Chimney accessories are primarily there to serve as a safety mechanism.
All of these accessories on this list exist to improve the safety, efficiency, and convenience of your fireplace.
For example, glass doors can look nice (especially if you keep them clean!). But they are there primarily to keep your house warm. They’ll reduce the amount of heat loss in your house.
Today’s post is all about giving you a list and an overview of the accessories that you may need to help keep your fireplace safe and efficient during the burn season.
Before we get into it too far, I should mention that most of these should be installed professionally by a CSIA certified chimney technician.
The most obvious reason to have glass doors is probably for aesthetics. Glass doors can do a lot for a bare firebox opening.
But as I mentioned before, they also help reduce the heat loss from your house, both during and after you burn a fire.
Plus, most of the glass doors that we see have some sort of wire mesh that will help keep embers from flying out of the fireplace.
If you have a wood-burning fireplace, you’ll want to make sure the screen is closed when you are burning the wood.
If you don’t have a blower, you’ll need to leave the doors open to get the greatest amount of heat out of your fireplace.
A blower is also known as a fireplace fan. They help bring heat into your home that would normally be lost up in the chimney. All they do is circulate the air in the firebox and send it out into the room without any smoke.
Blowers are designed to improve the overall efficiency of your fireplace and supplement your home’s heating system.
If you have a blower system in your fireplace, you may want to operate the fireplace with your glass doors closed. This will prevent any room air from blowing up the chimney, helping to keep the room warm for a longer period of time.
Before you close the glass doors, please make sure the manufacturer of the door recommends this. Some glass doors cannot withstand the high heat produced.
A grate is an extremely important accessory.
All fireplaces need one to burn properly. Your fireplace grate is a piece of metal, usually made of steel or cast iron, that helps hold the wood or gas logs above the floor of the firebox.
The grates increase air movement around the fire, allowing it to burn more efficiently.
When you buy a grate, you need to make sure that you are buying one that fits inside your firebox. But be careful not to buy one too big.
Most people buy a grate that is the largest one to fit inside the firebox. The problem with this is that if you pile too much wood on your fire, your fire won’t get the proper airflow required to maintain its heat.
You should get a grate that is about two-thirds the width of the fireplace and about half the depth for the best results.
A damper is another accessory that you need to have. Without a damper, a lot of heat will be lost up your chimney when the fireplace isn’t in use.
Most dampers are located inside the flue to help control ventilation. Your damper should have a chain or a handle that will allow you to open and close the damper.
A damper can also be used to control the flow of smoke and heat up the chimney.
While some dampers are located inside the flue, there are some that are mounted to the top of the chimney. These are operated by a control mounted in your firebox and connect to the chimney by a cable or chain.
If you have a wood-burning fireplace, you should make sure you have a screen. Just like I mentioned before with glass doors, screens help keep the embers from flying out into your living room.
It doesn’t take a huge ember to fly out and cause a catastrophic fire.
In fact, many home fires have started just by sparks flying out from a fireplace that has no screen.
A fireplace fireback is a piece of heavy cast iron that is placed in the back wall of the fireplace. Its main function is to protect the wall at the back of the fireplace and radiate heat from the fire into your room.
You can have a fireback for both wood and gas fireplaces.
We have a lot of customers that have added a fireback to their fireplace, who report significant improvement in their heat output.
Fireplace tools don’t just look cool. They actually serve a better function than decorations. That is to control the fire. When your fire is too small, you can use some tools to make it bigger.
And the same goes for the opposite – if it’s too big, use some tools to make it smaller.
Use your fireplace tongs to move burning logs to help you control the fire. The key to having good tongs is to also have a good grip. And if your fire is big enough, you need to make sure your tongs are long enough.
These are also known as fire pokers.
The purpose is to poke your fire and to shift wood so that more oxygen can reach the fire to help it burn better.
Just like the tongs, you need to make sure your poker is long enough to reach the wood with larger fires.
The primary purpose of the fireplace brush is to sweep the ashes back into the fireplace after they’ve blown out.
But, in addition to that, you can also use the brush to give your fireplace a nice cleaning. You can scoop the ashes out of the fireplace with a scoop or shovel, and then give the firebox a sweep through to clean the floor.
Bellows or Blow Poke
A bellows and a blow poke both serve to give more oxygen to the fire. They help to bring a smoldering fire back to life.
A blow poke is the most effective way to stoke a fire after it has been burning for a while because it can allow you to inject a concentrated blast of fresh air into the fire through a long pipe and a small hole.
Fireplace Scoop or Shovel
A shovel is intended to control the ash layer inside your firebox. Excess ash can be scooped away so that enough air can reach the wood, allowing the wood to burn better.
The ashes serve as insulation against the cold floor of your fireplace. So be sure to keep a little bit of ashes on the floor.
When you’re scooping your ashes out of the fireplace, be sure to always scoop into a metal bucket. The metal won’t catch on fire. And it gives you a place to store your ashes after you are cleaning up.
You’ll want to have a metal bucket with a tight-fitting lid.
Be sure to dispose of the ashes very carefully because coals insulated in the ashes can stay hot for days. Do not dispose of your ashes and coals near your house. And be extra careful during windy days.
Learn more about ash disposal here: 25 Things to Do With Your Chimney Ashes
A thermometer is useful in determining your fireplace’s performance. There are two types that we usually see: probe and surface mount thermometers.
Probe thermometers are for stovepipes. It has a probe that goes into the flue to provide an accurate measurement of flue gas temperature.
The thermometer should be placed into the stovepipe as far away from the stove as possible.
Ideal flue gas temperatures will be between 400-900 degrees Fahrenheit.
Surface Mount Thermometer
If you can’t use a probe thermometer, you can always use a surface mount thermometer. These are okay, but can only indicate 50% of the actual internal temperature.
The catalytic combustor is a device that is designed to be built into or added to a woodstove. Its purpose is to reduce the temperature required for particulate in the smoke so that the flue gases will be consumed before entering the chimney.
In other words, it lowers the temperature that particles and gasses begin to burn.
Catalytic combustors really help with the overall efficiency and reduce the emission of pollutants into the atmosphere.
When you are operating your woodstove, you need to make sure you have a good pair of wood burners gloves.
If you’re not careful, you can easily wind up with some nasty burns without gloves.
Your home should have at least one smoke detector. And it should be strategically placed near your bedroom or where you sleep.
And if you have multiple places where people sleep, you should be sure to have one in each of the rooms.
Multi-story homes need to have one on every floor.
Here are a few tips for your smoke detector:
- Test each month with a candle. You can even press the button to test.
- If your detector is battery powered, keep spare batteries on hand and replace promptly when needed
- Replace the smoke detector promptly when it’s defective
You should also create a fire escape plan. Check out our guide here: Fire Escape Plan
Just like with a smoke detector, you should have several carbon monoxide detectors placed throughout the house.
Smoke is scary, but the carbon monoxide is a bit scarier to me, because you can’t see, smell, taste, or feel carbon monoxide. But with enough exposure, it can kill you.
At least one carbon monoxide detector should be installed on each floor of your home, including your basement.
And if your garage is attached to your home, you’ll need to put one in there too.
Be sure not to install it actually near your fireplace. This will likely cause false carbon monoxide detection.
All you really need are two 5 pound ABC type fire extinguishers. It’s always a good idea to have one near your fireplace, but also in your kitchen.
The fire extinguisher should be visible so you won’t have any trouble when you’re trying to find it.
Be sure to check the extinguishers you have now to be sure they have adequate pressure. Most will lose their pressure over time and you’ll need to recharge or replace them after a while.
Tip: if your fire extinguisher is showing low pressure, use it for a fire drill. Have everyone in your family participate and teach them how to use the fire extinguisher.
Chimney Fire Extinguishers
You should also be aware of a special fire extinguisher that is specifically designed to put out a fire in the chimney. This extinguisher emits a dense smoke that is drawn up the chimney, basically suffocating the fire.
If you have a severe chimney fire, you’ll probably want to take care of that with more than one fire extinguisher.