It sets the mood for romance, warms your chilled bones and makes your living room look like a million bucks! I'm talking about your fireplace. And since it does plenty for you in the winter, it's only fair that you return the favor by keeping it in tip-top shape! Here are a couple of helpful hints, courtesy of Real Simple magazine.
- What should you put in your fireplace? Soft woods like fir, pine and cedar ignite easily and burn quickly so they're perfect for kindling. But for a strong, cleaner burning, long-lasting blaze, use harder woods, such as oak, almond wood and hickory. Also, freshly cut wood contains a lot of moisture, pitch and resin, and tends to produce more smoke and creosote - a flammable substance that attaches to chimney walls and can be dangerous. So buy "seasoned" wood that which has been cut and kept dry for at least 6 months. Also, NEVER burn your Christmas tree in the fireplace. The combination of dry needles and unseasoned wood makes them powder kegs.
- How often should you clean your fireplace? To avoid chimney fires, you should hire a professional once a year to inspect yours for cracks, blockage and creosote build-up. During the rest of the year, shovel or sweep out ash from your fireplace after every burn. Ash acts as an insulator, so hot coals buried deep can stay hot for days. Also, hot ashes will wear out the grate.
- And keep this in mind if you have a fireplace, you should also have a carbon monoxide detector. Both wood-burning and gas models can produce this colorless, odorless and deadly gas.
If you want to find a certified chimney sweep in your area, go to the Chimney Safety Institute of America's website CSIA.org.