Maintaining your wood-burning fireplace is very important — not just for aesthetic reasons, but also for safety. Luckily, this maintenance is not as demanding or complex as you might think. It can be broken down into the following essential tasks.
1. Cleaning the interior of the fireplace.
The interior burning chamber of the fireplace will accumulate soot and ash, which may cause respiratory issues if you don't clean them up regularly. It can also accumulate creosote, a hard, black substance that is flammable. Every couple of days, you should let the fireplace cool so that you can remove all of the soot and ash. If you see any black grime accumulating on the sides of the burn chamber, scrub it away with a wire brush.
2. Have the chimney cleaned.
While you can clean the burn chamber on your own, you should not attempt to clean your own chimney. Doing so requires extensive tools and equipment, and you really need to know what you're doing to remove any creosote effectively. Hire a professional to do this about once a year, preferably in the fall before you begin using your fireplace more heavily in the winter.
3. Keep an eye on your chimney cap.
Your chimney cleaning professional will check the chimney cap while they are there, but you should also keep an eye on the cap throughout the year. Birds like to build nests up there, and if the cap goes missing, they could get down into the chimney itself, causing an obstruction and possibly a fire. If you cannot see the cap from the ground, climb high enough on a step ladder to see it every few months.
4. Burn seasoned wood.
Part of caring for your fireplace is burning the right wood. You want wood that is well-seasoned, which means it has had at least a year to age. Wood that is newer or younger than this will give off more soot and creosote as it burns, which makes more work for you in terms of cleaning. Green wood does not burn very hot, either, which means you will go through more of it.
The tips above should help you take better care of your fireplace. If you run into any problems or are not sure if something is normal, do not hesitate to call in the pros. Fireplace maintenance is a matter of safety, so it's a good idea to turn to someone who knows.