As winter approaches, it’s the perfect time to make sure that everything in your home is properly prepared for the colder days ahead. One of the more important items on your list should be to prepare your fireplace before you use it. While you need to make sure the fireplace is clean enough to use, there are items to check for safety, too.

1. Clean Out the Firebox to Prepare Your Fireplace

The firebox needs to be emptied out before you start a fire. Depending on whether you cleaned it out after its last use, you’ll need to remove any burnt logs, debris, or ash that can clog up the firebox. Wear gloves and use a small shovel when cleaning out the firebox. Have a bucket handy to put ash and debris.

2. Inspect the Fireplace for Problems

Now that the firebox is clean, you can see whether there are any cracked bricks or missing mortar. It is a good idea to clear off any visible discoloration or stains with a water and soap mixture to get a better look at the interior.

As you prepare your fireplace during the inspection, you may find areas of the walls that are cracked or deteriorated. If this is the case, you’ll want to speak with a professional about fixing the fireplace.

3. Check the Damper

The flue in the fireplace helps smoke move up through the chimney. The damper can be adjusted to help control the amount of air that reaches your fire and its temperature. Make sure that your damper properly opens, seals, and closes. The damper should open easily and be free from debris and ash.

When trying to prepare your fireplace, you may find that the damper is blocked. After opening it as wide as possible, use a bristle brush and focus on cleaning the edges of the damper. Use a flashlight and mirror to help see any of the places that may be difficult to reach.

4. Have the Chimney Swept

Even once your fireplace is clean, you’ll have a problem on your hands if the chimney isn’t properly maintained. The best way to take care of your chimney is to hire a professional chimney sweep to remove debris and soot from inside your chimney. When left unchecked, the excess debris, soot, or creosote may cause a fire.

5. Check the Exterior of the Chimney

With an exterior inspection of your chimney, you’ll be able to see if the cap of the chimney is intact. Look for tree limbs above the chimney and check that the bricks and mortar around the chimney aren’t missing or crumbling and that the roof flashing fits tightly against the chimney. If you see anything that looks questionable, or can’t get a good look, hire a professional inspector.

6. Prepare Your Gas Fireplace

A gas fireplace is easier to maintain than a traditional fireplace but still needs a proper inspection before you begin using it. The gas should be turned off as you inspect it for any clogged holes in the burner jets. Look at any outside vents to check for scorch marks. Then ignite the gas fireplace and make sure you don’t notice any strange odors.

Gathering around the fireplace is a great way to spend a chilly evening. Be sure that you prepare your fireplace by keeping these six things in mind.

Manor Home Inspection serves the Greater Boston area with home inspection services. Contact us to book an appointment.