Preparing Your Fireplace for Winter

From on November 21, 2008 in Tools and Tips


The odds are pretty good that your fireplace has been quietly waiting all summer. Waiting for that time when the sun dips low and is veiled behind clouds. Waiting for winter, when it is the fireplace’s time to shine. But the odds are also good that your fireplace has sat all summer with the residue of last year’s fire season waiting as well. Waiting to inhibit air flow, which can result in unhealthy soot in the air and an inefficient fireplace, plus fire and safety concerns.

Therefore, any wood-burning fireplace is going to need some routine maintenance before the truly cold nights set in. Fireplaces have a firebox, liner, and flue. These are good places to start.

The Firebox is the easiest place to clean. It is literally the “box” that contains the fire. There is usually very little buildup here because the fire is so hot. First sweep or shovel out the bulk of any ashes that remain. You can vacuum up the rest. For cleaning, all you should need is a scrub brush. Do not use abrasive cleaners because they might leave a flammable residue.

Be gentle and cautious when cleaning the firebox. Firebrick crumbles easily and if you bend the edges of the metal sheeting it can open up avenues for fire to penetrate your walls.

The Liner and Flue

Creosote is the enemy of a safe, efficient fireplace. It is the flammable, tarry substance that cakes up in the flue and chimney. It is the main fire hazard. A chimney can be cleaned by using plastic and duct tape to seal off the hearth within the home, then pushing a chimney brush down the flue or chimney. You will need several extensions to loosen all the debris.

This is how chimney sweeps make their living and that is exactly who I recommend calling. It may seem simple, but this is a difficult, dirty, and often dangerous job, a job for which there is good reason to hire a professional.

For Good Measure

If prepping the fireplace for winter goes beyond maintenance for you, perhaps you’d like to spruce up the surrounding hearth a bit. Perhaps this fall is the one to go with that new stone or marble mantelpiece and surround. You can turn your fireplace into a great spot to enjoy a mug of hot chocolate or a warm snifter of brandy.

Winter is coming soon! Get free estimates from pre-screened contractors today.