Fireplace Maintenance Checklist – Stay Warm and Safe this Winter

fireplace safety
Keep your family safe with these tips on how to properly care for and maintain your wood stove and fireplace.


fireplace safety
Keep your family safe with these tips on how to properly care for and maintain your wood stove and fireplace.

It’s chilly outside during the damp, winter months and sometimes the furnace just doesn’t cut it. Many people use their fireplaces for supplementary heat or just the cozy feeling that comes from snuggling by the fire.

However, an improperly maintained fireplace can spell disaster when you light a fire on a cold winter’s night. Make sure you’ve properly inspected and maintained your fireplace before lighting your next fire.   Avoid potential safety risks to you and your home by using our checklist before you burn.

  • Inspect the Exterior – If you have a masonry chimney, take a look at the structure from the outside. Look for loose or missing bricks. Are there any cracks, holes or chips in the joints? Is it leaning? All of these are signs of a compromised chimney structure in need of repair. If your chimney is visible in the attic, don’t forget to check there as well. With metal stovepipes, check for corrosion and loose joints along the stack.
  • Check the Chimney Cap – Most chimneys have a cap on top to reduce damage from weather and wildlife. Inspect your cap for damage, mobility if it’s a rotating cap, and ensure there is a screen in place to keep nesting animals out and larger sparks in. Use care when inspecting on your roof or call a professional to do the job.
  • Look for Interior Damage – A strong indication of leaks around your chimney are water stains or dampness on surrounding interior walls. If you see signs of water, your roof flashing or flue liner could be compromised. Call a professional immediately if you see this type of damage.
  • Take a Peek Inside – Looking inside your fireplace will tell you quickly if it’s been cleaned recently. During the burning process, creosote and soot can build up on the inside of the firebox and chimney. Creosote is a hard, dark brown or black substance that builds up inside the fireplace, especially when wet or soft wood is burned. Soot is softer and builds up naturally during the burning process. Both substances are flammable and should be cleaned annually to avoid the risk of a chimney fire.
  • Clean your Chimney – The National Fire Protection Association recommends having your chimney swept each fall at the start of burning season. Even if you haven’t used your fireplace heavily, flammable debris along with soot can line your stack raising the risk of fire. To find a certified sweep locally, check with the Chimney Safety Institute of America.
  • Use your Spark Screen – Many fireplaces have glass doors, ensuring the sparks stay in and not out on your carpet or on you. However, glass doors get dirty, obscuring the beauty of a wood burning fire and block the radiant heat. Avoid the temptation to burn with your doors open unless you have a spark screen. Available either in a “curtain style” which you draw across the opening or as a moveable decorative style, spark screens are essential.
  • Examine the Flue and Damper – Both of these parts of your wood burning fireplace are essential for proper venting and function. Ensure the damper moves smoothly and the flue is clear. Not sure what these things are? Time to call a professional.

Dwayne Boggs of Boggs Inspection Services has seen his fair share of fireplaces in need of maintenance and repair. “The most common issue I see is simply the need for a good chimney sweeping,” he shares. However, missing spark screens, loose brick and damaged dampers are also common issues.

For every home he inspects for purchase that contains a fireplace, Boggs recommends, “With the exception of new homes, any and all wood burning fireplaces, stoves, or other appliances should be thoroughly inspected and cleaned as needed by a certified, professional chimney sweep and/or stove installer prior to being used for the first time.”

Whether you own a home with a gas fireplace, wood burning fireplace or wood stove, Boggs urges homeowners to make sure they have carbon monoxide detectors installed. Not only are these now required by state law in homes, they can alert homeowners to the presence of this potentially harmful gas.

Chimney maintenance and safety should be a priority for every homeowner. By running through this checklist annual, your wood burning fireplace will give you years of worry free service. But remember – a professional eye can catch things you may miss. Include professional service in your maintenance schedule. With a clean, safe fireplace you can throw a log on the fire, cozy up with a good book and enjoy.

To learn more about Boggs Inspection Services, click here or call 360-480-9602.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email