Closing Out Your Fireplace and Chimney for the Season

At the beginning of February, Punxsutawney Phil made the prediction that spring was well on its way when he failed to see his shadow on Groundhog Day. Whether that adorable critter is entirely accurate is up for debate, but Spring is finally coming. It appears last weeks’ snowfall will more than likely be the last the Washington DC area will see for a few months.

As fireplace season is starting to wind down, home owners should learn how to close down the fireplace and chimney for the year. There are a few quick steps that should be taken to close out the cozy season:

  • clean the fireplace,
  • perform a chimney inspection,
  • shut the fireplace damper,
  • turn off the pilot light on gas fireplace units

Clean It Up

Prior to closing the fireplace for the year entirely, you will want to clean up whatever you can your own.  This includes dusting off any soot or ash deposits from the base of the unit.  You can accomplish this with the handy-dandy Shop Vac.  Additionally, remember that the chimney should be swept annually by a certified chimney sweep to remove any soot and creosote in the body of the chimney.  Most sweeps, including us, feel that Spring is the best time to hire a sweep to get your chimney cleaned and inspected. When the weather gets significantly damp during the spring months, any leftover gunk in these areas will moisten and give off unpleasant odors inside your home.  As an added guard against odors, various deodorants designed for chimneys can be put inside of the firebox.

Inspect

While you have a chimney sweep there to do the cleaning, you might as well have an overall inspection completed too.  In addition to looking for residue buildup, a sweep can check the condition of various components, inspecting them for cracks and leaks.  Two key components that may prove troublesome in the spring are the flashing system and rain cap.  Each of these items works to protect the chimney from water leakage, which is more likely during the spring rainy season.  A chimney sweep will ensure that these parts are intact and undamaged, keeping your home safe from flooding.

The inspector will check all other key items, including chimney piping, which could have become corroded from prolonged heat exposure, and replace it if needed.  To further guard your home, the chimney damper/cap should be securely closed too, which will keep out pesky animals that like to invade your chimney, like chimney swifts or raccoons.

Shut the Damper

When your fireplace goes unused for a length of time, the damper should be closed.  Why?  Because it’s just one more way that air and odors come in and out of the house.  So, at the end of this fireplace season, be sure to shut the fireplace damper near the firebox.  Even better, if air is escaping from your home and into the fireplace unit, glass doors can be installed and work together with the closed damper, creating a tighter seal.  Please note, however, that this is only for wood-burning units, as gas fireplaces should always have an open damper.

Turn Off the Light

Gas fireplaces are equipped with what is called a pilot light.  Essentially, this is a small flame that remains lit at all times while the fireplace unit is connected.  What are the odds that you’re going to light a fire in the next several months?  The pilot light, while it isn’t very strong, uses up plenty of energy over a period of time, costing you money.  So, turn off the pilot light on a gas fireplace in the springtime.

Taking these steps now will ensure that your fireplace is in tip-top shape for the next burn season, which means you will have one less thing to worry about next winter!  There’s nothing worse than being left in the cold, so oil your fireplace components so they function correctly, take the necessary cleaning and corrective steps, close and turn off components that need not be used and relish in the fact that you’re in good shape for next year!

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