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Top 5 tips for maintaining a wood burning fireplace

posted by Chris Valentine

Maintaining a wood burning fireplace just takes a few common sense steps ... photo by CC user Belard~commonswiki (public domain) on wikimedia commons

There are few things nicer on a cool evening than getting the family all together and snuggling in around the warmth of your wood burning fireplace. It’s a luxury, sure, but growing up on a farm with a wood burning stove has given me a deep-seated love for all things fireplaces and I can’t shake it!

I know a great deal of my friends who have fireplaces in Melbourne, it’s basically essential when winter rolls around! Although a gas fireplace might be effective, there’s something very special about the feeling of wood fire, and the smell and crackle of the wood that goes along with it.

As a responsible fireplace owner, you need to ensure that you take care of it so that you can enjoy it for years, and so that your family are safe when you’re using the fireplace. I wanted to outline some of my top tips for maintaining a wood burning fireplace so that it will be the best possible addition to your home that it can be for a long time to come.

Tip Number One: Be safe

This is the most important part of having a wood burning fireplace: safety. Part of this is ensuring that you install carbon monoxide alarms and smoke alarms, and that you are maintaining them in good working order for the life of them. Get them tested regularly and ensure that you know they work before winter rolls around as that’s when you’ll be firing up the fireplace most regularly. In addition to your smoke alarms, be sure to keep things like curtains, rugs and furniture well away from the fireplace. A guard placed in front of the fireplace is going to help children and pets to stay away from harm. Make sure there is nothing that is flammable within two feet (around 60-70 centimetres) of the fireplace for safety’s sake.

Tip Number Two: Keep it clean

Make sure that you keep ash cleared from the fireplace whenever it reaches the bottom of the grate as this can impede airflow (although an inch of ash can actually make it easier to maintain a fire). Keep the chimney clean and have it inspected by a certified chimney sweep at least once a year.

Tip Number Three: Burn etiquette

Check out the function of your fireplace by lighting up a couple of pieces of seasoned wood, and check out which way the smoke goes. If it doesn’t exit straight up into the chimney but blows into the room, correct it with cleaning. There may be a problem with a nest in the chimney or some other issue, which is why it pays to have it cleaned professionally, regularly!

Tip Number Four: The right wood

Make sure that you’re choosing hardwoods and not softwoods as these burn far more effectively and deliver better heat without the debris. Also, make sure you choose seasoned wood to burn (not green wood) – with seasoned wood being the kind that has been cut and then dried under cover for at least 6-12 months.

Tip Number Five: Educate your family

Have a good fire emergency plan in place and practice it with your family. Know what you need to do in the event of an emergency and ensure that everyone knows what to do. Know how to take care of pets, special items in the home and anything else that is vital, and always know that in the event of a fire, it’s far better to get out alive than to worry about material items.

I hope that these tips have gone a long way towards helping you to make a safer family environment for your home, and that your wood burning fireplace gives you many happy memories in the years to come.

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