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Fireplace Maintenance & Safety Tips for First-Time Homeowners

Your new home is so much more than just another place to rest your head at night. It is a place where you will make lasting memories and shaping your family’s future along the way. For many, those memories are preserved on a mantlepiece above a fireplace or while keeping cozy by a fire. More than half of homes in the United States have fireplaces. Often, homeowners consider fireplaces to serve as a major design feature within a home. But the truth is, chimney and fireplace maintenance is a must to keep a home running safely and smoothly. Failure to keep up with a home’s chimney and fireplace needs can be dangerous and lead to issues like fires.

Thankfully, repairs and emergencies can be avoided with good fireplace maintenance habits. Modernize created this guide to help first-time homeowners learn more about fireplace and chimney maintenance, how to inspect fireplaces, and how to recognize signs that your fireplace or chimney is damaged or requires repair.

Table of Contents

How to Inspect Your Fireplace and Chimney

When it comes to inspecting a home chimney and fireplace, your first step is to look around.

Start by looking up to the roof through the fireplace to see if your home has or needs a chimney cap. Chimney caps can help keep unwanted debris, critters and elements from getting inside. You should also look at your firebox, the area of your fireplace that contains the flames. It is important to make sure the box is well sealed and does not have any noticeable cracks or holes.

From there, it is time to hand things over to the professionals. While a simple glance can tell you the basics regarding your fireplace, only a licensed professional can use tools and knowledge to detect if if your chimney has any hard to see, flammable obstructions. A professional can also let you know what your fireplace needs to remain safe for you and your loved ones.

Fireplace and chimney inspections should occur once a year, as well as when a home is purchased or transferred. Schedule your inspection for late summer or early fall before the fireplace starts getting used often. A professional chimney sweep and fireplace will cost between $120 and $400 per visit on average, depending on the extent of work needed to be done during the inspection.

An inspector or professional chimney sweeper can also use a special scanning camera to check a chimney for damage. They will advise you on maintenance you can perform yourself, and things to keep an eye on over time. Consider calling your local fireplace professional in the fall, just before you start using your fireplace for the season.

Fireplace and Chimney Maintenance Tips

When it comes to chimney and fireplace maintenance in your home, the basics boil down to safety. Just as when using any heating appliance, it is critical to have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors near the appliance.

fireplace maintenance tips

From there, Modernize recommends properly burning wood, using purchased fire logs or dry, seasoned wood versus wet or damp unseasoned wood which can create smoky, inconsistent fires. It is important to only use wood in your fireplace and to avoid using any sort of trash, treated woods or plastics. Modernize also discourages using any sort of fire accelerant in your home.

Take a look at these recommended methods for fireplace owners to maintain fireplace energy efficiency within their homes. When a fire is not burning, warm air can still swoop up the chimney, wasting energy used to heat that air in the first place. And when a fire is burning, it can suck the air out of a room, defeating the purpose of overheating a room with your HVAC heating system.

When your chimney is inspected annually, it should also be cleaned by a certified chimney sweep. This is because nearly 7 percent of home fires are caused by creosote buildup. Not only will keeping the chimney clean reduce the chance of fire, but the fire will burn more efficiently in a clean chimney.

Finding a Local Fireplace Inspector or Chimney Sweep

The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommends that homeowners ask a few key questions when determining who to hire to clean and inspect their chimney:

  • First, ask how long the company has been in business and if they offer current references.
  • When checking references, see if they have demonstrated prompt and courteous service, whether the company cleaned up any mess it made, and how well the service was performed. 
  • Verify that the company carries valid business liability insurance to protect your home and furnishings in the event of carelessness or an accident.
  • The chimney sweep or company should be certified in safety techniques, as well.
  • The Chimney Safety Institute of America makes it easy to find safety-certified sweeps and technicians here.

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