It’s best to make sure everything is working right with your fireplace and wood stove before you need them. Otherwise, you’re left shivering in the cold while trying to fix a problem. Or, worse, an undetected issue could put your home at risk of a fire.
With winter just around the corner, fall is the best time to check up on your fireplace and wood stove.
Here are a few key things to check on:
Creosote buildup. This is well-known fire hazard. Burning a creosote log is a Band-Aid solution that won’t deal with long-term issues. Ideally, you need to have your chimney checked and swept after every 70 fires, according to familyhandyman.com. The schedule is moved up to every 50 fires if wet wood is used—which it shouldn’t be anyways. If you haven’t been keeping count of your fires, don’t worry, there’s an easy way to assess the health of your chimney. An eighth of an inch or more of buildup on the inside means it’s time to get it serviced. If you’re not sure how to hire a chimney sweep, here are some guidelines.
The chimney exterior. The outside of the chimney is important to check too. One home maintenance advice site recommends looking for any chipped bricks and joints, cracks, and holes that indicate a possible need for repairs. If you have a metal chimney examine it for any corrosion or loose areas. One way to go on the offense against further disrepair is by installing a chimney cap, this will keep out rain, snow, and animals that can cause further damage to the chimney.
The fireplace itself. Inspect the firebox for cracks and loose joints, which can be fixed with refractory cement, according to Better Homes and Gardens. The magazine also recommends making sure the damper can move freely and fits tightly against the throat. Any cracks, pitting, or rust holes means that you need to hire a professional to install a new one.
Wood stoves. If you use fire bricks, check them for any cracks. Make sure your door gasket is airtight by trying to slide a sheet of paper or dollar bill along the sides, according to this home advice expert. Now is also a good time to clear your fire box and empty the ash box. See here for more tips on how to clean your wood stove.
Smoke alarms. Assuming you’ve checked everything off your maintenance list and done everything correctly, it’s still good to be on the safe side and make sure your smoke alarms are working properly. Make sure you have batteries that are fresh or at least in good working order. Also, check the expiration date on the smoke alarms themselves. Smoke alarms typically last for about 10 years. Go through the same process with your carbon monoxide detector. If you don’t have one, then get one. Carbon monoxide detectors should be good for about 5 to 10 years.
It may sound like a lot, but your safety is worth it. Then you’ll be able to look forward to enjoying the comfort of a warm fire with peace of mind.