The air feels distinctly crisper and the nights are drawing in. While we may bemoan the passing of the long summer evenings, the good news is that it is almost time to up the cosiness factor in our homes by building a roaring fire. While it is understandable that fireplace maintenance may not have been top of your list of priorities over the summer, now is the optimal time to come clean and get set for the colder months. Keeping your fireplace clean and well maintained will keep your hearth a happy and safe place for your family and friends to gather round on a chilly night.
You should get your chimney swept once every two years, or every year if you light fires frequently. A registered sweep will be able to examine the flue for soundness, give the chimney itself a good clean and generally give your fireplace a thorough pre-winter health check.
If you are looking to cut down on the level of air pollution, consider using composition logs. These produce around 50% less smoke than regular logs; however, if you are a fire purist who can’t countenance the idea of a fire without the delicious scent of burning wood, ensure you have set the fire up to burn as efficiently as possible. There is a universal truth: not all wood is created equal. It is definitely worth paying that little extra for seasoned wood.
If you have to store your wood outside, it is really important to protect it from the elements. Try to ensure that it is on raised storage, ideally at least half a metre off the ground. The top should be covered to stop the wood being spoiled by dew and rain, although it is best to leave the sides open for ventilation.
The best way to check that any wood you are considering buying is nice and dry is to invest in a moisture meter. These cost less than a few pounds but can indicate the amount of moisture in your logs. An ideal range is below 20% moisture content, the lower the better. Many logs that are bought at Petrol Stations or DIY outlets contain way over 30% + moisture. This results in lower heat output & large build ups of tar deposits & sulphuric acid due to condensation, within the flue system. It is false economy to buy ‘cheap’ wood
To keep your fires clean, you need to burn clean. Avoid any plastics, treated or painted wood, wood with high moisture content or rubber - these can all cause nasty fumes that your lungs won’t
thank you for. Burning only good quality, seasoned, wood and coal - smoke-free if you live in a restricted area - is the best way to create a delightfully toasty and welcoming atmosphere without any harmful emissions or excess smoke.