Only about four out of every ten single family homes that were started in 2018 included a gas, electric, or wood fireplace in their design. In New York State, however, almost 56 percent of homes include at least one fireplace. A strategically placed fireplace in the home not only adds to the charm and ambiance of your interior living space, it can also significantly increase your home’s value. The 2007 National Association of Realtors survey found that 46 percent of potential home buyers would be willing to pay more for a home that included at least one fireplace. While the average additional price people would pay for a home with a fireplace was $1,220, fireplaces in high-end luxury homes could increase the home's value by as much as $12,000 in high equity locations. 

The benefits of having a fireplace are also practical. Fireplaces can act as the sole or additional source of heat and lower your heating bills in the winter months. The average resident in New York State pays around $173.84 for electricity each month, and $102.76 for natural gas. Firing up your wood-burning fireplace allows homeowners to turn down the thermostat, especially during the colder evenings and nights when time-of-use energy rates tend to be higher. 

Despite these desirable benefits that come with having a fireplace, managing a fireplace requires a bit of time and effort. Below, we offer a quick overview of how you can effectively and efficiently keep your fireplace clean. 

The Importance of Keeping your Fireplace Clean

bedroom with a fireplace

A clean fireplace and chimney will allow for a clean, efficient burn that allows your home to benefit from an additional source of heat. When fireplaces and chimneys are not properly cleaned or managed, however, they can pose both health and safety risks. Wood-burning stoves will eventually lead to creosote buildup. Creosote is a byproduct of wood combustion that consists mainly of tar. This sticky black substance builds up on the interiors of your chimney or flue, and can become toxic and highly flammable. 

When your fireplace and chimney have significant amounts of creosote buildup, the odds of a chimney fire increase dramatically. In fact, fires within chimneys, flues or flue burners accounted for 87 percent of all heating fires in residential buildings.

Dirty fireplaces and flues lead to both creosote exposure and even carbon monoxide accumulating in your home. Having a chimney cleaner or fireplace technician revise your chimney every couple of years is an important part of a proper maintenance strategy. However, one simple way to avoid quick creosote buildup is through properly cleaning your fireplace and removing ashes after every use. 

How to Clean a Fireplace

living room with a fireplace

Fortunately, cleaning your fireplace is a relatively quick and easy task that every homeowner can do on their own. Below, we offer a few suggestions for cleaning your fireplace, how to clean fireplace ashes, and overall fireplace management.  

  1. Inspect creosote buildup. With a simple fireplace poker, you can check for creosote buildup along the metal lining of your firebox. While a bit of creosote is normal, if you have around ¼ an inch of creosote, you need to call a professional cleaner right away before using your fireplace again. 
  2. Protect your living room. Before you begin to sweep up the ashes in your fireplace, placing old newspapers around the hearth can protect your carpeting, wood, floor, and the stone or brick mantle from being stained by ash and charcoal residue. 
  3. Apply damp coffee grounds. Sweeping up the ashes in your fireplace can release fine particulate matter into the air, and you want to avoid breathing this in. If you suffer from asthma or other respiratory conditions, this can be dangerous. Sprinkling damp, coarse coffee grounds over the ashes before you begin to sweep them up will help contain the dust, reducing the possibility of ash particles becoming airborne in your home. (Bonus: after cleaning for the season, leaving a thin layer of dried grounds will absorb odors.)
  4. Start with the big stuff. Before sweeping, dispose of any unburned logs or large pieces of charcoal. Charcoal is an excellent soil amendment that you can place on your flower or vegetable garden. Next, use a small broom, dustpan, or fireplace shovel to remove the large amounts of ash. Ash can also be used as a soil amendment in small quantities or added to your backyard compost pile. Lastly, using the brush attachment on your vacuum will allow you to get your fireplace completely clean. 

Your fireplace adds so much value to your home, make sure to schedule time to show it some love! With regular fireplace maintenance, you will decrease the rate of creosote buildup while increasing the efficiency of fire combustion.

Natale Builders is a family owned and operated professional home building business with 50 years of experience in building custom homes for people across the Western New York area. If you are looking for help in any aspect of home building or renovation, contact today this leading building company in Energy Star and Green Build designs