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If you are looking for practical tips on fireplace cleaning, read our guide for detailed information, cost, and hiring a contractor for the job.
When winter comes knocking with the cold wind blowing everywhere, a fireplace becomes one of the best addition to your home. Nothing truly beats the pleasure and cozy feeling that surrounds the fireplace when the temperatures hit negatives. The sound of crackling wood and the glow of the flame creates a wonderful ambiance with a cozy warmth that encompasses your entire living space.
It offers a beautiful, cheerful environment for family and friends to gather and enjoy indoor activities in the comfort of your home despite the harsh weather.
However, as incredible as it may sounds, a fireplace needs to maintained and cleaned regularly to ensure efficiency and safe performance all the time. When the fire goes down, a fireplace becomes your responsibility to clean and maintain it properly. Burning wood or coal will give you the much-needed warmth, but the source of this warmth comes with a price.
When the fire eventually burns out, you will be left with a load of waste products. This includes a pile of ashes, soot, creosote, and other toxic substances that must be cleaned and eliminated for the safety of your household. When the fire is burning, it will accumulate ash and clinker at the bottom of the fireplace which should be cleaned to allow enough air to get to the firewood. Most importantly, a clean fireplace is aesthetically appealing; everyone wants a clean home, in all areas including the fireplace.
A fireplace that is clean is efficient, and fully operational right from top to bottom. Sadly, not many people know how important it is to keep your fireplace clean and well maintained. Like any other aspect of your home and more so appliances, fireplaces and their other operational units such the vents and the chimney, require regular maintenance. In fact, a neglected fireplace can become a potential fire hazard.
Let’s look at the reasons why you need to need to keep your entire fireplace clean all the time.
Keeping your family and your home should be a priority. A fireplace should be a source of comfort, warmth, and enjoyment. You and your family members should be able to enjoy the fireplace without being exposed to dangerous toxins and fumes that may escape from the fireplace due to an improperly maintained fireplace and neglected fireplace.
Just like everything else in your home, a fireplace eventually gets dirty and collects a considerable amount of residue including soot, ash, creosote and other waste products. Let’s look at some of these waste products that build up around your place as fire burns.
Creosote – If you are burning wood in your fireplace you are most likely to end up with creosote buildup after the fire burns out. Creosote is a potential fire hazard around for your household. When you burn wood or any other fuel in your fireplace, the combustion produces by-products that eventually get expelled through the chimney.
The combustion by-products include substances such as smoke, gas, water vapor some unburnt wood products and many other minerals. As the fire burns out, some of these substances will escape through the chimney which is usually cooler. As a result, condensation happens. When wood-burning by-products undergo condensation, they form creosote, a highly inflammable substance that settles on the walls of the chimney and around your fireplace. If you notice black or brown substance around your fireplace, you could be having creosote buildup. Creosote, if left uncleaned for a long time can expose you and your home to danger.
Soot – this is another by-product of wood or coal burning in a fireplace. During combustion, the wood breaks down and then deposits in the form of powdery dust. The yellow or orange flame color that you might see on a flame when wood is burning is as a result of soot. Soot will stick and darken the walls of your fireplace and along the chimney.
If soot accumulates in the chimney, it may start falling back and end up messing your floors, and your carpet. Additionally, soot is a carbon byproduct, and it can be dangerous when inhaled. If inhaled in high quantiles, soot can severely affect your lungs and lead to lung diseases and respiratory infections.
All these hazardous carbon byproducts resulting from usage of the fireplace can be kept on the minimum by regularly cleaning your fireplace. Remember, the safety of your family and home takes the highest priority. A fireplace is a great source of warmth in your home, but you need to clean it regularly to ensure safety for everyone.
With the accumulation of creosote and soot, the efficiency of your fireplace decreases. Your fireplace will have reduced air circulation which is necessary for efficient wood burning. In fact, when creosote accumulates on the chimney, it causes an increase of cooler air to your fireplace which in turn decreases the energy efficiency. As a result, you may end up burning more wood to produce more heat to get enough warmth from your fireplace.
Cleaning your fireplace and the chimney regularly will keep your chimney clear of obstructions and ensure that the dangerous fumes stay outside. As a result, the efficiency of your fireplace will improve, since the warm air will now stay inside to provide enough oxygen to keep the fire burning.
Normally, a wood burning place can hit temperatures of almost 1100℉ or even more. As a result, there will be a creation of soot, ash, some bits of wood and other by-product particles that result from the combustion process.
These combustion by-products, if not cleaned and removed regularly will end up covering the masonry, the flue liner, damper and smoke shelf with grime, contaminants, and dirt. If left uncleaned for a long time, discoloration may happen, and other costly damages which may force to replace your fireplace unit.
Regular cleaning will keep your fireplace clean, and you will save yourself the hassle of dealing with a heap of accumulated combustion by-products. In addition, fireplace and chimney cleaning can help you prevent wear and tear of its components which will eventually save you costly repairs and replacements. With regular cleaning schedule of your fireplace and the chimney, you will be in a position to discover masonry issues early before they eventually become extensive necessitating expensive repairs.
As you can see from the above points, keeping your fireplace clean is critical. The National Fire Protection Agency advocates for annual fireplace cleaning and inspection. An inspection of your fireplace is the first step towards keeping your home safe.
With frequent cleaning, you will be able to discover areas in your fireplace that need repair and avoid poor conditions that may lead to inefficient fire burning and accumulation of toxic fumes and substances inside your home. Remember, an accumulation of creosote can become flammable and lead to fires. It can also block the escape of carbon monoxide gas which may end up circulating inside your home and expose your household to danger.
The cost of cleaning a fireplace varies depending on whether the cleaning process will involve cleaning the chimney. The average cost of cleaning a fireplace ranges from $95 to $150. If the cleaning process includes the chimney, you should expect to spend an additional $225 to $326. If your fireplace receives regular maintenance care and cleaning, you should expect to spend around $85 to $100 on fireplace cleaning.
As mentioned earlier, the National Fire Protection association advocates for annual cleaning and inspection of fireplace and chimneys. An inspection of a fireplace and chimney is essential; it ensures that your fireplace and chimney are safe and that a cleaning process can be done without any danger. Normally, if you are hiring a professional for the cleaning process, the inspection fee might be waived or considered as part of the cleaning service.
However, depending on the level of inspection, the cost of inspecting a fireplace and chimney ranges from $80- to $ $5000. Level one of a fireplace and chimney inspection involves assessing the exterior and the main components of the fireplace. The professional will also inspect the interior parts of your fireplace and the chimney to see if there any obstructions and blockages. This level of a fireplace inspection will cost you about $80-$200.
Level two of fireplace and inspection costs about $100 to $500. This level of inspection is necessary when the cleaning services are majorly for the chimney. It is a detailed assessment of the flue and the surrounding structures such as the basement and the attic. Level three of inspection is considered as the highest level of chimney and fireplace inspection. It involves checking for structural damages and deconstruction of some parts of the chimney and fireplace components. Level three of inspection will cost around $1000 to $5000.
The estimated cost of fireplace cleaning includes the following:
✓ The estimated cost of labor which involves removal of accumulated combustion by-products deposits, dirt and other foreign matter at the fireplace. It will also include the amount of time required to set up the site and the equipment.
✓ The estimated cost of fireplace cleaning also includes the cost equipment used, disposable materials, and supplies to be used in the cleaning process.
✓ The cost also caters for the time that will be taken to move items and materials in the fireplace and around the fireplace area such as furniture.
✓ The professional cleaner will also factor in the transportation costs of equipment and the workers to your home.
✓ The average cost of fireplace cleaning comes to $120. However, this cost can differ substantially depending on other factors such as repairs and inspection cost.
A fireplace is one of the most excellent ways to enjoy your evenings during the cold weather. The warm glow and the crackling sound of the flames is a delight and a beautiful nature’s gift. But, if your fireplace is dirt and sending smoke signals, you might not enjoy this excellent addition to your home. To keep your home safe and still enjoy the warmth of a well burning fireplace, you need to clean your fireplace regularly.
A clean fireplace is not only safe for your household but also appealing to the eye. However, alongside regular cleaning, you need to make sure you schedule yearly inspection of the fireplace and the chimney. The bricks around the fireplace have to be occasionally inspected. Typically, regular bricks cannot endure high temperatures resulting from the burning wood. Eventually, the bricks succumb to the high temperatures and start to crack, and the mortar crumbles. Through inspection, you will be able to know the state of your bricks early before extensive damages happen.
Cleaning your fireplace can be a DIY task. Since the cleaning has to be done regularly, you can save yourself a lot of money by taking the task on your own. If you maintain a regular fireplace cleaning schedule, your cleaning task will be easier since there will be no build-up of combustion by-products such as soot and creosote.
Before you embark on fireplace cleaning challenge, you need to be aware of some of the cleaning challenges:
✓ If your fireplace has not been cleaned for a long time, you will have a pile of old ashes accumulated in the firebox
✓ You will be dealing with black soot that has settled on the glass or the walls of the masonry
✓ You will also have to clean smoke stains all over the fireplace, around the brick marble, or on the tiles depending on the building materials used to construct your hearth.
To clean your fireplace through DIY, you need to have cleaners. You can choose to use store-bought cleaners, or, homemade ones. The cleaning process will involve sweeping and scrubbing the fireplace to keep it clean.
Store Bought Fireplace Cleaners – You can purchase fireplace cleaners that are specifically made for fireplace cleaning from the stores. For example, you can buy Spray Nine Fireplace Cleaner or InstaNew Fireplace Cleaner. Fireplace cleaner’s products are many and available in most stores. They can clean wood or gas fireplaces; they can also clean brick, marble, stone, hearth fireplaces. They effectively aid in removing creosote, soot ash, grease and any other dirt around the fireplace.
Some other forms of cleaners such as ammonia can work pretty well but may end up being too harsh on your fireplace especially brick fireplaces. Alternatively, you can use oven cleaners if you have a lot of build up dirt and materials on your fireplace.
However, it would be better if you use cleaners that are specifically made for fireplace cleaning as they are less harsh on fireplaces.
Fireplaces cleaners are available in local hardware stores near you. Make sure you read and follow instructions on the label before use. Some usually require you to dilute them before use while others are ready to use.
If you are not keen on using chemical cleaners on your fireplace, you can make use of homemade cleaners which also work pretty well. You can make a homemade cleaner using a few items from your kitchen. Here some simple ways to make homemade fireplace cleaner:
Using tartar: you will need two tablespoons of cream of tartar and water. Mix the two to come up with an effective homemade fireplace cleaner.
Use vinegar: Mix three cups of vinegar and three cups of water to make a cleaner. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle for use during cleaning.
Use dish soap and baking soda: You will need two to three tablespoons of a dishwasher and a cup of baking soda. Mix the two to make a paste and use it as a cleaner.
Purchase all purpose cleaning spray: You will need all-purpose spray for the cleaning process. The spray should be applied to the fireplace before applying the fireplace cleaners. Make sure the type of all-purpose cleaning spray and cleaners do not react negatively.
All-sprays are available in hardware stores. An example of an ideal all-purpose cleaning spray is formula 409.
Purchase a small broom: as mentioned before, you will need to sweep the fireplace before you start cleaning it. If you do not have a small broom, you can purchase one fonline
Buy an abrasive tool: you will need an abrasive tool for scrubbing the fireplace to get rid of debris. Scrub brushes or abrasive sponges are ideal for cleaning your fireplace.
Once you have assembled cleaning materials, it’s time to start the cleaning process. However, before you begin cleaning your fireplace, you need to protect yourself and the surrounding areas.
Protect yourself: you should put on a respirator to avoid exposing yourself to creosote which is unhealthy for you. Also, wear cleaning gloves to protect your hands and goggles to protect your eyes from dust and ashes. In addition, wear an apron, or, if you don’t have one, you can wear old clothes. This way, you will protect yourself from toxic substances and dirt coming from the fireplace.
Protect your floors and the surroundings: you also need to protect your floors from getting dirty during the cleaning process. Soot and other substances coming from the fireplace can be difficult to clean if it gets to your floors and carpeting. You can lay a tart or an old towel, or even old clothes that are no longer in use to cover your floors and carpeting.
Remove debris and wood from the fireplace: if there are old pieces of wood and logs lying around the fireplace or any other debris they should be removed and discarded before you start cleaning. If the wood can be used again, set it aside for use later. If there are some loose debris on the surface, use a vacuum to suck them out.
Sweep your chimney: you will need to sweep your chimney before you clean the fireplace. Using a small brush, sweep your chimney, starting from the top going downwards to the bottom. Ensure that you sweep all the dust and ashes stuck at the chimney thoroughly.
Clear the dust: once you have swept your chimney, you need to trash the ashes. You can sprinkle the ashes with damp coffee grounds or wet tea leaves to keep the dust down so that there is no chance of inhaling it. After sweeping, you can scoop the ash using the dustpan. Pour the ash into a bucket or metal can and discard outside.
Use all-purpose cleaning spray to spray the fireplace area: the cleaning spray should be used first. The aim is to wet the area to start off the cleaning process. Make sure that you spray the entire fireplace area and make it completely wet before you get down to clean.
Scrub the inside of the fireplace: it’s time to use your cleaner and the scrubbing tool. If your cleaner is store bought make sure you follow the instructions on how to mix and prepare it. Get your abrasive tool (brush or a sponge) and dip it inside the cleaner. Scrub off the entire area in circular motions but make sure you are not scrubbing too hard. Ensure that you have covered the whole area.
After you have scrubbed the entire area of your fireplace, give the cleaner time to sit and soak in. If your fireplace and the chimney had a just a few stains, you could let the cleaner sit for about 15 minutes. However, if your entire fireplace is badly stained, you should let the cleaner sit for at least 30 minutes. In case your cleaner is store-bought, you should read the label’s instructions to see if they have given a specific time for the cleaner to sit.
Clean the build-up on the fireplace: after giving the cleaner time to sit on the fireplace, the dirt and the debris build will loosen up. You can now easily remove the build-up by scrubbing and cleaning the fireplace area.
Using a wet cloth and warm or hot water, wipe off the stains. By this time, the stains should be coming off the surface easily. After this process, your fireplace should now be clean. However, if your fireplace was extremely stained with lots of build-ups, you may have to do a second or third cleaning to remove the stains and the dirt completely.
Once you are done cleaning your fireplace, you should inspect the entire area to make sure everything is in place. If there is anything that needs replacement or repairs, make sure it’s done. After this, your fireplace should be ready for the next fire, which should be better, safe and efficient.
|All-purpose cleaning spray||$13|
|A small broom||With dustpan||$5|
|Abrasive tools||A small scrub brush|
Abrasive sponge - a pack of six sponges
|Cost of cleaning fireplace by a professional cleaner||$95-$150|
|Fireplace and chimney cleaning||$315-$488|
|Fireplace and chimney inspection||Level one inspection|
Level two inspection
Level three inspection
If you are using your fireplace frequently, you should have a regular fireplace cleaning routine. However, if you are going to be doing the cleaning by yourself, you should keep the following cleaning tips in mind for your safety and effective fireplace cleaning.
✓ Make sure that the fireplace is unlit and cold – before you start cleaning and vacuuming the fireplace, you should always make sure that that the fires are unlit and that they a completely cold. As mentioned earlier, it’s advisable to wait for at least 18 hours after the fires have gone down to clean the fireplace.
✓ Cover your surroundings – we mentioned this earlier in the guide. Before you start cleaning your fireplace, you should take steps to cover the surrounding area with sheets or old clothes or towels to protect your floor, carpeting, and furniture. Remove the grate and any andirons from the fireplace and place them outside during the cleaning session.
Sprinkle the fireplace and the chimney with damp coffee grounds before sweeping the ashes. This will prevent the ash and the soot from flying all over the place as you sweep.
✓ Wipe off your mantelpiece and the fireplace surround – wipe off the dust from your mantelpiece using a soft damp cloth or a soft brush. Clean the marble surface using a mild detergent and buff it dry. It’s worth noting that marble is extremely porous. You should always wipe off spills promptly before they permanently stain the surface.
✓ Avoid using water to clean metal fireplaces – when cleaning a metal fireplace, you should never use water. Water will make the fireplace rust. In case the metal has already developed rust, use fine wire wool to remove the rust. Alternatively, you can use a stiff wire to get rid of the dust.
If your fireplace has unvarnished wooden surround, you can take care of the wooden surface the way you would with your furniture. However, the heat from the fires will eventually dry the wood, and so you will need to polish the wooden parts more often than your typical furniture.
✓ Hire a professional for chimney cleaning – cleaning the chimney and the flue is an involving task that is messy and risky. Even though you can try to DIY; you would be better off hiring a professional chimney cleaner for a thorough chimney sweep. Your chimney should be cleaned and inspected at least once a year or twice if you use your fireplace often. With a professional chimney cleaning, you will be able to get a certificate that shows that your chimney has been cleaned and inspected. The certificate comes in handy when you are getting an insurance cover for your home.
One of the fundamental step to take when it comes to a fireplace is to make sure that it’s always clean and in good condition. As we discussed earlier, the greatest problem with a fireplace is creosote. Maintaining and keeping your fireplace is not just making sure the place is tidy. The whole the process of maintaining a clean fireplace involves proper use of your fireplace, adequate care, annual inspection and regular cleaning.
Here are useful tips that should help you keep your fireplace safe, clean and well maintained.
✓ Use seasoned hardwood or dry wood – Most people may not be aware of this fact, but hardwood typically burns hotter, and it’s generally cleaner than other forms of wood. Its recommended that you only use well-seasoned wood to burn your fireplace.
Good examples of a fireplace burning wood includes birch, almond wood, maple, oak, and fruitwood. Softwood wood or green wood such as cedar, pine are known to create smoky fires that lead to creosote buildup.
✓ Annual inspection – we cannot emphasize enough on the annual fireplace and chimney inspection. This should be done by professional. It is essential to make sure that your fireplace is inspected and cleaned by a professional for at least once a year or twice if you use the fireplace quite often like daily. Also, you should call for a chimney cleaning services if you notice you have lots of creosote and soot build-up in your chimney. Remember, a build-up of creosote can cause house fires if neglected for a long time.
✓ Inspect the chimney cap – the chimney cap is extremely important if you have a fireplace. You should regularly inspect the chimney cap or call for a chimney sweep to inspect the chimney cap. The cap acts as a cover to the chimney that keeps external elements such as rain and debris from getting down into your fireplace through the chimney. It also keeps away wildlife such as rats, bats, squirrels, birds and other critters that may use the chimney as an entire point.
✓ Avoid smoke – when burning wood in your fireplace, there should be no smoke inside your home. It is essential to make sure you have your fires burn hot as much as possible and quick to reduce smoke and avoid incomplete combustion. If your chimney is clean without any obstructions such as soot or creosote, you will have enough room for fumes to escape and allow plenty of air to burn the fires.
If you notice that your fireplace is smoking, it could be that the flue is not well adjusted or; you have a build-up of creosote and soot in your chimney. A chimney sweep should take care of this problem.
✓ Avoid ash build-up – when it comes to the fireplace, the secret is to avoid accumulating ash which results to ash build-up. During a burning session, it’s recommended that you maintain a one-inch layer of ashes in your fireplace. Allowing ash to accumulate to the grate can make it wear off quickly.
The only way to make sure you avoid ash build-up in your fireplace is to remove ash after every burning session. But, before you remove the ashes, you should always make sure that they are completely cool. Ashes are acidic; if left on the fireplace for a long time, they will draw moisture and stain your fireplace.
✓ Vacuum regularly – you should make it a habit of vacuuming the hearth and the surrounding areas for at least once a week. This way, you will avoid accumulation and buildup of soot and dust around in your fireplace. However, you should always make sure that the fireplace has completely cooled down before you vacuum, or wait for at least 18 hours to vacuum. Regular vacuuming will ensure that your fireplace burns more efficiently.
✓ Clean the firebox regularly – the firebox generally stays clean because of the high temperatures of the fire. However, it is important to scrub and clean the firebox’s walls once in a while. You should use a stiff brush to scrub and clean. However, you should note that firebrick can easily crumble so, you should be careful when handling it. In addition, when cleaning the firebox, be careful not to bend the ends, especially at the point where it enters the flue. You might end up causing a fire hazard if you mishandle the firebox, so be cautious when cleaning it.
✓ Avoid using water to drown fires unless it’s an emergency – you should always let the fires at the fireplace burn out naturally. If you pour water on the fires, the ashes turn into a paste which is quite hard to clean. The only time you should use water to drown a fireplace fire is when there is an emergency.
✓ Install carbon monoxide and smoke detectors in your home – these are some of the safety requirements that should never miss in your home. If there is a high concentration of smoke or carbon monoxide in your home, the detectors will notify you. In fact, if there is a presence of carbon monoxide in your home, it’s an indication of faults in your venting unit. Always test your detectors to see if they are functioning as they should and keep spare batteries in your home.
✓ Invest in a creosote buster firelog – it reduces creosote buildup when burning fires in your fireplace. All you need to do is add it to the burning fire. The powder present in the firelog when heated changes to an active gas and clears the creosote in the chimney. This way, you will have reduced creosote in your wood fireplace.
Cleaning your fireplace is an essential task that should be carried out regularly. The practice of cleaning your fireplace regularly will not only keep you safe from fire hazards, but it will also save you money on energy bills. A clean and a well-maintained fireplace burns fire efficiently and will keep fumes and other hazardous substances in the minimal.
With time, smoke, soot, ash, and creosote can accumulate and build in your chimney and your fireplace surround including the mantle, the firebox, and the flue. If neglected, your fireplace will not only become a fire hazard, but it will it also be an eyesore with dark, ugly and dingy stains. Remember, a buildup of creosote is dangerous, and it can become flammable exposing your household to danger.
You take the task of cleaning the fireplace by yourself through DIY. However, if the fireplace requires heavy duty cleaning due to a heavy build-up of by-combustion by-products, the cleaning should be left to professional. Most importantly, ensure that you schedule for annual chimney and fireplace inspection and chimney sweeps.
Knowing the process and the tips for cleaning your fireplace will make you ensure that your fireplace is clean all the time. You will be able to enjoy well-lit fires and make your home warm and cozy during the cold season. Lastly, you will save money on repairs and cleaning services and manage to keep your home soot and creosote-free.