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Fireplace Maintenance | Wood Burning Stove Care

Updated on November 20, 2015

Keeping the Home Fires Right with Proper Fireplace Maintenance

There's nothing like a roaring fire to give your living room or family room that warm, cozy feeling - as long as the fire is confined to its place. Without proper fireplace maintenance or wood burning stove care, you run the risk of a house fire and the danger increases with each additional use. Scared? You have every right to be.

Unbeknownst to a lot of people, the Provincial Fire Code (Canada) states that all wood burning appliances be evaluated every year and cleaned as often as needed. Okay, simple right? Only who do you get to do these things and how do you know when you need to get your "appliance" checked? The person to call for proper fireplace maintenance is a chimney sweep.

If the first image you conjure up is of Dick Van Dyke's character in Mary Poppins, you might be a little surprised. Modern chimney sweeps are trained professionals who will check and clean the smoke chamber, lining, brickwork and anything else that might pose a possible fire hazard in your chimney.

Fireplace maintenance is best done by a professional
Fireplace maintenance is best done by a professional
Chimney sweeps will remove built up creosote from your fireplace chimney
Chimney sweeps will remove built up creosote from your fireplace chimney

Professional vs Do-It-Yourself Chimney Sweeping

Credentials and Maintenance

In order for someone to get their government certification, they must go through courses and training, be fully knowledgeable in all the fire codes and apprentice under a certified chimney sweep.

The men reading this article are probably rolling their eyes and thinking they can do their own chimney sweeping and fireplace maintenance. This is true, but the average homeowner cannot vacuum out the smoke chamber, nor can they make an evaluation on the safety of the chimney. However, this does not mean that they can't do some things themselves to determine if a professional should be called and to save money on the smaller aspects of chimney and fireplace maintenance.

For one thing, a home owner can watch for signs of raccoons, squirrels and birds taking up residence in the chimney. Raccoons are the worst, especially in the spring when they make their way across the roof and set up housekeeping on the smoke shelf. The droppings you find at the bottom of the fireplace or stove is a definite clue that they've moved in.

It does not take professional training to check brickwork, either. If there are firebricks that are cracked or some of the mortar is missing, you need to call someone to fix it before the burning season. Same goes for the outside of the chimney.

There should be a cap and screen on the flue tiles at the top of the fireplace chimney to keep out rain and debris. The cap and tiles can be checked by homeowners, too. They should not be loose and any sign of the tiles flaking is a clue to pick up the phone and call a professional for your fireplace maintenance needs.

This article is a reprint from the November 1995 issue of the Old South Advocate
This article is a reprint from the November 1995 issue of the Old South Advocate

Wood Stove Care and Fireplace Maintenance - Ounce of Prevention & Bonus Tip

What can you do to cut down on the amount of maintenance that your wood burning appliance needs?

  • Burn only clean, dry hardwoods
  • Do not use leftover wood from building projects that may have paint on it, or is pressure treated
  • Clean wood and a hot fire burns cleaner, creating less creosote deposit in the chimney

One final tip: If smoke fills the room when you try to light a fire, the chimney may be cold. This causes a down draft that pushes the smoke down the chimney instead of up. To warm the chimney and reverse the flow of air, stuff newspaper onto the fire shelf and light it. Once the draft is being drawn to the outside, you should be able to get your fire going. If you have this problem repeatedly, call a fireplace maintenance professional. In many instances, the problem is a chimney that is not tall enough.

So with the peace of mind that you get from properly maintaining your fireplace or stove, you can continue enjoying those cozy evenings around the fire.

Fireplace Maintenance reprint by Shirley Anderson


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Emily's Garden "Chimney Sweep"

Fireplace Maintenance - Chimney Cleaning Cautions

© 2008 Shirley Anderson


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