A fireplace is always pretty high up on the wish list for my clients when searching for a second home here in Sullivan County. As we all know, nothing beats a nice warm fire. The smoky smell, the crackling sound, the primeval ritual of building a fire to keep loved ones warm on a cold, snowy day. That is what gives real wood burning fireplaces their appeal.
Safety is always a concern with open, indoor fireplaces. However they are very safe, and as long as you are somewhat vigilant, and careful, there is no need for worry. Just following a few simple steps can allow you to enjoy the ambience of your fireplace with little worry.
The number one rule is keep your chimney clean. Chimney fires were the #1 cause of house fires across the country last year. And they are COMPLETLEY avoidable. Any creosote build-up over an eighth of an inch could potentially cause a fire. If you are feeling brave, you can buy a chimney sweep at any good hardware store, and do it yourself. If you are only using your fireplace on the weekends, or sparingly throughout the week, then once a year is fine. Do it when you clean the gutters in the late fall. While you are up there, check for possible cracks or general wear and tear on the chimney. Feel free to break into a line or two of Chim Chim Cher-ee, but keep the dance routine to a minimum. Remember you are on a roof.
If heights make you a bit squeamish, there are some good professional chimney cleaners in the area. Shoot me an email for a recommendation.
The type of wood you burn in the fireplace can make a big difference on the effect. If you are a serious wood burner, and order it by the cord here in Sullivan County, you are probably going to get a mix of oak, maple, with some birch and perhaps some pine as well. (The smaller bundles that you can buy at the grocery store is mostly oak or maple.) Make sure the wood as been seasoned for at least a year. Some sellers call there wood seasoned, but if it has been split this year, it won’t burn as well. Also do not store more than what you need indoors. The warmth will awake whatever little creepy crawlies were napping in the logs, and suddenly you’ll be killing a spider or two in the middle of January.
Again if you are simply going for ambience, then you can play around with the types of wood. A log or two of apple can really make your home smell great, and although pine or birch is not ideal for a woodstove, in a fireplace it gives off some nice flames, and a lot of pops and crackles from the sap.
This is a verse written sometime in the early 18th century , author unknown.
BEECHWOOD logs burn bright and clear, if the logs are kept a year.
CHESTNUT’s only good, they say If for long it’s laid away.
BIRCH and FIR logs burn too fast, blaze up bright and do not last.
ELM wood burns like a church yard mold, even the very flames are cold.
POPLAR gives a bitter smoke, fills your eyes and makes you choke.
APPLE wood will scent your room, with an incense like perfume.
OAK and MAPLE if dry and old, keep away the winter cold.
But ASH wood wet and ASH wood dry a king shall warm his slippers by.
So as we have the holidays fast approaching, now is the time to build a nice fire under the stockings, and curl up with loved ones. And since we’ve no place to go, let it snow.