Areas that experience cold, damp temperatures make having a wood burning fireplace especially nice. An efficiently run fireplace adds warmth, charm, and ambiance to the room.
But there is more to contemporary fireplace design than a fireplace grate, logs, or the decorative brass and cast iron fireplace tool set positioned off to the side. The construction of today's wood fireplace is more complex than in days of old. Logs burn longer, and all but a few stray whiffs of smoke are sent up the chimney.
Understanding fireplace construction will help you better understand how it functions. Important aspects of a wood burning fireplace include, from the ground up:
- Ash pit - a cavity that collects ash from burning logs; accessible by a cleanout door.
- Ash drop - which leads to the ash pit
- Fireplace grate - a removable fireplace insert that rests on the inner hearth, the floor.
- Firebox - the inner cavity; the place to build a fire. It is lined with high-temperature firebricks; its splayed sides funnel air across the hearth to the base of the fire, while the sloping rear wall deflects heat back into the room.
- Damper - a plate or valve that controls the draft and closes the flue when not in use.
- Lintel - the fireboxe's top, front edge; it helps direct smoke up the chimney.
- Throat - which leads to the smoke chamber
- Smoke chamber - the space above the throat that leads to the flue. It stops cold air from coming down the chimney; diverting it back up the flue.
- Flue - the passageway that leads up the chimney.
Unlike a ventless fireplace, those with a vent located between the ash pit and the hearth provide a better draft.
Building codes for today's contemporary fireplace design help ensure ease of function and maintenance. But chimney fires and part malfunction can still happen. Don't neglect your fireplace. An annual check up is a good idea.
Wood Fireplace Maintenance
An annual check up and regular maintenance is as important for safety purposes as it is for wood burning fireplace efficiency. A DIY homeowner or chimney fireplace contractor should inspect the fireplace system annually. Do the following:
- Check for cracks in fireplace construction; if any are found, have them repaired.
- Check the flue for blockages and cracks that might need repair; every few years have the flue cleaned.
- Check the damper to insure it has a tight seal; if it doesn't close securely, feel around its edges and remove any debris. Make sure the handle and hinges work properly
- Check the firebox to see if firebricks are broken or loose; if so, make repairs. Clean soot off masonry using a mild solution of muriatic acid and water; wear rubber gloves.
- Check and clean the ash pit; if ashes are hard to remove or seem soggy, check for leakage. If there are outside cleanout doors, seal any gaps.
In addition to the above, have chimneys checked and cleaned annually. For help in locating a reliable chimney fireplace contractor or chimney cleaner, post your needs online at TrustedPros.ca. It's FREE - without obligation.
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