How to Clean and Maintain Your Log Burner
Wood-burning fireplaces and stoves make great additions to any home. Nothing beats a crackling fire with its seductive flames and rustic ambience. But remember: any time you burn wood in a home heating appliance, you’re going to have a little maintenance and cleaning to do in order to ensure that the unit operates safely and correctly.
Cleaning glass doors
If your appliance includes glass doors, over time they will become occluded by soot. You can easily clean them with crumpled-up newspaper dipped in some ashes and then wiped on the glass when the glass is cool. You may have to repeat this several times.
The right wood and tinder
You should burn only dry (seasoned) wood in a fireplace or stove, and you should use only wood shavings, twigs or wood scraps as tinder. Dry wood produces much less smoke and pollutants, meaning less cleaning will be required. Important: never burn colored newspaper or magazines in a fireplace or stove as the ink produces a lot of toxins and the flames can grow huge very quickly, potentially causing a chimney fire.
Ashes in the firebox
You don’t need to sweep out every bit of residual ash in your fireplace or stove. That ash will provide insulation between the hot fire and the base of the unit and any flooring below it. If ash is built up to the point you’re having trouble stacking logs, clean some of it out but leave the rest.
Inspection of parts/components
Various parts that make up a fireplace or stove eventually fall into disrepair. You should perform an annual inspection of components such as the damper, the burn plates, the baffle plate, the riddling grate and the gaskets around glass doors, if you have them. This is a good time to clean all components to remove excess soot.
While there are some fireplace/stove components you can inspect and clean yourself, it’s always best to turn over the bulk of the work to a certified chimney sweep. This individual has the tools, equipment and experience to evaluate the operational efficiency of every aspect of your wood-burning appliance.
Four key elements of a thorough cleaning/inspection:
1. Cleaning creosote out of the chimney. This sticky substance is created any time wood burns, and it’s highly flammable. Chimney fires are responsible for a large percentage of house fires in America, and ignited creosote is to blame for most of them.
2. Cleaning debris out of the chimney. Chimneys that are operated without a chimney cap are susceptible to be filled with twigs, leaves and other debris as well as animal nests and the little animals themselves. This all needs to be cleaned out.
3. Inspecting the outside of the chimney. The bricks and mortar of which most chimneys are built can begin to crack over time. This allows for the intrusion of water, which eventually will cause serious damage.
4. Chimney cap and flashing. The cap atop the chimney should be free of debris, and its mesh screens should be unbroken. The flashing, which creates a seal between the perimeter of the chimney and the roof, needs to be flat and non-eroded.
If you want to learn more about how a comprehensive chimney inspection and cleaning can make your fireplace operate more efficiently and safely, call Chimney Solutions of Alpharetta, Ga., at (770) 255-1300.