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August 30, 2018

How to clean and maintain your outdoor fireplace

An outdoor fireplace is a great way to extend your outdoor season and create a fun and cozy entertaining space. It can create the perfect focal point in your backyard landscape and add resale value to your home. However, proper maintenance is required to ensure that the fireplace will provide years of outdoor enjoyment.

For an outdoor fireplace to function properly, retain a solid framework, and still look great, it requires maintenance on a regular basis. Depending on the type of fireplace, the material it’s made of, and the age, there are different requirements and maintenance steps that you will need to take.

Regardless of the type, and fireplace can have issues due to lack of maintenance. Especially in New England, exposure to the elements can cause a variety of problems which can worsen over time if not addressed. Keep in mind that wood-burning fireplaces will have a different set of steps to follow than a gas insert.

Wood-Burning Fireplaces

  • Trim back plants, grass, trees, etc. from around the fireplace. Don’t plant or place planters next to the structure. Not only are they a fire hazard, but the plants could attach to the fireplace itself and weaken joints causing cracks and deterioration.
  • Like indoor fireplaces, you can use creosote sweeping logs that help loosen creosote from the structure, preventing build up. If the creosote is 1/8th of an inch thick or less, you should have your fireplace professionally cleaned soon. If the creosote is thicker than 1/8th of an inch, do not use your fireplace until it’s been thoroughly cleaned by a professional as this is a fire hazard.
  • Remove ash, debris, and any unburned wood from the fireplace. Keeping the unit clean from ash and debris after each use can prevent a buildup of unwanted material and fire hazards. A broom can be used but a shop vac will ensure that the ash and debris don’t create a mess or just get smeared around.
  • Prevent mold, algae, and dirt from building up on the outside of the fireplace by using a stiff bristled brush and warm, soapy water to clean the outside surfaces. Trying to clean the inside of the fireplace can be difficult without the proper tools, equipment, and cleaners. Professional service is recommended in these cases.
  • The chimney and flu will need to be maintained very similarly to how an indoor fireplace would, and a professional contractor is recommended to prevent possible fire hazards.

Outdoor Gas Fireplaces

 VERY IMPORTANT FIRST STEP. Make sure the gas is turned off before attempting any cleaning or maintenance on an outdoor gas fireplace.

  • Inspect the exhaust fan to make sure it’s working properly.
  • Inspect the ventilation system to make sure it’s properly venting. If you think it may not be, have a professional inspect it.
  • Maintain the gas burners but cleaning them with a soft cloth and bristle brush. Your unit should have a manual with proper procedures and cleaning solutions, which you will want to follow so you don’t void the warranty.
  • Although much less ash and debris are found with gas systems, you will need to clean any fake logs with a soft-bristled brush at least once a month.

Outdoor fireplace maintenance by a professional is recommended at least once a year to make sure your fireplace is running properly and there are no concerns of a fire hazard. If you are looking to have a new fireplace installed, you can minimize your maintenance by determining the best spot both aesthetically and logically. A fireplace in an area that is very windy could cause ash and embers to blow around in addition to having unwanted debris blown into the fireplace. If the fireplace is directly exposed to the rain, a splash guard or protective mat directly outside the opening will keep the patio from being stained with puddles of ashy water.

Adding an outdoor fireplace to your backyard can provide an exciting new space to relax, entertain, and enjoy extra time outside. If you have questions, we’d love to answer them! Give us a call today.

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