How to winterize your fireplace (and why you should)

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When it comes to cleaning chimneys, it’s hard not to imagine a singing and dancing Dick Van Dyke and his unique take on a Cockney accent walking in time across the rooftops of London in “Mary Poppins.”

And while the profession is no longer associated with orphans and child labor, chimney sweeps still exist. In fact, they play an important role in home safety, helping to reduce the number of chimney fires – which, according to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), average more than 20,000 each year.

But while a professional chimney cleaning and inspection is recommended once a year – or about once every 80 fires – there are plenty of other things you can (and should) do to prepare your chimney for the future. the winter season (in addition to professional cleaning) . Here’s what to know, courtesy of two articles on BobVila.com.

Make sure there is a clear path for the smoke

If you live somewhere with trees, remove any branches directly above the fireplace. “Not only are tree branches a fire hazard, they can also restrict the proper draft of the chimney and damage the cap,” writes Donna Boyle Schwartz.

Get rid of the ashes

Before you start using your fireplace again, make sure that all the ashes left over from the last time you used it are removed. “Clean the fire pit once a week, or whenever the ashes are more than an inch deep,” according to Schwartz. Sweep up or vacuum the ashes (which should still be completely cooled at this stage) and dispose of them outside your home – ideally in a compost pile or garden bed, if you have one.

Stock up and store plenty of wood (if your household uses it)

Some fires burn cleaner than others, so make it easier on yourself this winter by getting the supplies you need ahead of time. According to Schwartz, hardwoods like oak, maple, and birch are preferable to softwoods like pine because they burn hotter and last longer. You can also use CSIA approved fireplace logs, such as Duraflame or Pres-to-Logs.

Twigs or dried branches make the best (and safest) kindling, writes Manasa Reddigari, adding that cloth should be avoided as it produces a lot of smoke.

Speaking of wood, never burn treated wood or painted wood, as it produces dangerous fumes. And as tempting as it may be to pile firewood inside your home, Schwartz says that’s not the best idea, as it can attract and/or bring pests inside.

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