Even people who’ve never owned a wood-burning fireplace can be mesmerised by the comfort of an open flame. As the logs and timber crackle away and the heat envelops the room, a rare ambience also descends that’s practically impossible to replicate with contemporary alternatives.
However, as you’ll know if you do live in a home with a wood-burning fireplace, there is also a high number of hazards involved in maintaining one. Here’s a quick checklist to keep your fireplace safe all year round.
Natural environment, unnatural smoke
Although burning wood does produce a unique scent and adds atmosphere to any room, it’s not actually healthy to be exposed to it for prolonged periods of time. Some studies have shown that it has no long-term effect on the lungs or cells in the body, but that only accounts for the right materials being burned.
This means seasoned wood only, which is usually natural wood that has been left to ‘season’ for around a year. So, any green wood from the garden, wood from packaging materials, unwanted furniture or possessions and even the likes of paper and magazines should never be used to light a fire or keep one burning. The toxins in smoke produced by inappropriate materials certainly are harmful and can damage the quality of the fire-burner itself, its accessories and your chimney.
Regular professional maintenance
According to the National Association of Chimney Sweeps, a chimney connected to a wood-burning stove or fireplace should be swept quarterly when in use, ensuring that the quality of the chimney itself isn’t impacting the fire burning below. If your fire is usually only burning from winter to spring, then change this to twice each year, and maybe schedule one appointment in-between autumn and winter and one just before you start to use your fireplace again at the end of summer.
However, a chimney sweep alone isn’t enough to guarantee the long-term quality of your chimney, and you may occasionally need to employ a dedicated roofing or chimney contractor to ensure the chimney breast is in good health. If repointing or a rebuild of your chimney is required, a professional roofer in Sunderland, Swansea, Skegness or elsewhere must be sought – so, an annual roof check is also essential every year.
Ongoing housekeeping at all times
While a chimney sweep will often tackle a spring clean of every inch of your chimney and even tidy up the fireplace itself, if you fail to keep on top of ash, soot and debris for the rest of the year, your home could be in trouble. Bars and grates protecting the home from the fire can become dirty and even deteriorate, while the ash pan below the wood also needs emptying and cleaning regularly.
Regular maintenance within the home helps to reduce the amount of smoke that stays inside the property while ensuring that the heat isn’t being lost in the other direction. Cleaning every inch of the fire-burning area will also give you an indication of when a stove or fireplace needs replacing, at which point you can consider whether to lose the unique appeal of your fire or switch to a lower-maintenance alternative. Bear in mind that replacing a stove will always be cheaper than a full fireplace, but replacing wood with another source of fuel can also be expensive and time-consuming.