Fireplace Maintenance: 8 Things Every Home Hearth Needs

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: April 19, 2023

You inspect the gutters, put up storm windows and insulate the pipes. As a homeowner, you know how important it is to take care of winter chores. They keep the house safe, hold down heating costs and head off unexpected repair bills.

Do you make regular fireplace maintenance a part of your home’s wintertime upkeep?

During the coldest months, the warmest spot in the house needs regular attention. Your fireplace does its job much better with routine cleaning and maintenance. As Chicago’s leading fire damage restoration company, we’ve seen the damage that can happen when a fireplace doesn’t operate properly.

8 Tips for Wood Burning Fireplace Maintenance

When you’re busy winterizing the house inside and out, it’s easy to overlook fireplace maintenance. These simple tips keep the hearth cleaner and indoor air fresher. Regular fireplace upkeep helps you head off trouble that might put a chill on the household budget or become a dangerous problem.

1. Start Off Clean

Before you build the season’s first fire, give the fireplace an annual cleaning. Protect areas around the hearth with a plastic drop cloth, scrub grates, and rinse them down outside. Scrub fireplace walls from top to bottom, let dry, and finish up with a good hearth cleaner.

Power Tip: Leave a 1-inch layer of ash on the fireplace floor to insulate coals and help fires burn more efficiently.

2. Keep the Grate Clear

Fireplace ashes are alkaline, and they tend to hold moisture. When ashes build up and accumulate around the grate, they eventually damage the metal. Between fires, clear cold ashes away from the grate, but leave that important 1-inch layer in place.

Power TipRecycled ashes can feed the lawn, de-ice sidewalks and clean up oil stains.

3. Check Doors and Screens

Check fireplace doors and hardware to make sure they’re secure and don’t pose a tipping hazard. Keep screen frames clean for smooth opening and closing. A clean screen also helps draw cool air up into the chimney.

4. Burn the Best

While it might cost a little more, well-seasoned hardwood is usually your best choice for fireplace fuel. It burns cleaner than softer woods, and that helps reduce dangerous creosote buildup in the chimney. You also enjoy a hotter fire, and that keeps the house warmer.

5. Watch the Smoke

Test the draw in your chimney with a few small pieces of seasoned firewood. Prop them in the grate, light the top of each piece, and watch the smoke. If it drifts into the room instead of heading up the flue, have the fireplace inspected by a professional chimney sweep.

6. Look Up at the Chimney

A quick look up on the roof can help you avoid potential fire hazards. Keep tree limbs trimmed back at least 10 feet from the chimney. Don’t let fallen branches and dead leaves accumulate around its base. Make sure chimney flashing is secure and rust-free.

7. Invest in a Cap

If your chimney doesn’t have a cap, talk to a chimney cleaning specialist. Depending on materials, the cost of a chimney cap installation averages between $200 and $400 dollars. It’s a good investment in home safety because the cap keeps animals and debris out of the chimney.

8. Get a Yearly Checkup

Have your chimney inspected and cleaned by a professional chimney sweep every year. It’s best to arrange for a visit before cold weather sets in. If you use the fireplace daily, have it checked several times throughout the winter season.

Gas Fireplace Maintenance Tips

gas fireplace maintenance

A gas fireplace takes a lot of the work out of warming up a room, but it’s not completely maintenance-free. Whether you enjoy an insert, built-in or log set model, keep it glowing safely with these gas fireplace maintenance tips.

• Routinely vacuum the gas fireplace especially around vents.
• Make sure logs are positioned properly and securely.
• Clean glass doors, logs and fan parts with a non-ammonia cleaner.
• Confirm maximum air flow around circulation passages and vents.
• Have the unit inspected by a professional once a year.

Sharing Information You Can Use

As cold weather settles over Chicagoland, fireplaces become the hearts of our homes. We hope our maintenance tips help you keep your fireplace safe and warm all winter. It’s our goal to share solid DIY information, so we invite you to post your best winter tips for homeowners here in our Comments Section.

Feel free to reach out to us with any questions about fireplace maintenance, safety and even fire damage cleanup. You can count on our expertise as Chicago’s most trusted fire damage restoration company. Here at ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba, we’re always ready to share industry knowledge that works for you.