7 Helpful Things To Know About Fireplaces
If you own and use a fireplace, you probably already know quite a bit about these appliances – but you may not know everything. If you are considering getting your first fireplace, there are several important things for you to learn.
Three common fireplace types
Three different appliances are typically called fireplaces:
- Masonry fireplace: Constructed by hand in a specific place in the home.
- Factory-built fireplace: Models that are manufactured and installed as complete units along a wall.
- Fireplace insert: Pre-built “fireplaces in a box” that are placed into the firebox of an existing masonry fireplace.
Dangers of fire
A wood or gas fireplace that’s operated correctly and well-maintained should give you many years of safe, efficient service. Fires, primarily chimney fires, happen when excess creosote from burning wood accumulates in the flue and ignites.
The likelihood of a chimney fire is significantly reduced by having your chimney cleaned once a year by a CSIA-certified chimney sweep, who has specialized tools and training.
Dealing with flue debris
If you run your fireplace without a chimney cap (see #4), you open your flue to intrusion by tree debris and small animals such as squirrels and birds, who like to build nests in flues.
This debris narrows the smoke passage and can cause smoke and deadly carbon monoxide to draft back into your home. Chimney sweeps remove flue debris and also can install a chimney cap to prevent debris from getting in.
Install a chimney cap
For all wood-burning fireplace types and gas models that vent through an existing masonry chimney, a sturdy chimney cap is critical.
Full-width chimney caps sit atop the chimney and keep water and debris out of the flue. They also help shield the concrete chimney crown from water, which can cause decay in the chimney crown’s structure.
Burn dry wood
Wood fireplaces and inserts are designed to burn dry (seasoned) wood. Damp wood creates more smoke (and creosote), and the logs are much harder to start and keep burning.
Dry logs burn vibrantly and completely and don’t leave a pile of wood chunks and unburned pieces after the fire the way unseasoned wood does. You’ll get more heat and efficiency for your money with dry wood.
Schedule annual inspections
Wood-burning fireplaces and inserts should be inspected once a year by a licensed, experienced chimney and fireplace inspector. Early signs of damage or malfunction can be spotted and fixed before complex and expensive repair work is needed.
Gas fireplaces also should be inspected to ensure that all their components are working right and free of damage. Gas leaks can be deadly to people and pets living in the house.
Use your damper correctly
The fireplace damper, which usually sits just above the firebox, is intended to be fully open during a fire and fully closed when the fireplace isn’t in use. The former allows for proper drafting; the latter prevents an exchange between interior and exterior air.
Your damper should be part of the annual chimney inspection. Warped, rusted or otherwise damaged dampers can be repaired or replaced.
These are seven things you should know about fireplaces and their operation and maintenance. Consult with your chimney sweep or chimney inspector during service visits to learn more about keeping your fireplace safe and efficient.
Chimney Solutions of Alpharetta, GA, provides the greater Atlanta area with CSIA-certified chimney sweep services, chimney and fireplace inspections and repair work for all types of fireplaces and chimneys. Speak with an expert today at (770) 255-1300.