How to Close Out Your Fireplace for Spring & Summer | Nexus Chimney

April 15, 2020

With the days getting warmer and longer, it’s time to think about closing down your fireplace for the summer season, when it’s likely to see very little use. Keep reading to learn how to close your chimney system safely, without damaging your fireplace or its accessories, from our Apex chimney contractor.  

Remove Unused Firewood

Your firebox is a safe place to burn wood, but not necessarily the ideal place to store it. Firewood left in a fireplace for a few months or a season can attract pests, like termites. If the weather hasn’t completely warmed up yet, we suggest throwing a brief springtime bonfire and enjoy the last bits of the winter season. While the firewood can be stored for another season, excessively dry wood can be problematic for your chimney system. 

Clean Out Your Ashes

It’s actually beneficial to have a little ash in your fireplace, to help insulate tinder as it catches, but it’s also important to remember that ashes are chemically corrosive (you may remember from Fight Club that ashes contain lye, which makes soap when mixed with fat). Leaving ashes in your fireplace all summer could damage it, so before closing out your system for the season, clean out any ashes left behind. Our tip for cleaning up ashes without making a mess: use a shop vac and go very slowly, so as not to send them flying around the home. Note that ashes can remain hot hours after a fire. 

Clean Your Grate/Andirons

Next, clean any accessories you have in your fireplace, such as the grate or andirons. Again, wood ash contains lye, which will corrode these items and make them look older and more used than they are. If you have a cast iron fireplace grate, it will likely have been treated with a substance (called iron paste) that protects it from moisture damage. For this reason, typical household cleaners and wet cloths won’t be sufficient; instead, use a dry brush to clean away as much of the debris as possible.

Close the Damper

Your fireplace’s damper helps you control the flow of air coming in through your chimney system. When a fire is burning, the damper should be open so that the smoke can escape through the flue. But when your fireplace is not in use, leaving the damper open can have several consequences, which we discuss more in detail here. To summarize, anything from the outdoors—rain water, birds, squirrels, debris, drafts—can come into your home if the damper is not closed. 

Turn Off Your Pilot Light 

If you have a gas fireplace, it is generally recommended that you turn off your pilot light if the system will be out of use for a few months. Firstly, a pilot light does cost you a bit of money, even if the fireplace is not in use. The second concern is that of safety. An active flame, no matter how small, is always at least a minor risk, and it never hurts to reduce that risk. Thirdly, during the heat of summer, the last thing you want is extra heat in your home, even if it’s the small amount produced by a pilot light! 

Hire a Professional Chimney Sweep in Apex! 

It’s important to note that, while you can perform simple surface cleaning and ash removal yourself, it’s no substitute for a professional chimney cleaning. A professional chimney sweep removes dangerous creosote deposits or other corrosive materials left in your flue, so that they do not become a fire or carbon monoxide habit. Creosote can also become very smelly during the heat of summer, and the smell can be hard to get out of your furniture and other belongings! If you need a chimney cleaning or inspection in Apex, call our CSIA-certified chimney sweeps today to get a free service estimate.