Winter is likely when you use your fireplace or wood stove most. But how can you be sure you’re getting the most out of its performance? Perhaps you’ve wondered what you should do if you need repairs when the temperatures are chilly and snow is on the ground? Or questioned whether you’re storing your firewood properly to ensure a hot and efficient burn. After all, can firewood stored outdoors be kept dry and at the ready when conditions are anything but?
The embrace of winter brings with it the allure and warmth around a comfortable fire in the fireplace. To ensure your fireplace operates at peak efficiency and safety during the heaviest burning season, there are a number of best practices to adhere to – from firewood storage to mastering the art of building a robust fire. Here are just a few to get you started on the path to enjoying your fireplace for all its worth.
Questions? Give us a call or reach out online – we’re here to help!
Storing Your Firewood: Best Tips & Practices
Of course, the true foundation of a great fire is in what you’re burning. Well-seasoned firewood – in other words, firewood that’s properly dried – will ignite better, burn hotter and more completely, and generate less smoke. Not only will this make for a more pleasant and efficient fire, but it’s safer too. It protects against respiratory irritation and against accumulation of nasty byproducts of incomplete combustion that can build up in your chimney.
Proper storage is paramount to preserving the quality of your wood. Choose a well-ventilated area to store your firewood outdoors, and don’t allow the bottom of your stack direct access to the ground. Instead, elevate it using pallets or a rack to prevent moisture from seeping in.
Cover the top portion of your firewood stack to protect it from precipitation, but leave the sides exposed. Why? Allowing air to circulate around the firewood aids drying. As you take firewood and add new, be mindful of the need to rotate it. You want newer (greener) firewood to be placed near the bottom of your stack, with properly seasoned wood more accessible and ready to use.
Building Your Best Fire in the Fireplace
What’s the best way to build a fire? Think lasagna or dressing for a winter hike – you need layers. Creating a steady, powerful fire starts with layering. In the case of fire-building, this means layers of well-seasoned, split logs of varying size, along with readily combustible kindling to get things really going.
At the foundation of your fire is your fireplace grate. An iron grate at the bottom of your firebox keeps logs safely in place and allows for air circulation to keep your fire healthy.
From the grate, consider trying a top-down method to build your fire. Place a few of your biggest logs parallel to each other with a little space between them. Next, add a second layer of logs crossing the logs in the bottom layer. They should be perpendicular to the first layer, as if you’re playing an amped-up game of tic-tac-toe. Repeat with the smallest layers, changing the direction of your logs ninety degrees again. Keep in mind that the total height of your completed stack (including kindling) shouldn’t exceed half the height of your firebox.
Complete your stack with a layer of kindling. Your fire is now ready to start! As an added bonus, when you ignite your kindling, it will warm your flue quickly since it’s elevated to a position close to where the flue opens to the firebox. A warmed flue draws smoke away quickly, resulting in a cleaner, more enjoyable fire experience.
As smaller logs burn, they’ll drop embers onto larger ones, igniting them and sustaining your fire.
Investing in Wintertime Fireplace Repairs & Maintenance
For many repairs, especially masonry repairs, warm weather conditions are ideal. Does this mean that winter repairs are impossible? Not necessarily – but they may be more complicated or costly.
All chimneys should be inspected by a certified professional annually. These inspections help the homeowner stay on top of maintenance needs, so they can be scheduled quickly and deterioration doesn’t accelerate. Best practice is to schedule your inspection shortly after the end of the burning season. This allows time to address any concerns you may have most conveniently. However, emergencies do happen, and we’ll always put our experience to work to do what we can to help you safely enjoy your fireplace.
If you find that repairs are needed, act promptly. Call your chimney pro to get professional advice on how – and when – to act to ameliorate the situation.
Tips for Boosting Fireplace Efficiency
An immediate way to boost efficiency is to make sure your logs are well-seasoned and your fireplace grate is being used to aid circulation of air. You should also leave a small layer of ash in place throughout the burning season to insulate your firebox.
If you don’t have one already, you might also consider installing glass fireplace doors to minimize heated air being lost through the chimney. For an even greater efficiency boost? Look into retrofitting your traditional open hearth with a fireplace insert to enhance heat production and minimize heat loss.
Knowing the Freeze/Thaw Cycle
Moisture is your fireplace’s enemy. When water seeps into small cracks and freezes, it expands – widening cracks and posing a threat to your chimney’s integrity. The helpful solution? Investing in a properly sized chimney cap and applying a masonry water repellent to brickwork and mortar joints. It’s a relatively easy fix, but the impact and return on investment is substantial. These simple additions guard against rain, snow, and debris entering your chimney and flue while still allowing proper ventilation.
Questions? Give Us a Call
A few practices make a big difference in protecting your home and enjoying all it has to offer. If you cherish evenings by the fire, being aware of how to best maintain and utilize your fireplace and chimney will serve you well. Questions? Concerns? Reach out to us to draw on our decades of experiences and industry qualifications. We’re passionate about precision and professionalism, and we’ll put them to work for you!
Give us a call 636-225-3420 or schedule online today.