There’s nothing quite like the warmth of a wood burning fireplace to add ambience and comfort to your home. If you love the image of cosying up to a warm wood fireplace with a cup of tea in hand, make sure you’re also able to handle the maintenance that comes with it. By maintaining your fireplace properly, you get to enjoy all the benefits of warmth and a romantic atmosphere while remaining safe and environmentally conscious.
#1. You Need a Good Stock of Dry Wood, and Somewhere to Store It
A wood burning fireplace, unsurprisingly, requires wood in order to operate. For this, you need to have ample storage for your wood, and need to be able to keep it clean and dry. This is more achievable if you live in a rural area and have access to cheap or free sustainably sourced wood. Timber and certain types of gum trees make for great fuel sources.
You might be tempted to burn scrap wood, old furniture or even last year’s Christmas tree, but bear in mind that these might have been treated with all sorts of chemicals, meaning it could emit toxic fumes if set alight.
Clean and dry storage is needed for your firewood, as it needs to be “seasoned” (dried for 6-12 months) before use. Unseasoned wood will burn slowly and produce excessive smoke, which is harmful for your health and can clog up your chimney. With a bit of planning, however, you can make sure you always have plenty of wood on hand to fuel your fireplace. for the sake of convenience, you can always buy prepared wood from a logger. However, those wanting a truly homely ambience often enjoy the process of preparing their own wood, as putting hard work into something makes the end result that much more enjoyable. If you are already fairly skilled at working with your hands and power tools, consider cutting and splitting your own wood.
#2. Safety is a Top Priority
As with all heating methods, safety is an important thing you have to consider. When it comes to wood fireplaces, it’s crucial to clean out your chimney every year. Better yet, call in a professional to inspect your chimney and ensure everything is clear. If there are blockages in your chimney (commonly creosote, the build-up of vapour and tar condense), the risk of a fire taking place is dramatically increased. Also, if ventilation is blocked, carbon monoxide will begin to build up, which is known to be a silent killer. In fact, getting a carbon monoxide detector is recommended for all homes with a combustion appliance.
Also remember the area surrounding your chimney on the roof. Check every now and then to ensure no stray debris is blocking the chute. Installing a chimney cap will ensure that debris and animals stay away from the entrance.
Finally, never leave your fireplace unattended. Whether you’re going to bed or heading out of the home, always put out the fire first. This means that you might still need a portable heater for your bedroom that doesn’t need supervision.
#3. Getting the Fire Going
Of course, the key part of a wood fireplace is actually getting the fire going. However, this is not as simple as simply throwing some wood into the hearth and setting it alight. For the best fire, lay the kindling wood (the thinner, drier pieces of firewood) lengthwise across the grate. Then take two large logs and lay them perpendicular to the kindling, and finally, place other firewood lengthwise to finish off the stack. Then, hold a lit newspaper into the flue to warm up the chimney, before lighting the kindling. Voila, you’ve got a fire going now!
Wood Burning Fireplace
#4. Cutting Tools
If taking care of your own wood cutting and splitting, always be cautious when handling chainsaws or other cutting tools. If it can take down a tree, it can also cause significant damage to you. Wear steel-toed boots, safety glasses and a hard hat, and always treat the equipment with respect.
All of the above might seem intimidating if you’ve been considering a wood burning fireplace, but don’t be put off. With adequate preparation and installation from a professional, you can reap all the benefits of a statement fireplace in your home while minimising the risks. Enjoying time with your family or having drinks with your friends is made so much better with the heat from a wood fireplace radiating throughout the room.
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