Maintaining your fireplace (inside and out)

fireplace in white brick wall

Jenna Meade

Posted July 26, 2021

Perfect your fireplace safety, then settle in and enjoy the warmth.

Home is where the hearth is, and it’s hard to beat the crackle and glow of a roaring fire in winter. But when was the last time you maintained the safety features behind that burning serenity? 

Whether you’ve been cosying up in front of your wood fire for years or are a proud new firepit owner, here are the essential steps to keep your home fires burning safely.

What to remember when it comes to your annual fire safety check-up

For wood fireplaces

An annual chimney sweep by a certified professional will remove the build-up of soot and creosote. It’s best to do this at the end of the season before summer, when there is less humidity in the air. Ask your chimney sweeper to check that your chimney is structurally sound and look for any cracks in the firebox, flue and liner. They’ll also clean your chimney cap, ensuring everything is in good shape for another season. 

For electric fireplaces

Most electric fireplaces use LED lights, and these should last for about 10 years. In the meantime, inspect and clean the heater annually to keep it dust and debris-free. Disconnect it from electricity, allow it to cool completely and use a clean, dry cloth to wipe down the surface and both sides of the glass. You can use the soft brush attachment of your vacuum to clean the heater outlets gently. Wipe surfaces with a lint-free cloth to finish.

For gas log fireplaces

When it comes to maintaining your gas log fireplace, you'll need to turn to a professional. This work is usually carried out by a plumber, who must also be a licensed Type A gasfitter. Anyone with gas heating (including your fireplace) is strongly recommended to have their system or appliance serviced at least every two years by a licenced professional.

outdoor wood fire in fire pit next to grass and tress

Outdoor fireplaces are fantastic, just ensure you have an annual fire safety check up for these too.

Maintain your domain

Weekly upkeep will keep your woodfire burning bright. It’s best to leave one inch of ash on the floor of the firebox to make it easier to build your fire. Then, once a week, remove excess ashes when your fire is completely extinguished. Gear up with a dust mask and safety gloves, close the damper, then transfer the cold ashes into a metal container. Make sure you never vacuum up ashes, as hot coals may remain. Once you’ve scooped them up, sprinkle the ashes onto your flower beds for a great sustainable dose of plant nutrients.

Set up your surroundings

Your fireplace will likely be the centrepiece of your living room during the cooler months. Set it up safely with a strong fire screen to keep children and pets well out of harm’s way, and don’t sit or mount anything on top of or above the fire, including televisions. Position furniture a minimum of 1m away, and keep combustible materials like rugs, clothes and towels well away. A non-flammable rug is great for protection from sparks, and will serve as a visual reminder to keep the coast clear. Stabilise nearby decor like lamps and photo frames in case of bumps or knocks, and never leave a fire unattended when children are in the house. 

Fireproof your firepit

Getting snuggly under the stars with an outdoor firepit? Be sure your fire pit is positioned at least three metres from any structure or combustible surface, including your house, your neighbour’s house and your fence line. Follow the guidelines for indoor fireplaces and position furniture a minimum of 1m away - perfect marshmallow-roasting distance. Reduce the risk of fire escaping by setting up the pit on a solid and level surface such as gravel or stone. Remove any overhanging branches, lights or structures that could catch fire, and only use only dry wood to fuel your fire.