Countdown to Cool: Fireplace Preparation

Cooler weather in Philadelphia brings Eagles football, autumn foliage, and the need for fireplace preparation. In addition to an annual professional chimney cleaning and inspection, you should check the overall condition of your hearth and chimney.

Cooler weather in Philadelphia brings stunning autumn foliage, Eagles football, and the need to start thinking about fireplace preparation. In addition to scheduling an annual professional chimney cleaning and inspection, you should take a look at the overall condition of your hearth and chimney before you light the first fire.

Cleaning Products for Your Wood-Burning Fireplace

Use a wire brush to loosen debris inside of the fireplace. Next, sweep or scoop out the leftover ash and soot. Glass doors can be cleaned using a mild dishwashing detergent and paper towel or soft cloth. Cleansers specifically formulated for fireplace doors are also available for purchase at home improvement stores.

Lighting a fireplace cleaning log before your first wood-burning fire will reduce creosote, a dark substance that builds up in a fireplace and may be flammable. Also consider adding soot-reducing sticks. These can be tossed into the hearth when lighting a fire, and they will help keep excess soot from building up.

Chimney Inspection

Early autumn is also a good time to inspect gutters and eliminate blockages before leaves begin to drop. While you are up on a ladder, remember to check the condition of your chimney as well. Visible cracks should be evaluated and repaired if necessary to prevent water infiltration. Check your chimney cap as well; the mesh screen attached to the cap should be intact in order to provide a proper barrier against animals, rainwater, and leaves falling into your chimney. A professional inspection should be conducted yearly; if the cap needs to be replaced, look for one made of stainless steel with a lifetime warranty.

Gas Fireplaces

Gas fireplaces are generally easier to maintain than those that burn wood, but you should still check to make sure the pilot light is working properly before the cold weather season begins. If the pilot has been extinguished, call a professional to have it relit. According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, gas fireplaces may also become clogged by “birds’ nests or other debris blocking the flue,” so a periodic inspection of the chimney is recommended. Before you begin using your fireplace each season, review the owner’s manual, especially how to turn off the supply line in case of a gas leak or an emergency.

Think about Fire Safety

Before burning your first fire, make sure the flue is open. Also, check the batteries in your smoke detectors and test their operation. If you have small children, provide an adequate barrier between them and the fireplace, and talk to them about fire safety.

Fireplace preparation may not be one of your favorite household cleaning jobs, but with the proper materials and regular professional sweeping of your chimney, this chore can be relatively quick and painless, leaving you with plenty of time to curl up in front of a warm fire on chilly winter weekends.


Jennifer DiGiovanni is a freelance writer and a partner in a real estate investment firm focusing on residential properties. She previously worked in the financial services industry and has earned an MBA from Villanova University. Jennifer enjoys writing about real estate, home improvement and small business.

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