous deaths and injuries and contribute to more than $200 million in property losses each year, so it's not something you want to skip.

Can I clean my chimney myself?

Though it may be tempting to try to clean the chimney yourself, you absolutely should not do so. Again, the buildup in your chimney is highly combustible, so if it's not properly removed, you are putting your family at risk every time you light a fire.

The NFPA indicates that a chimney needs to be inspected and cleaned yearly, with repairs done as needed. The interior of a fireplace that is not properly maintained can actually begin to decay and breakdown the interior of your chimney, which will ultimately lead to more costly repairs down the road.

In addition to the risk of combustion, a fireplace that is not properly vented can leak the deadly gas carbon monoxide into your home. The fireplace and chimney should be thoroughly inspected for any obstruction or other venting issues that could make create a dangerous situation in your home.

Who should clean my chimney and what do they do?

The NFPA recommends that your fireplace be serviced only by a Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) Certified Chimney Sweep.

Your chimney sweep will clean and inspect your chimney as well as determine wheather any repairs are needed for your fireplace to burn safely. Your chimney sweep may use one of several different techniques to clear your chimney:

  • stand on the roof and insert a cleaning rod from the top of the chimney and clean down
  • insert a cleaning rod from the fireplace and clean up
  • use a system of flexible brushes, ropes and weights that are lowered into your chimney
  • usa a dual-line method in which two chimney sweeps work together to clean the chimney with one on the roof and one in the home

The chimney sweep will also thoroughly inspect the exterior of your chimney, the interior, vents, dampers and the flue to assure everything is all in tip-top working order.

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Keep the fire roaring all winter by having your chimney inspected in early fall. (Photo courtesy of member Cathleen F.)
Keep the fire roaring all winter by having your chimney inspected in early fall. (Photo courtesy of member Cathleen F.)

Interest in chimney cleaning and repairs heats up in D.C. during the fall. Hiring a sweep can help you keep your fireplace safe and working all winter.

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