Rochester MN Home Inspector Recommends Cleaning and Maintaining Your Wood Burning Fireplace


From what I am hearing from the weather man, winter is on it’s way.  If you have a fireplace in your home that means that you are probably starting to stack wood. There are many reasons to keep your homes fireplace and chimney clean and in tip top operating condition. A dirty chimney will reduce the effectiveness of a fireplace as a heat source.  Severe neglect and lack of maintenance may result in a chimney fire.  Chimney fires can lead to home fires.

National Fire Protection Association statistics show that 14,000 residential fires per year will be started by woodstoves, fireplaces and other solid fuel appliances.  Many of these fires could have possibly been prevented with regular chimney inspection, cleaning and repair.

Burning the right fuel is the first step in keeping your fireplace safe.  You should never burn plastics, garbage, foil coated papers, painted or chemically treated scrap wood.  In addition to noxious and polluting fumes, burning these products can lead to an unfavorable build up in the firebox and chimney.

You should burn only seasoned, split firewood.  Seasoning allows the moisture to evaporate out of the wood. You can get up to 40% more heat out of seasoned wood versus wood that is still too moist.  A clean burning fire is hotter and with the correct draft will combust cleaner and produce less smoke, soot and creosote build up.  You should also keep in mind that a small (romantic) fire is much safer that a blazing fire.

If you are using your fireplace you should have it professionally inspected and cleaned annually.  Creosote can build up over time.  Too much creosote build up  becomes highly flammable and will often result in a chimney fire.  The cost for an inspection will vary depending on chimney access, height and configuration.  If a visual inspection is not adequate, some chimney sweeps have special cameras and monitors that they lower down the chimney to assess the condition.  This type of an inspection is important if your fireplace chimney is very old or if you have had a chimney fire.

Last but not least, we need to make sure that the damper and spark arrester are in good working condition.  The damper is the cast iron door that opens and closes at the throat of the fire box and flue.  The damper should operate freely, and be able to open and close all the way.  The spark arrester it situated at the top of the chimney.  It helps to prevent sparks and ash from escaping and causing fire on the roof or nearby flammable materials.  It also prevents birds and squirrels from entering and nesting in the chimney.

Taking these precautions will help to keep your fireplace in a safe working condition and give you some warm cozy evenings throughout the cold season.  Now, I’ve got to get out there and get some firewood cut and stacked.