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How to Make the Most of Fireplace Season

Did you know that over 25% of Canadian homes have gas fireplaces? And that’s not to mention the number of wood-burning fireplaces in homes across the country.

Winter is upon us, which means fireplace season is, too. Yet, though most Canadian homes have one or more fireplaces, many of us do not know how to use them properly.

That is why we are bringing you these tips for a wood-burning fireplace. If you want to know how to clean, maintain, and safety-proof your wood-burning fireplace, keep reading!

Understand the Importance of Safety Inspections

Wood-burning fireplaces are a wonderful and cozy addition to any home. Yet, without regular fireplace maintenance, cleaning, and safety inspections, fireplaces can quickly become a nightmare.

Dirty fireplaces can lead to harmful build-up that could release toxins inside your home. Worse, a neglected fireplace can lead to chimney fires, which can completely destroy your home and put your family’s lives at risk.

A fireplace inspector can help keep you and your family safe. Fireplace inspections evaluate your chimney in terms of how well it complies with local fireplace safety codes.

So, don’t forget to schedule your inspection this season.

Get the Chimney Right

In Canada, chimneys must extend at least one metre above the highest point of your home’s roof. It must also extend at least 60 centimetres from the height of any other roofs that are within three meters of your chimney.

But before you fire up that bad boy, make sure you give your chimney a nice sweep. Never cleaned your chimney before? Checkout our chimney and fireplace cleaning tips next.

How to Clean Your Chimney

Before you start cleaning your chimney, you need to know if you should do it yourself or hire a professional. Check to see if you can reach your chimney’s smoke shelf (aka smoke chamber) with your cleaning tools.

If you can’t reach the smoke collector, you should call a chimney cleaner. But if you can reach this area of your fireplace, then proceed with the following steps:

  • Gather your supplies, which should include a face mask and safety glasses, a flashlight, a long-handled brush, and a vacuum
  • Get up on your roof and use the long-handled brush to firmly clean away any soot or grime collected in your chimney, starting at the top of the chimney and working your way down
  • When your brush no longer meets any resistance from the chimney, get off the roof and go inside your home
  • Use your long-handled brush to clean the smoke shelf, working from inside the firebox
  • Finish with a vacuum of the firebox and the floors around your fireplace

As you can see, chimney cleaning is a dirty job. That is why we recommend calling a professional instead of DIYing it.

Choose Your Wood Wisely

Want a fire that burns all night? Then you need to pay attention to the type of wood you buy. Different types of wood have different rates of burning and produce more or less smoke.

The best firewood burns slowly, doesn’t spit, and produces as little smoke as possible. Firewood with these properties includes yew logs, thornwood, rowan wood, hawthorn and beech, and ash.

If you can’t get your hands on these types of wood, try any of the following:

  • Maple
  • Oak
  • Cherry
  • Cedar
  • Apple

Cedar and applewood, in particular, offer decent warmth and relatively little smoke. Plus, they will scent your home with their unique scent profiles.

Stay on Top of Ashes

One of the easiest ways to get your fireplace dirty is to ignore your ashes. Ashes are not all bad. They help insulate firewood to increase the temperature of the burn.

However, when left to accumulate for too long, ashes can present a safety hazard. As such, always make sure to clean your ashes when they reach one inch thick, at the end of fireplace season, or whichever comes first.

And FYI: you do not have to throw your fireplace ashes in the trash. Ashes are great for shining up dingy silver jewelry and utensils, creating soap lye, and boosting the pH of lawn soil for gardening.

Kindling Is Crucial

“Kindling” is the word for the firewood you use to get a fire started. There are two ways to use kindling in your fireplace successfully. We will talk about them next, so keep reading.

Structures for Successful Kindling

The first way to kindle your fire is to place two split logs parallel to one another in the firebox.

Make sure to leave enough space to add small kindling sticks. Alternatively, you can just use crumpled-up newspapers. Next, add larger kindling wood on top of the split logs. Make sure the larger kindling is perpendicular (crosswise) to the split logs.

A second way to kindle your fire is to create a top-down fire. Top-down fires burn from the pieces of wood on top of the pile to the pieces of wood on the bottom of the pile.

To create a top-down fire, place large logs at the bottom of the firebox. Then, build on top of those logs with progressively lighter kindling. The lightest kindling sticks should sit on top of the pile.

Don’t Just Throw on Logs

Once you start your kindling, avoid just tossing logs onto the fire at will. Instead, wait until your fire has burned for about 45 minutes. At that point, your fire may have dissipated to a few embers. Adding new wood to the fire should bring it back to life.

Bring Wood Inside Before Each Fire

Do you store your firewood outside in the wintertime?

If so, it is critical to bring firewood inside before starting your first fire of fireplace season. Firewood can collect moisture when outdoors. With too much moisture, the wood will not burn well or even at all. So, make sure your firewood makes a “ringing” sound when struck before using it. If the wood makes more of a “thud” sound when struck, it is too wet to use.

The Takeaway

Before you light your first fire of the season, make sure you read through these safety tips for a wood-burning fireplace.

With the help of this guide, you can make sure your fireplace is safe for your family and build the most magnificent fire ever.

Are you in the market for a new fireplace this year? The Burning Log is Ottawa’s top fireplace expert for a reason. Contact us today to get a quote for your new fireplace!