Your fireplace will give you many hours of pleasure and requires very little attention in return. Here are a few tips for the best use of your fireplace.
Burn dry and seasoned hardwoods and logs. Do not burn Christmas trees, holly wreaths, cardboard boxes or other highly flammable materials which can make a flash fire that exceeds the capacity of your fireplace or flue system. Never use charcoal lighter fluids, kerosene or gasoline in the fireplace. Most fireplace hazards are user generated rather than the fault of the equipment. If your fireplace is a manufactured unit, read the manufacturers' instructions carefully. All fireplaces should be protected with a fireplace screen and a bar grate or basket grate to hold logs. Hoods and canopies, screen and glass fronts can become hot from the fire. Children should be specifically warned of the danger of touching hot surfaces on or near the fireplace.
Make sure the fireplace damper is open prior to operation and preheat the chimney flue by placing a lighted piece of crumbled paper in the flue prior to lighting the fire. In order to "draw" properly, it is important that the fireplace have adequate ventilation. Modern houses are built "tight" to prohibit air infiltration from the outside. If your fireplace is not equipped with a specific air intake device for combustion air, it may be necessary to open a window in order to provide sufficient ventilation.
Your fireplace experiences wide ranges of temperature differences. The temperature difference between the inside of the fireplace and the room temperature may be several hundred degrees. Under these extreme temperature differences, varying expansion of brickwork may cause hairline cracks. This is due to the inherent expansion properties of brick and mortar and no known cure exists.
When soft coal or fireplace logs are burned for a long period, soot will accumulate inside the chimney. It is important that you do not permit the excessive accumulation of soot in the chimney flue. Under prolonged heat, the soot may ignite and an intensely hot "chimney fire" will result until the carbon is burned away. The roar of the fire and flames can belch out of the top of the chimney. This should be avoided as serious damage may result to chimney and home. If a chimney fire should occur, nearby roofs should be inspected immediately for live sparks and the attic should be checked for overheating.
Occasionally inspect the flue with a flashlight for heavy soot residue. If you have a brick or clay like flue, not metal, an occasional handful of salt or commercial flue cleaner tossed onto the fire will help remove the soot. When the soot accumulation becomes thick, have your fireplace and flue professionally cleaned.
In order to prevent heat loss up the chimney, close the damper when the fireplace is not in use. similarly, if your fireplace is equipped with its own outside combustion air intake, close the intake damper. If your fireplace is equipped with a log lighter or gas logs appliance please follow the manufacturer's recommended operation and maintenance schedule for safe and efficient operation.