How to Prepare Your Chimney for Santa Claus
The winter holiday season is an especially festive time of year. The kids are frolicking in the snow. And chestnuts roasting with marshmallows toasting in the spirit of the holiday are a favorite delight. In the evening, brightly lit homes decorated with Christmas lights are a popular sight.
Wood-burning fireplaces are an excellent way to heat your home during the winter months without spending a lot of money on electricity or fuel. But before lighting your fireplace for the season, you need to be sure that it is safe and ready. So, if you want to hear sleigh bells ringing instead of being on the naughty list, take the following steps to prepare your chimney for Santa.
Schedule an Inspection and Cleaning
Dirt and soot will stain Santa’s red suit. All homeowners should schedule a yearly chimney inspection for cleaning and repairs before Santa Claus and his reindeer arrives.
Doing a thorough cleaning will remove any creosote buildup, providing a safer fireplace throughout the winter season. By the way, creosote is an oily and tarry flammable byproduct of burning wood that is responsible for most chimney fires. If you use your fireplace often, schedule chimney inspections and cleanings after approximately 60-80 fires.
Repair Cracks and Damages
Create a soft landing for Santa’s Sleigh. You should always check for visible cracks in the bricks and gaps in the mortar joints. Water intrusion from damaged or missing bricks and mortar will increase the risk of fire and carbon monoxide leaks. Hiring a professional chimney mason to repair cracks in the chimney is essential to operate your fireplace or wood stove safely.
Inspect Chimney Cap and Damper
Since you will be lighting your chimney during winter, you should ensure that the damper is functional and that there is no debris blocking it from freely opening and closing. The damper should create an airtight seal when closed to keep water out of the chimney when you are not burning wood in the fireplace. Also, inspect that the chimney cap is attached firmly to the top of the stack and is in good condition. The caps should have protective screenings that keep birds, bats, squirrels, and other pests from obstructing the vent.
Make Santa smile with a clean chimney. You should consider cleaning your firebox every week or any time there more than an inch deep of ash. An inch of ash will help start the fire. The ash can remain hot for three days, therefore, allow it to cool to avoid accidental burns.
Vacuum or sweep cold ashes and dispose of them appropriately in a metal container. You can use them in compost piles or garden beds.
Install Protective Barriers
Winter is the perfect time of year to install protective barriers to keep small children and pets away from the fireplace. Mesh screens prevent sparks from escaping the fireplace and igniting any nearby combustible material. If your fireplace has glass doors, clean them with a paper towel or a fireplace door cleaner. Installing tempered glass doors are an excellent safety barrier and will help maximize fireplace heating efficiency.
Extinguish the Flames Before Going to Bed
And lastly, be sure to douse the flames before going to bed. You wouldn’t want to burn a hole in Santa’s suit, or you may just find a lump of coal in your stocking. To safely extinguish a wood-burning fire, use your poker to spread out the embers. Then cover them with ashes and top with a thin layer of baking soda. When the flames are out, close the damper. It will help prevent the warm air from escaping and will also prevent rain and snow from getting in the firebox.