Tips for Cleaning Your Chimney

Alan And Heather Davis


If you have a functioning fireplace, it is important to maintain it in order for it to operate properly.  If you neglect your chimney, it will gather a lot of trash and tar that can impact the efficiency of your fireplace and even create a fire hazard in your home.   Each year, there are more than 45,000 chimney fires in America that cause about $125 million in damaged property and an average of 30 deaths.

Cleaning your chimney is one of the most important things you can do to keep your fireplace clean and safe. Chimney repair can be expensive and quite troublesome to do, but fortunately  there are several ways you can clean it yourself.

1. One of the easiest ways to clean your chimney is from the roof. Wear pair of sturdy shoes with grippy rubber soles and bring a brush and tarp or drop cloth. Stand on…

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Wood Tips for Fireplaces and Stoves

Display Model Stove at J & R Heating

Display Model Stove at J & R Heating

Unseasoned Wood

Freshly cut trees contain a lot of moisture. This fresh wood is called “unseasoned.”  Moisture in unseasoned wood will make it more difficult to light and will cause the wood to smoke. If the flame goes out on unseasoned wood, the wood will continue to smolder causing an unpleasant burnt smell to the house and creosote to chimney.  The wood should be seasoned to avoid this issue.

Seasoned Wood

To get seasoned wood cut, split and stack wood outdoors to dry (or season).  The best drying occurs when the wood is stacked with every other row turned 90 degrees, which allows air to circulate better between the logs.  Make sure the wood is away from rain. It would be dried more quickly in a shed or garage.  If you do not have a shed or garage, cover the split wood with a tarp to keep rainfall off the wood.   Use the tarp in a tent-fashion, suspended over the wood stack if you can otherwise remove the tarp on sunny days so moisture can escape.

Appearance of Seasoned Wood

To test the dryness of the wood knock two pieces of wood together.  If a hollow sound is made then the wood is dry.  Seasoned wood is also cracked, gray in color and much lighter without the water content. Safe wood for a fireplace needs at least one year to dry before using.  Seasoned wood generates the most heat and burns clean, with less smoke that unseasoned wood.

If you are buying seasoned wood, it will be sold by the cord or half cord. A cord measures 8 feet long, 4 feet high and 4 feet deep.  With the amount of time it takes to make seasoned wood it will cost more than unseasoned wood.

Hard Wood

  • To produce a lot of heat deciduous trees like eucalyptus, madrone, oak and walnut as hard woods are the best choice.
  • Slightly less heat would be Ash, locust, hickory, apple, plum, cherry, pear.
  • If you want a fruity scent try apple, pear, plum and cherry woods.
  • Maple, sycamore and elm are fair for heat production.
  • Poor alternatives for heat production are cottonwood, alder and willow.

As seasoned wood, all hard woods will burn longer than soft woods, giving off continuing heat and ambiance. However, hard woods tend to be more difficult to start burning. A tiny amount soft wood, which is easier to light, along with some newspaper (non-glossy kind) make good kindling for starting a hard wood fire.

Soft Wood

  • Conifers are soft wood with pine and fir suitable for burning. They burn hot. but burn fast as a seasoned wood.
  • If you want a scent that reminds you of Christmas and/or Thanksgiving fir is good.  Can also be used as kindling to get hard woods to start burning.
  • Cedar also has an appealing smell and it snaps and crackles as it burns.

 For longer lasting fires continue to add more wood.

Fireplace Cleaning and Maintenance Tips

For a safe and efficient fire, it is important to regularly maintain and clean you fireplace. There are certain steps you, as a homeowner, can take to ensure a clean fireplace and eliminate an accumulation of soot, ashes, and creosote tars. These tips below vary on the type of fireplace: wood burning, gas, electric, etc.

– Wood burning: Burn only seasoned, well-dried wood to minimize dangerous creosote buildup Creosote is a flammable tar-like substance that accumulates in the chimney and flue.

– Wood burning: Creosote should be removed by a professional, extinguishing the worry of at least one potential fire hazard.

– Wood burning: Inspect the firebox, flue, and chimney annually for creosote accumulation.

– Wood burning: Do not use water to extinguish a fire unless there is an emergency because it will make the ashes a paste making it difficult to remove.

– DO NOT use an abrasive cleaner inside the fireplace.  Many leave a flammable residue.  You’re fireplace company should be able to recommend a cleaner or may even have some on hand.

– Vacuum or dust the hearth area to prevent soot and dust build-up.  IMPORTANT: DO NOT sweep or vacuum until all the embers have been extinguished for at least 12 hours.

– Clean and polish the glass doors.

– There are other steps that may need to be taken so it is important that you contact you local fireplace dealer and ask them what additional cleaning and maintenance you need to do.  Fireplace dealers also can do the maintenance for you.  Ask them if they have a special discount or maintenance program.


display room

Fireplace Safety

Think twice when you cuddle up to your significant other by the fireplace this Valentine’s Day. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, fireplace and chimneys cause more than 25,000 house fires every year, resulting in at least 10 deaths annually.  Hazards of fireplace operations include:

– Chimney fires
– Harmful particles in smoke
– CO2 seeping into the house
– Sparks setting fire to rugs or furniture
– flammable materials placed too close to the fireplace

Routine maintenance and careful use of the fireplace can decrease these dangers and allow you to use your fireplace in safer conditions. (NOTE: More about fireplace cleaning and maintenance tips next week)

More ways you can lower your risk when using your fireplace is to:

– Have a spark arrester installed at the top of the flue guard against roof fires
– Have a fire extinguisher near by
– Place smoke detectors on every level of your home
– Install a carbon monoxide detector
– Keep all combustibles a safe distance away from the fireplace
– Prevent sparks by using a fire screen

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day!