Never Had a Fireplace Before - Need Advice

eldemilaJuly 22, 2009

We've put in an offer on a home in the Carolinas that has a fireplace in the lower level of the house, which is, I guess the playroom.

Always lived in FL, rare to see fireplaces down here and have absolutely NO experience with having one at all.

Whether it be this house or another, I'm probably going to be faced with the same questions and trying to learn more about the proper care and use of a fireplace and chimney.

The house that we have the offer on, it's for sure the fireplace has been neglected. I thought that a chimney sweep would be one of the first 10 people I call to come out, figuring it must be a messy job and want to get that taken care of before I do the first cleaning in the house (it's filthy!!!!!)

What is an average cost of a chimney sweep? Is there anything in particular I should know to ask the CS person? What do you need to have on hand for to light a fireplace - I know about the screens, but what else is there? Does a chimney bring in cold air from outside or is it completely closed off when not in use? What keeps animals from coming down the chute? There some soot? on the front of the chimney, what's the best way to clean it off?

If there are any sites you could recommend that may be beneficial, I'd appreciate it. I don't know how much use of the fireplace we'll get down there, it's just the two of us and we probably won't frequent down there that much.

Thanks for all the help and advice in advance!!!

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I hate to see your questions go unanswered. I almost didn't reply because to be quite honest, it would take way too much typing to properly answer all of your questions. There are numerous web sites that can help you with how to use and maintain your fireplace. I'll give some quick info on a few things. Since the first thing to do is to have the chimney cleaned and inspected, why don't we start there. Stay in touch with this post since as time goes on, folks will be offering a lot of valuable information.

Make sure, when you select your Chimney Sweep, they are certified and licensed. Have them clean and inspect the chimney, damper and fireplace for cracked and leaking flue tiles. The costs vary from region to region. In the area I live, the average charge is about $125.00. I clean and inspect my own flues and you can too. I use mine often enough with not always well seasoned wood to require several cleanings a season. Just make sure you read up on what to look for and how to properly clean the chimney and fireplace. It's not really that difficult and the fireplace can provide a very pleasant experience. Ask your Chimney Sweep questions, most are willing to share the information. Several companies in my area are smart enough to know that over time, a lot of folks will want to do their own cleaning to save a few bucks. They are eager to sell the right tools, materials and chemicals along with information to help you do that. If climbing on the roof is not for you, choose a good reliable company and build a rapport.

After the fire and coals burn out, the flue should be closed. A lot of heated air in your home will go right up the chimney if left open, more so than cold air coming down.

A chimney cap will keep animals and rain out of the chimney. You can buy them at any hardware store, big box store, even WalMart. Any Chimney Sweep company will offer them also although, they may be a bit pricier including installation. Most of the Chimney Sweeps I've seen around here, prefer to use a high quality stainless steel cap system which has an associated higher cost with them.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2009 at 7:05PM
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I agree with the previous posting. You definitely should have your fireplace cleaned and examined by a qualifed chimney sweep. That will give you a head start on what needs to be done, if anything, to make it operational.

You mentioned black marks on the fireplace, indicating possible soot attaching to parts of the fireplace. I think that can happen even in well designed systems. But sometimes it can indicate that the system is not well designed, or that the user piled in too much wood at one time and caused too large a flame, or maybe the damper was not fully opened during a fire -- many possible causes. A good chimney sweep should be able to help.

For further guidance, browse through entries on this forum. You might also check out the chat room in the web site dedicated only to fireplaces:

Good luck in your home purchase.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2009 at 10:55AM
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Thank you both for replying and for all the information and suggestions, I definitely have a LOT to learn. There's so much to know, not only about a fireplace and a chimney, but moving to a colder climate in general.

I'll definitely check out the website suggested, hopefully I'll learn what needs to be done, it sounds a bit complicated. It will be interesting, to say the least, to learn all the lingo (and retain the information). as well as how to take care of it properly.

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   July 27, 2009 at 6:01PM
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It's really not that complicated. If you do learn a couple of basics, you can have a nice safe fire that would really set off a relaxing evening.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2009 at 10:14PM
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Sweep last fall cost me $125, I think.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2009 at 10:02PM
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