A wood-burning fireplace can provide both warmth and a comfortable ambiance to your home. Of course, the fireplace will also require regular maintenance and cleaning so that it functions well and doesn't become a safety hazard. The following are three regular tasks that need to be done regularly.
1. Ash Removal
How often you need to remove the ash from the fireplace depends on how much you use it. Some ash in the fireplace is harmless and can actually be beneficial because it makes it easier to maintain an evenly burning fire. As a general guideline, plan to scoop out the ash when it reaches a depth of 1 or 2 inches. When removing the ash, wear a respirator or face mask and eye protection, since ash can contain silicates that can damage tissues. Use either a wet-dry vacuum to remove the ash, or an ash scoop and broom to sweep it up.
2. Door Maintenance
Most fireplaces have glass doors, which can become covered in soot over time. Not only are sooty doors unattractive, but the buildup can also cut down on heat transfer or even ignite if it becomes too thick. Clean the doors whenever they start to look dirty and you won't have to worry about deep scrubbing. You can use your preferred window cleaner or a solution of one part vinegar to one part water. Spray the door down and wipe up the thickest residue with a towel. Then, use the spray and a squeegee to remove any remaining residue.
3. Fire Box and Flue
Ash and soot also builds upon the interior of the firebox and on the flue. In some cases, the buildup may even prevent the flue from sealing properly. Open up a large garbage bag and set it on the bottom of the fireplace, spreading it so anything you clean will fall into the bag. Put on your mask and goggles before proceeding. Then, use a fireplace brush to knock the loose ash and soot off the fireplace walls and flue cover. The soot should fall into the bag for easy disposal.
Although these basic cleaning tips will keep the main firebox of your fireplace clean and in good condition throughout the wood fire season, there is still the chimney to worry about. Creosote, a byproduct of wood fires, builds up inside the chimney. A thick layer of creosote can inhibit the ability of the smoke to leave the fireplace. Creosote can also ignite, leading to a dangerous chimney fire. Although you should do the above cleaning tips at least once a month in the fire season, you must also schedule a professional fireplace cleaning at least once a year to ensure there is no creosote buildup.