We are sure you are feeling the briskness in the air as we head in to Winter. Now’s the time to start thinking about your fireplace and ensuring that it’s safe or perhaps it’s time for you to add a fireplace or update your existing fireplace. Let’s start off with safety tips first and then we’ll share with you some exciting ideas to update, replace or add a fireplace to your home.
How do you keep your fireplace safe? The best tools you have are your eyes.
With regular visual inspections both inside your home and out, you’ll make sure your fireplace is in good shape for the burning season.
Checking From the Outside
Examine the chimney to make sure a chimney cap is present and in good repair. The metal cap keeps animals, rain, and snow out of the chimney, while acting as a spark arrester that prevents hot embers from landing on your roofing.
If you have a multi-story home or a steep roof, play it safe and use a pair of binoculars to check the chimney cap from the ground.
While you’re at it, make sure:
- There’s no bird nest or debris buildup on the cap.
- There are no tree limbs above or near the chimney.
- The mortar and bricks on the chimney aren’t crumbling or missing.
- The chimney rises at least 2 feet above where it exits the roof.
- The chimney crown — the sloping cement shoulders at the top of the chimney — is beveled, which helps air flow.
- The flue liner is visible above the chimney crown.
- The chimney is plumb and not leaning to one side or the other.
- The roof flashing is tight against the chimney.
If you spot anything amiss, call a licensed chimney professional or mason to remedy the problem. For pricey jobs, make sure to get a second estimate.
Looking Inside Your Home
With a flashlight, inspect the flue damper to make sure it opens, closes, and seals properly.
“If the damper doesn’t seal well, you’ll lose a tremendous amount of heat from the home when the fireplace isn’t in use,” explains Gary Spolar, a licensed sweep and owner of Century Chimney in northeast Ohio.
With the damper open, check the flue for combustible material such as animal nests or other foreign objects. You should be able to see daylight at the top.
Inspect the fireplace surround, hearth, and firebox to make sure there are no cracked bricks or missing mortar. Damage inside the firebox is serious — have a professional fireplace and chimney inspection. An inspection costs $79-$500.
Also, check for obvious signs of moisture inside the firebox, which could mean a faulty cap.
Inspecting a Gas-Burning Fireplace
We enjoy gas fireplaces because they’re low-maintenance — but that doesn’t mean they’re no-maintenance. You should:
- Inspect the glass doors for cracks or latch issues.
- Check that gas logs are in the proper position.
- Turn gas off at the shut-off valve and test the igniter.
- Ignite the fire and look for clogged burner holes. If present, turn off gas and clear obstructions with a pin or needle.
Now let’s talk about updating, replacing, or adding a fireplace to your home. Here’s just a few ideas:
Devoting some space to firewood storage near your hearth adds ambience — and helps keep a supply of dry wood on hand. It also saves you from having to trek outside on chilly nights to retrieve wood. Burning dry firewood helps reduce creosote build-up in your chimney, lessening the risk of flue fires.
Wasn’t so long ago that a fireplace was your standard — and only — kitchen appliance.
Today, it’s a bit of a kitchen luxury, but it adds tons of warmth and character. This smallish wood-burner sits on a custom wood-storage cabinet with a granite surround that integrates seamlessly with nearby kitchen surfaces.
Ventless gas fireplaces can be installed anywhere — no flue needed. Although you often find them surrounded by sleek, contemporary wall surfaces, we like the idea of curling up in front of the fire with a couple hundred good books. And a TV. This custom made unit has a stainless steel interior and retails for around $4,900.
If the firebox of your fireplace is at or near floor level, you’ll need a spark-proof surface in front of the hearth. Tile and stone are both classic choices. Even though this older fireplace has been converted to gas (no sparks), the tiled apron completes the illusion of a wood-burner. Plus, it’s there if the homeowner wants to switch back to wood.
Surround your fireplace with the great outdoors — and extend your alfresco living season. This 42-inch-wide gas-burning fireplace ($3,500) is a see-through model — it has windows on both sides for viewing from inside or out. The custom-made, stainless steel surround is impervious to the weather.