It's nice to have a cozy and warm wood burning fireplace during the cold winter season. It can also provide the entire room with a charming ambiance when it's running efficiently.
However, there's more to a fireplace design than meets the eye. Today, it's no longer about the logs, decorative brass, fireplace grate, and the cast iron we place on its side. The construction of contemporary wood fireplace nowadays is more complex compared to what we have back in the days. Logs tend to burn longer, and the smoke going up the chimney is thin stray fumes.
Wood Burning Fireplace Anatomy
You'll have a better understanding of how a fireplace works by understanding its construction. Here are the essential features of a wood burning fireplace that you need to know:
- Ash Pit. This is a compartment for collecting ashes that comes from burning logs. It is normally located at the base of your fireplace.
- Firebox. Also called an inner hearth, this is the part of your fireplace where you create the fire and typically lined with fire bricks that can withstand high temperatures.
- Fireplace Grate. A removable insert that rests on the firebox or inner hearth.
- Mantel. Traditionally, this is the wood burning fireplace's focal point, but newer, modern designs come with sleeker appearance, while there are those that eliminate it altogether. Its original purpose is for catching smoke, but these days it serves more of as a decorative piece.
- Damper. This movable plate, valve or metal door closes is placed above the chimney's throat closes the flue when you're not using your fireplace. Make sure that it's always open when you're using your fireplace to allow gases and smoke to leave the room.
- Lintel. The top and front edge of the firebox which helps carry the load produced by the inner hearth opening and directs smoke up your chimney.
- Throat. This is the firebox's opening and where the venting system of the fireplace starts. A throat dumper is placed in the fireplace during its construction. The throat's requirements have changed recently from 6 inches to 8 inches.
- Smoke Chamber. This is the space you see above the throat leading to the flue. Its purpose is to divert cold air to the flue and stop it from coming down your chimney.
- Flue. It's the passageway leading up to the chimney.
Today, the building codes for fireplaces with a contemporary design ensure that its maintenance and function are both simple and easy. But remember, things can still happen such as malfunctioning parts and chimney fires. Never neglect your wood burning fireplace, and it is best to have it checked up at least once a year.
How To Properly Maintain Your Wood Burning Fireplace
Regular maintenance and annual checkup of your fireplace are vital to ensure its efficiency and for safety purposes as well. Have a professional fireplace contractor inspect your fireplace system each year.
Here's a list of what you need to do and what needs to be observed:
- Check for any cracks in the construction of the fireplace and get them repaired right away.
- Inspect the flue for any cracks and blockages, and repair if needed. Make sure to have the flue cleaned every several years.
- Ensure that the damper is tightly sealed. If it's not closing securely, feel its edges and get rid of any debris. Also, check if the hinges and handle are working properly.
- Repair your firebox if there are loose or broken firebricks. You can clean the masonry from soot by using a mixture of water and mild muratic acid solution. Make sure to use gloves when cleaning.
- See if the ash pit needs some cleaning. If the ashes see soggy or difficult to remove, see if there's leakage on the outside cleanout doors. Seal gaps if you find any.
- Do not forget to have your chimney cleaned and checked annually as well.