8 Tips for Maintaining Your Wood Burning Fireplace

Ah, the bright flames, the toasty warmth, the crackling sounds of a wood burning fireplace — there’s nothing quite like it. A wood burning fireplace also offers cost savings on your heating bill as it effectively supplements your main heating source. However, wood burning fireplaces need regular care and maintenance in order to function safely and optimally.

The main issue with wood burning fireplaces is creosote buildup. Creosote is a dark or black substance that can accumulate if wood isn’t burning adequately or completely. Creosote is flammable and should be cleaned away from your fireplace as soon as possible. Consider these eight tips for keeping your wood burning fireplace at its best:

1. Clean and inspect. Have your wood burning fireplace cleaned and inspected at least once per year  — more often if you use it daily, or if you find find that creosote is building up rapidly on chimney walls.

2. Monitor for issues. Between cleanings, monitor your fireplace and chimney for signs of creosote buildup or other issues.

3. Chimney cap maintenance. Your chimney cap has open, mesh-covered sides to keep out birds, animals, rain, and debris. The cap should be inspected annually and repaired or replaced as needed.

4. Soot. Watch for soot buildup in your chimney as well; soot is softer than creosote, but it is also flammable and should be cleaned regularly.

5. Favor hardwoods. While they are more expensive, try to burn hardwoods as much as possible. Oak, maple, birch, and ash have less sap and pitch; they burn hotter, longer, and cleaner. Because of this, they cause less creosote buildup.

6. Monitor for smoke. Any time you see smoke indoors from your wood burning fireplace, troubleshoot immediately to find and correct any issues you find. Possible causes of smoke can be a dirty chimney, creosote, soot buildup, an unopened damper, debris in your chimney, or wood that isn’t burning properly or completely.

7. Stainless steel liner. For optimal fireplace safety, consider installing a stainless steel fireplace liner to withstand very high temperatures, help contain embers, and minimize buildup.

8. Heat-proof glass doors. Heat-proof glass doors can dramatically improve the efficiency of your wood burning fireplace. They are also are a safety feature, preventing live embers from entering your home.

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