With winter on its way, it's time to get everything prepped before the cold weather hits. It's important to prep your fireplace for winter after being out of use for a while. At Fitzpatrick Fuels we want everyone to be able to enjoy using their fireplace so here are a few steps we recommend you follow to make sure your fireplace is safe and ready to go.
1. Sweep the chimney
We would recommend you get your chimney swept at least once a year minimum to remove any leftover soot and debris. It is important to make sure it has been professionally swept before the winter season, as built-up debris can cause issues at a later date once the fire is being used again.
2. Note anything abnormal
Whilst getting your chimney swept your chimney sweep should be able to highlight any safety-related issues they notice however, without doing a full inspection some issues may be missed. This can be avoided by being vigilant and knowing what to look out for. An odd smell or a new draft where there hasn't been before could be a sign that something inside the fireplace has changed, and is worth getting checked to be safe.
3. Check for damage
Checking to see if any damage has occurred both internally and externally to the structure of the fireplace and chimney is essential. Cracks or lose joints can happen. The outside of the chimney can sustain damage from the weather including loose bricks or detachment, it's important to check that your chimney is securely attached to your house. If there are any issues get these repaired before using your fireplace for the winter.
4. Inspect the seal, glass, and ash dump
Inspect your fireplace to make sure the seal on the door, the glass front, and the ash dump are all in good condition. It’s important to maintain a good sturdy seal around the fire, if not too much oxygen can get to the fire causing an over-fire. This can be dangerous as it can lead to blowouts.
5. Clean the blower
If your fireplace has a non-filtered blower ensure this is cleaned out of any debris that may cause a build-up. Most blowers don’t have a filter so require regular cleaning, if it does have a filter then it's important to replace this on a regular basis, following the instructions from the manufacturer.
6. Cap the chimney
Chimneys should be capped properly to ensure no animals, rain, snow, leaves or debris can enter through the opening of the chimney. If your chimney is not capped it is advised you get one. If your cap is damaged or missing then repairing or replacing is key. This means there will be no blockages which can be extremely dangerous, it also stops heavy rain or snow coming in through the chimney top and affecting your fire.
7. Check alarms
Smoke/Fire and/or Carbon Monoxide alarms are extremely important to have in houses with fireplaces. As we are all aware Carbon Monoxide can be very dangerous if leaking into a home, so having an alarm means should it ever leak in you will be aware and can safely leave the home until help arrives.
Smoke/Fire alarms are also vastly important, especially in homes where the heating is reliant on keeping a fireplace going for long periods, the last thing anyone wants is a broken fire/smoke alarm which then cannot raise awareness to a fire or smoke being in the home. Always check they are working and replace the batteries should they run out.
If you are struggling to check your alarms there are plenty of options of companies who will happily come check for you, your local council or fire station are typically more than happy to come out and check the alarm on your behalf should there be an issue with you checking it yourself.
8. Pick your fuel
Next, it's time to pick your fuel type. Depending on your fireplace you may be limited. If you have a wood burner then you'll be limited to burning just firewood and briquettes. Coal cannot be used on a wood burner because of the direction of the airflow. Coal needs a steady supply of air from underneath whereas logs need airflow from above, wood burners are designed to allow above airflow so aren't suitable for coal.
A Multifuel stove or an open fire can burn any type of fuel from logs to briquettes to coal. The air vents on a multifuel stove allow you to control the supply of air meaning the top vents can be opened when burning wood, the bottoms for when burning coal.
If you have the ability to choose the type of fuel then you may make your decision based on price point, or off preference for the way the fuel burns. Whatever you choose we have available for you in smaller quantities or in bulk should you want to stock up for the whole winter period.
9. Prep your fuel (depends on the fuel you chose)
When buying your logs from us, the logs are ready to burn and will already be cut down to a standard size ( 25cm in length ) this is fine for most fireplaces, sometimes if your fireplace is on the smaller side then you may need to cut logs down smaller however this is highly unlikely. Once you’ve got your wood at home (either collected or delivered), stack the wood in your storage so the split-side is facing down and off of the ground if it's being stored outside. Make sure to cover the wood so it stays dry from rain or snow. Wet wood cannot be burnt.
Coal and Briquettes also come ready to burn. Storage again is totally up to preference. Anything being stored outside should be adequately covered to stop it from getting wet as this will affect the efficiency of the fuel.
10. Build properly
Building a fire properly and safely is also important, most people think it's easy to just chuck your fuel on and set it alight. But, it isn't as simple as that. Overloading a fireplace can be dangerous as a larger fire will lead to more smoke production. A larger smoke production means more creosote build-up inside the chimney flue. Large fires can also kick out a hell of a lot of heat, which might sound great for keeping the house warm but too much heat can lead to cracks and splits in the chimney lining, meaning the fireplace cannot be used again until repaired.
Lighting the fire properly using a safe method is the best way to go about using your fireplace. You may choose to use a top-burning method or a bottom-burning method. Either way, you always want to put your fuel towards the back of the fireplace to allow healthy air circulation and leave plenty of space away from the glass front.
11. Safety features outside the fireplace
Fire Guards and Spark Guards come in handy when using a fireplace. A spark guard is either the glass front door on the fireplace or can be an external metal mesh screen (usually seen around open fires) that helps to contain any shooting embers coming into contact with furniture or carpets.
A Fireguard can be used to create an exclusion space around the fire, these are particularly helpful in homes with small children and animals as it keeps a safe distance away from the fire. The external parts of the fireplace will get hot and aren't advisable to touch so creating that space around it is key to avoiding burns.
12. Clear the area around the fireplace
This step is fairly simple but just as important, making sure any flammable items are not surrounding the fireplace and removing any items that may be subject to damage from intense heat. As pretty as ornaments look around the fireplace, it's important to remember that the area around the fireplace will be hot too so damage can occur to anything too close to the fireplace.
Relax and safely enjoy your fireplace this cold season, we look forward to seeing you for all your fuel needs!