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How to Clean & Maintain Your Log Burner [4 Steps]

Introduction

Do you have a wood-burning stove or fireplace? 

They make an awesome addition to your home. Nothing beats a crackling fire. There’s something about their almost seductive flames and rustic ambiance. 

But when you burn wood, you always have creosote and soot build-up that needs to be cleaned every year. And if you burn a lot, then you’ll need to make sure you’re cleaning your fireplace multiple times a year. 

This post will tell you everything you need to know about how to clean and maintain your log burner. 

Introduction

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Step 1 - Clean Your Glass Doors

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Step 2 - Burn the Right Wood & Tinder

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Step 3 - Clean the Ashes in Your Firebox

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Step 4 - Get an Inspection

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Hiring a Chimney Company

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Schedule with Us

Step 1 – Clean Your Glass Doors

If your appliance or fireplace has glass doors, you may notice that they get covered with soot. 

There are many risks associated with letting the soot build-up, but to keep your fireplace looking good as new, you’ll need to regularly clean the glass doors. 

Luckily, the process is fairly simple. It’s also a very dirty job. 

First, remove the glass doors from your fireplace and lay flat on a rag or drop cloth to keep your area clean. 

Then, I recommend you take a newspaper or paper towel, dip it into the leftover ash in your fireplace, and wipe in a circular motion. 

The ash will act as an abrasive, lifting the soot off of the glass doors. 

Once that’s done, all you need to do is spray the glass with a glass cleaner and wipe clean with a paper towel. 

If you haven’t cleaned your fireplace glass in a while, you may need to use a spackling knife or a razor blade to scrape off the old layers. 

Once it’s clean, you’ll have a perfectly refurbished glass door that’ll look as good as new!

Chimney Inspection

Step 2 – Burn the Right Wood & Tinder

I know that this one seems a little out of place since burning wood isn’t necessarily a way to clean your fireplace. 

But picking the right wood will help keep your fireplace cleaner. So I like to look at this one as a preventative maintenance measure, rather than a reactive one. 

You should only burn dry wood (AKA seasoned wood). And you should only use wood shavings, twigs, or wood scraps as tinder. 

First things first: you should only burn dry wood that has between 15-25% moisture content. 

Seasoned firewood is wood that’s been left out to dry for a long period, allowing the moisture from the tree’s cells to evaporate. 

Greenwood is any wood that has a high moisture content. Greenwood is very had to light and burn. It will sizzle, pop, smolder, and smoke. 

Plus, it’s nearly impossible to create a scolding hot fire with moist wood because it never really takes off or gets going. 

The moisture isn’t allowing the wood to burn hot enough, so all of the smoke and gases can’t get pushed up and out of your chimney fast enough, staying inside your chimney much longer than it should.

All of that is creating the ideal breeding ground for creosote deposits to build up. Even though creosote is a naturally occurring byproduct of burning wood, it’s also highly flammable. 

Beyond that, it’ll stick to the walls of your chimney and fireplace. And you’ll have to clean it more frequently. 

Read More: The Ultimate Guide to Seasoned Firewood

Chimney Inspection

Step 3 – Clean the Ashes in Your Firebox

You may have noticed that your fire leaves behind a bunch of ashes. That’s good because it means you had a complete fire. 

But you should be cleaning out the ashes quite a bit. 

Here are a few reasons you should make sure to remove ashes: 

  • If you let the ashes build-up, it can spill out onto the hearth. This can be a huge mess. And if you have a carpet, it can be very hard to clean out of the fibers in your carpet. 
  • If the ash layer is deep enough that it touches the grate, the grate may burn out, resulting in a much shorter life span than normal. 
  • Too much ash can limit the amount of wood that can be placed in the fireplace. Not enough fuel is a contributing factor to excess creosote build up (take a look at Step 2). 

Luckily, removing ashes is a super easy task. But, just like cleaning the doors, it is very messy!

You don’t need anything special, just a few tools that you may already have at your house: 

  • Ash Bucket – any container made of non-flammable material. We use a metal bucket. 
  • Ash Shovel – You can use a metal trowel. 
  • Fire-resistant gloves – You should treat all ashes as hot ash. This is an extra precaution
  • Face Mask – You don’t want to inhale any of the ashes. 

 Overview of What to Do:

I recommend waiting 24 hours after your last fire just to keep it safe. 

This will give your fireplace, wood, and ashes plenty of time to cool down. 

If you can’t wait 24 hours in between, such as during the winter when you use the fire constantly, just be extra careful. 

  1. Open the screen or fireplace door. 
  2. Place the ash bucket in front of the opening
  3. Reach into the fireplace with the shovel and start scooping the ashes into the bucket. Be sure to not remove all of the ashes. A thin layer on the fireplace floor is beneficial for starting fires and can protect the floor from scratches. 
  4. Place the ash bucket away from the fireplace, such as outside. 

Safety Precautions

It’s safest if you wait 24 hours, but either way, you can follow these precautions when handling the ashes: 

  1. Do not add live embers or anything combustible to the bucket
  2. Place a lid over to the ash bucket to reduce the possibility of oxygen reaching a live ember and sparking a new fire
  3. Store the ash bucket with the ashes in a well-vented area since the ashes may contain live coals
  4. Don’t place the ash bucket with ashes near anything combustible
  5. Allow your ash bucket to sit for at least three days before disposing of the ashes

Read More: 25 Things to Do With Your Chimney Ashes  

chimney ashes

Step 4 – Get an Inspection

One of the most important parts of keeping your wood-burning fireplace cleaned and maintained is making sure your chimney and appliance are being inspected at least once a year. 

Safety is the number one reason why you need to have your chimney inspected by a professional every year. 

There are a lot of things that can go wrong with your chimney. 

For example, if you have creosote build up inside your chimney flue, your chimney runs the risk of being so obstructed that it doesn’t draft properly. 

If it doesn’t draft properly, then the chimney can’t pull the smoke and gases up and out of the firebox. That’s when you run the risk of having smoke pushed back into your home or even run the risk of carbon monoxide. 

Also, creosote is flammable (as I mentioned several times). Imagine a small ember going up your flue and catching the creosote on fire. 

The first time this happens, it’s unlikely that any noticeable structural damage will occur. 

But the chimney fire will have damaged the structural integrity of your chimney. Since creosote is also corrosive, it can eat away at your flue lining. Which exposes the wood and sometimes insulation of your home. 

So when the next ember sparks creosote in your chimney, that fire can reach into the wood frame of your home. 

You can imagine what can happen next. 

Unfortunately, this is only the start of the problems. 

Water penetrating the bricks outside of your chimney can cause cracks. Those cracks allow more water into the chimney. And then, before you know it, you either have water pouring into your chimney at the next big rain. 

Or you start to notice your chimney leaning because of all the cracks. 

Chimney problems are very common to dominoes. And that’s one of the biggest reasons you need to make sure you have a chimney inspection every year. 

Read More: Ultimate Guide to Chimney Inspections

Chimney Inspection

How to Hire a Chimney Company

You can easily reach out to your local chimney company and have a done-for-you solution in no time!

But navigating through all of the chimney companies in your city can be a chore all on its own. And it makes sense, too. 

Hiring anyone to come into your home to fix something like your chimney shouldn’t be a task you take lightly. So I created a list that you can use to make sure you make the right decision when you need someone to help you in your home. 

Questions to Ask

When you’re hiring a chimney company, you should always ask the following questions before allowing them to come into your home:

  1. Can the company provide references? 
  2. Does the company carry a valid business liability insurance policy? 
  3. Does the company ensure that a certified chimney technician will be on the job? 

If they guarantee all three of those, then you are in a good spot. The technicians don’t necessarily need to be certified by the CSIA, but I do recommend putting in a bit more due diligence before accepting a certification that’s not by the CSIA. 

This is because certifications are a tricky thing, especially in an unlicensed industry like ours. Any company can craft a list of job-related questions and sell them as an exam and certify those who pass. 

Certifications

I recommend you take a few extra minutes in your research before making your hiring decision to learn more about the certification the company has. Here are a few tips to make sure the certification is reputable: 

  • Is the word “certified” just part of the business name or is it an earned designation? 
  • Is the certifying body a for-profit business or non-profit? 
  • Does the certification need to be maintained and renewed through continuing education as the industry evolves, or is it well enough to be certified through a one-time exam? 
  • Is the certifying body well-established or are they relatively new to the scene? New doesn’t mean “bad” but you should make sure the requirements for certification are more or at least equally stringent as those of more established certifications
  • Is the mission statement of the certifying body focused on educating and protecting homeowners or is it more focused on making it easier to earn a certification? 
  • Does holding the certification require following a code of ethics? 

If you can answer all of these questions, then I think it will be safe to allow the company in your home to work on your chimney. 

Please note that If you are hiring a chimney company to install a cap for you, most of the time, they will need to buy the cap themselves. This is primarily for liability and insurance purposes. 

Besides, it’s probably cheaper for them to buy a cap at the dealer discount than for you to buy one at retail cost.

It doesn’t matter if you are in Roanoke, Lynchburg, Blacksburg, or some other city anywhere in the USA — if you have any questions about the safety of hiring a chimney company, please don’t hesitate to email me at mitchell@patriotchimney.net or call me at 540-225-2626. I’m happy to help!

Final Thoughts

Patriot Chimney has a few CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps that you can trust with your home and family. During your service, you can expect your technician to inspect your chimney with a video camera so we can give a full top-to-bottom, inside out inspection. 

We’re licensed, insured, certified, and guarantee you’ll be happy with your service.

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