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Things You Should Know About Fireplaces

A fireplace is a popular amenity, especially in Buffalo and Rochester, NY. You can use it to heat your home when the temperature drops unexpectedly and reduce your heating costs. If you want to keep your family safe and ensure your fireplace lasts, there are a few important things to know about your fireplace.

chimney inspection, park avenue ny

Annual Chimney Cleanings & Inspections

Using your fireplace can become a serious safety risk if it isn’t professionally cleaned and inspected annually. Wood-burning fireplaces produce creosote, an extremely flammable chemical compound that builds up in chimneys. It is tough to remove without professional experience and industrial-grade cleaning supplies. Gas fireplaces have many small components that can fail and result in deadly carbon monoxide poisoning. Scheduling a chimney cleaning and inspection by a certified chimney sweep once every year could save your life.

During the inspection, a certified chimney sweep will also look out for signs of damage that could compromise the safety or structure of your fireplace. For example, they may find a leak in your chimney that could cause thousands of dollars in water damage if the source isn’t found and fixed. If you don’t have a trusted chimney sweep, contact Felgemacher Masonry & Chimney. We have been serving residents for over 60 years. All our chimney sweeps are certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), the most stringent certification body in our industry.

Fireplace Safety Precautions

When you light up your fireplace, it’s important to always follow a few basic safety procedures to prevent burns and reduce the risk of a house fire. These are the top fireplace safety rules to follow:

  • Keep furniture, curtains, and decorations at least 36 inches away from the fireplace to prevent a house fire. Even if you have a fireplace screen, sparks can escape and ignite furnishings nearby.
  • Always open the damper before lighting a fire and close it when the fire goes out. Opening the damper allows smoke to vent outside. Closing it prevents drafts and ensures your HV/AC system doesn’t have to work overtime to compensate for the air escaping out the chimney.
  • Don’t hang decorations, like stockings, from the mantel. If you do, be sure to remove them when you turn on your fireplace. The heat alone can scorch decorations hanging on the mantel.
  • Never leave a fire unattended, especially with children or pets in your home.
  • Always burn seasoned wood (wood that has dried out for at least 6 mos). Seasoned wood produces more heat and less creosote. Store your firewood in a dry location that’s raised off the ground.
  • When you remove ashes, always place them in a metal container for a few days before throwing them out. Otherwise, a buried ember in the ashes could ignite your trashcan or lawn where you dispose of the ashes. Tip: Remove ash about once a month during the winter but leave a layer about an inch deep. This helps retain heat when you ignite a new fire.

Chimney Cap

Every fireplace with a chimney should have a chimney cap or chaise cover. It is a metal component that acts like an umbrella preventing rain, sleet, and snow from falling down the chimney. Moisture can cause a wide range of chimney problems, from toxic mold to structural damage. Most chimney caps also have mesh along the sides that captures stray embers that could ignite your roof. Additionally, the mesh prevents animals and debris from getting into your chimney and clogging it.

gas fireplace insert, rochester nyFireplace Efficiency

Modern prefabricated or factory-built fireplaces are highly efficient compared to traditional masonry fireplaces. If you are buying a new fireplace, you can choose a gas or wood-burning fireplace model with up to 80 percent heat efficiency. In contrast, traditional wood-burning fireplaces are only about 10 percent heat efficient. So your new fireplace will heat more square footage faster.

If your home already has a masonry fireplace, you can upgrade it with a wood-burning or gas fireplace insert. A fireplace insert is a specially designed firebox that can be installed in an existing fireplace. Like a prefabricated fireplace, a gas or wood insert can increase your heat efficiency to up to 80 percent. You can even convert a wood-burning fireplace to a gas fireplace with the right insert. When you are searching for a fireplace insert, be sure to speak with a hearth specialist! Otherwise, you may purchase a model that isn’t compatible with your chimney or isn’t the correct dimensions.

Fireplaces are surprisingly complex. There is a lot more than you can learn about fireplace maintenance and how to pick the perfect fireplace insert. Here are 4 things everyone fireplace owner should know:

  • Schedule a professional chimney sweep annually.
  • Practice fireplace safety.
  • Make sure your chimney has a cap.
  • Optimize your fireplace efficiency if you want it to be an effective or alternative heat source.

You can learn more about fireplace inserts or schedule a chimney cleaning by contacting Felgemacher Masonry & Chimney!