As the air gets cooler and the leaves turn amber, we crave cozy nights sitting by a fire. Nothing is better during the Autumn months than gathering by the comforting living room fireplace or spending time with friends and family roasting marshmallows over a fire pit in the backyard.
A little upfront preparation goes a long way when it comes to making the most of these luxuries all season. Thinking about fireplace maintenance can be a daunting task, but there are only a few steps, a couple of outdoor lifestyle covers, and few other accessories needed to stay safe from any potential fire hazards while also keeping the embers glowing all season.
Before lighting that first fire of the year, it’s crucial to start with a clean space. The last thing you want is a loose ember igniting the creosote build-up and starting a chimney fire. To begin the cleaning process, dispose of any ash from the firebox. Wood ash contains a lot of micronutrients, so instead of throwing it away, do a little good for the Earth and use it to fertilize your winter garden.
Chim Chim Cher-ee
Next up is the most important part of fireplace maintenance: sweeping the chimney. Creosote is highly flammable, and over time it can build up inside the chimney, along with soot and other debris. Neglecting the cleanup is a potential fire hazard, so an annual inspection is necessary to prevent any disasters. During the inspection, make sure there are no major cracks or loose bricks, and that the chimney is structurally sound.
Keep a Brush Handy
One of the main tools needed in your fireplace cleaning arsenal would be a brush. They are handy devices when keeping up the cleanliness of the area and containing the ash in the firebox. Once the ash cools off, using the brush to tidy up the area can also remove any lingering burning smell.
In a Vacuum
Metal or plastic chimney brushes can also be used along with a vacuum system to remove the soot and creosote off the chimney walls. It speeds up the cleaning process and makes upkeep that much easier.
As simple as it sounds, one of the key tools needed to properly maintain the fire and keep it warming the room is a “poker”. Also known as a stoker, this device is usually made of metal, and its role is simply to nudge the logs around the area from a safe distance. Shuffling the embers with the poker allows the fire to reignite and continue burning throughout the evening hours.
Get Along with Your Tongs
Tongs can be a handy tool when there is a need to rearrange the burning logs. A poker can only do so much when the pile of wood is snuffing out the flame. When the logs shift in the fireplace, it can decrease airflow and cause the fire to suffocate, but a pair of tongs allow you to safely pile the wood properly to keep the fire going.
If any wood should fall out of the fireplace, the tongs are ideal for picking up the burning piece and returning it safely inside the fire.
Is it Fall Without a Pit?
One of the best parts of the crisp air is enjoying it next to a burning fire while devouring s’mores with the family. Unfortunately, a delightful evening like this could be ruined without proper pest control.
Using tools like citronella lanterns is a good way to keep pesky, lingering mosquitoes at bay. There are also several essential oils on the market that are known to be natural bug repellents, and just a few sprays will keep the backyard pest-free while you enjoy the warmth of the fire.
The Right Way to Start a Fire
The best things in life are free, so when it comes to starting a fire in the pit, it is as easy as grabbing some old newspaper, ripping it up, and tossing it inside for the kindling. When the log stack is ready, just stuff the pieces of paper in the holes and light it up. If this method is not desirable, then there are plenty of wax and cedar-based firestarters on the market.
There is Such a Thing as Too Much Spark
As fun as it is to sit around a fire on a chilly autumn night, sometimes pockets of moisture and gas within the wood can heat up and send sparks flying at unexpecting guests. Stray embers can be a potential hazard to both the people and the surrounding area if they come into contact with something flammable, so investing in a spark screen can save the day.
If the screen starts to rust over time, an easy way to repair the damage is by using a chemical-based rust dissolver or plain white vinegar and scrubbing off the rust with steel wool. Once it is cleaned, be sure to apply a sealant to prevent any future damage.
Pull Up a Chair
Chairs should be considered one of the more important accessories to a fire pit. Imagine gathering the family to roast marshmallows when there is nowhere to sit! Even solo, it is difficult to enjoy the cozy warmth of the crackling flames while awkwardly standing next to it, so remove the chair covers and outdoor lifestyle covers from the patio seating and pull up next to the inviting fire.
A Firepit Needs a Poker Too
Same as with an indoor fireplace, a fire pit’s wooden logs will shift as they burn through the evening. To maintain a decently sized flame, a poker is essential for safely repositioning wood and handling the fire. It is possible that using the same poker from the fireplace might be too short to reach the inside of the firepit, so think about investing in a separate tool specifically made for outdoor use.
Close Out the Night
As the flames dwindle and the glow of the embers begin to fade, it is probably time to call it a night and clean up. Although some people like to leave the fire on to burn itself out, strong winds can potentially reignite some leftover kindling, so it is a safer option to put it out with water and use tarps or firepit cover to protect it from rusting.