How to Safely Start Using an Old Fireplace
Staring into an old fireplace that you would love to light but hasn’t been used in years can give you the chills. Central heating may be convenient, but it doesn’t compare to the sights, sounds, and aromas of a crackling fireplace that is reminiscent of winter. Also, why spend money heating the entire home when everyone is relaxing in front of the fire? However, before lighting that old fireplace, there are a few things you need to do to ensure that it is safe to use.
Get a Chimney Inspection
The first thing to do before you can safely start using an old fireplace is to get a chimney inspection. It is a comprehensive top-to-bottom visual review of the entire interior and exterior chimney system, including the masonry, flue liner, damper, and firebox, to name a few. Depending on its age, there may be spalling or cracked bricks, signs of water leaks, and other issues
that may need attention. A professional chimney inspection will let you know precisely the condition of your chimney and the repairs that will be necessary to use your fireplace.
Clean the Chimney and Fireplace
Since the chimney and fireplace have been out of commission for quite some time, it is best to hire a Certified Chimney Sweep® for the task. Cleaning an old chimney is more than getting rid of cobwebs.
There may be some substantial accumulation of creosote that has hardened to the interior walls and flue liner that will require professional removal. There may also be bird’s nests, pests, and other organic matter blocking the flue due to a damaged or non-existent chimney cap that will also need removal and cleaning. Hiring a chimney professional is the best way to ensure your chimney is cleaned safely and correctly.
Make Chimney Repairs
Follow the recommendations of your chimney professional to make the necessary repairs that will bring your fireplace back to life. Some of the common repairs you may need could include flue liner repair or replacement, installing a new chimney cap, flashing repair, and replacing the damper. Some of the masonry may require tuckpointing to repair gaps in the mortar joints. In cases of severe damage, your chimney may need a partial or complete rebuild before it is safe for use.
Test Smoke and CO detectors
Now that you have a clean chimney and all repairs are made, its time to get ready to light the fireplace. To keep your family safe, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and national safety experts recommend installing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on every floor of your home with a gas or wood-burning fireplace. Test the devices and replace the batteries twice per year.
Source Seasoned Firewood
For best results, use firewood that has been “seasoned” for at least six months. Seasoned wood has low moisture content. It will burn cleaner with less smoke and creosote. It will also burn hotter and last longer so you will use less fuel to stay warm. Fresh or green wood has high moisture content and will produce more smoke and creosote. It will also burn cooler and more rapidly requiring more fuel to keep the fire going.