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As winter approaches, gathering by a warm fire might seem like the perfect way to spend an evening. However, a fireplace should never be used for the first time without taking some precautions first. Here are 4 steps to prepare your fireplace for use.

The Parts of the Fireplace

The working parts of a fireplace and chimney are not as simple as one might think at first glance. At the bottom level is the base with the ash dump and clean-out door. The firebox assembly is the main part of the fireplace. Here the outer hearth, face, and lintel frame the inner hearth and the firebox itself.

The back of the firebox is made from firebrick, narrowing up to the throat. Over the firebox assembly is the smoke chamber assembly. Inside, the damper and smoke shelf and chamber sit above the throat. Above these, are the chimney on the outside and the flue lining on the inside. The chimney cap keeps debris from getting inside.

1. Install or Check Safety Equipment

Before you use your fireplace, make sure you have a smoke detector and a carbon monoxide detector for safety. These will alert you should excessive smoke or carbon monoxide build up in the home. A fire extinguisher is good to have on hand in case the flames get out of control or a rough spark starts a fire outside of the fireplace.

2. Check the Chimney for Debris and Have it Swept

If the chimney isn’t clear, smoke will back up inside the home. To prepare your fireplace for use, the chimney should first be checked for birds’ nests and debris. The top of the chimney should also have a cover. Arrange to have the chimney swept by a professional certified by the CSIA at least once per year.

3. Have the Chimney Inspected

The structure and lining of the chimney need to be inspected for loose bricks, cracks, deterioration, or spots where mortar is missing. The inspector will check that the chimney is securely attached to the home and that the cap is attached properly.

4. Clean the Firebox to Prepare Your Fireplace for Use

Open the damper and check for air flow. This is the metal flap just inside the chimney. The damper should be open whenever the fireplace is in use. Clean out the debris, ash, log remnants, and soot from the firebox if this maintenance was not performed at the end of the last fire-building season.

Starting the first fire of the season without taking these steps can be dangerous for your family. Follow our tips to prepare your fireplace for use before the colder months arrive.

Aztec Home Services provides home inspections for Harrisonburg, VA and the surrounding areas. Contact us to book an inspection.