We're well into autumn now, and it's starting to get chillier. Time to enjoy those cosy winter pleasures, such as sitting around the fire with your family and friends, or simply a good book.
Before you get out the port and chestnuts, you need to bring your fireplace out of hibernation. Whether you have a real fire or a gas or electric model, the chances are it's been sitting dormant since April. It's time to run some safety checks and have an autumnal spring clean.
Why is winter fireplace maintenance important?
A well-kept fire will burn more cleanly and efficiently and safety. A build-up of soot is a potential fire hazard, and there could be all sorts of summer debris in the chimney that you're unaware of. You need to get the chimney swept before the fire comes back into regular use, even if you have a flue liner.
And of course, your fireplace is about to become the focal point of the room again, and it needs to look its best.
Book the chimney sweep
Chimney sweeps get booked up quickly in the autumn, so before you do any other prep, get that date in the diary now. A professional sweep can inspect as well as clean your fireplace and flue. Find a local company that's registered with the National Association of Chimney Sweeps (NACS).
Clean the grate
Hopefully you did this as the end of the last burning season! If not, it's time to sweep the grate, followed by vacuuming the fire box and grate with an ash vacuum.
It's certainly worth investing in one of these heat-resistant and robust cleaners for regular cleaning, as they're designed to manage the very fine ash dust without getting clogged. The cool ash can be used on your garden.
Smarten up the wood burner
Start with sweeping the inside and emptying the ash pan, then giving it a good vacuum with your ash vacuum cleaner. You can get special cleaning products for the glass and the body of your wood burner, so you can start off the season looking super-smart.
Some qualified sweeps can also check your stove for you, making sure that the seal is working properly, and checking for worn or damaged parts.
Make sure your gas fire is running safely
Gas fires also need their chimneys sweeping. A build-up of debris in the flue can cause a build-up of carbon monoxide.
It's recommended that you check your gas fire annually to make sure it's working safely and efficiently. As with the sweep, book the gas-safe engineer in sooner rather than later, as they get incredibly busy during the colder months.
Preparing an electric fire
This is the easiest type of fire to clean and prepare before the winter. All you're really doing is dusting, checking that the blower still works, and making sure the light bulb is OK.
Switch off the electric fireplace at the wall. Take off the front panel of the fire (as per manufacturer's instructions), and set it aside for dusting and wiping. Gently dust the interior, especially the blower unit as this attracts the most dust.
Fake coals? Take them off gently and put them on newspaper while you clean the inside, then give them a light dust before painstakingly balancing them back on again.
Check the carbon monoxide monitor
Hopefully you're checking this regularly anyway, at least to make sure that its batteries are still live. Test the monitor as per the manual, typically by holding down the Test button. If you don't have a monitor or yours fails the test, order one before you start using your open or gas fire again.
Check the roof and chimney
We're not suggesting you get the ladders out, but a quick visual inspection from the ground can identify any obvious issues (weeds, nests, cracks and so on). Again, your chimney sweep should pick up on any problems.
Clean the fire surround
Now it's time to make your antique fire surround or stylish reproduction look spotless for the winter. How you do this depends on the material of your surround.
Wooden fire surround care
Regular dusting, especially if you have carvings, is all you really need to keep a wooden fire surround looking clean. If it has a wax coating, you'll need to reapply this if it looks dull or scuffed.
Making the most of a marble surround
Wipe with a clean damp cloth, then buff it with a soft dry cloth for a gleaming finish. If you spot any stains, you can buy a special marble cleaner âÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ don't try general household cleaners on marble.
How to buff up a cast iron fireplace
A metal polish applied then buffed will smarten up a cast iron fireplace. WD-40 is an excellent way to manage small areas of rust. If you feel it needs a more serious spruce, you can use a heatproof black paint.
Cleaning a stone fireplace
Simply wipe your stone fire surround with warm water and a sponge. If it's dirty, add a mild detergent to the water.
The finishing touches
Make sure the mantelpiece and hearth are clean and dusted, and you're all set for a beautiful winter fireplace. Treat your hearth to an antique companion set or log bucket as the final finishing touch.
Leave plenty of time to get the logs in: deliveries can have a longer lead time in the winter, especially in the run-up to Christmas.
Contact us at Thornhill Galleries
It's not to late to choose and install a new fire surround this winter. Please contact us at Thornhill Galleries to find out more.