According to the Bob Vila website your masonry fireplace is made up of a brick or stone firebox, a brick or stone chimney, and, usually, a wood mantel. Everybody knows what the chimney does: it carries smoke out of your house and into the atmosphere. The mantel is the shelf above the fireplace; this is not only a nice place to put a family picture, it also can prevent smoke from entering the house. The firebox is where you actually build the fire. Because it gets so dirty from being used, people often don’t think about the importance of keeping it clean.
It’s a well-known fact that you should have your chimney cleaned often; in fact, the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommends you have your chimney inspected and cleaned on an annual basis. In the case of your firebox, it stands to reason that an annual cleaning by professionals probably isn’t going to be enough. Since this is the part of your fireplace that gets the most direct action, you’ll need to do some cleaning on a regular basis to make sure it stays in good condition.
When you burn wood in your fireplace, you’re going to end up with ashes. Actually, some ash left in the firebox is okay. About an inch or so will actually help with a fire. If you have too much, though – for instance, if it is touching the grate – it can make the grate burn out quicker than it should. Another problem with too much ash in the firebox is that it simply doesn’t leave as much room for firewood.
Another reason that it is important to keep your firebox clean has to do with precipitation. If your chimney has some areas where precipitation can seep in (for instance, if your chimney cap isn’t in good repair), and this precipitation is allowed to get into the firebox, it can combine with soot that forms behind the damper and mix to form an acidic muck which can actually destroy the mortar joints.
Cleaning Your Firebox
To give your firebox a good cleaning, first remove the andirons and grate. Then, give them a good scrub with a brush. You might want to do this over paper or take them outside. Scoop up the ashes with a fireplace scoop. If the ashes are especially fly away, try sprinkling used coffee grounds over them first. Put the ashes in a bag and take them to the outdoor garbage to avoid the possibility of spilling. It’s a good idea to occasionally reach into the chimney and scrub soot off with a wire brush. Be sure to put paper down first to catch the loose soot and dust.
Remember the Annual Cleaning
Cleaning your firebox on a weekly basis during fireplace season is a great idea. But don’t forget that nothing can replace that annual professional inspection and cleaning.
Contact Copper Top Chimney Services to do your annual inspection and cleaning. They’ll catch any repair work that may need to be completed, as well as thoroughly clean your fireplace and chimney. Get this done in the spring and spend your summer worry-free!