How to Properly Clean Out a Fireplace in Your Piedmont Home

A nice fire going in a home fireplace.

Curling up in front of a wood burning fireplace is one way to stay cozy when the weather turns cold in the Piedmont Triad. If you are lucky enough to own a wood burning fireplace, you know that the comfort and warmth it provides requires a bit of maintenance from time to time. The National Fire Protection Association recommends both your chimney and fireplace be inspected for safety and cleaned annually. Creosote, which is an oily wood-tar by-product that can cling to chimney walls, can cause fires to flare out of control. If you are searching for a potential new property in the Piedmont Triad, be sure to ask for details about recent chimney inspections and cleanings. 

In addition to the annual heavy duty cleaning of the chimney, you will want to regularly clean out your fireplace to keep it looking tidy and keep it burning cleanly. These steps can take it from filthy to flawless!

  1. Wait at least 12 hours after your last fire before attempting to clean a fireplace in order to give all of the ashes and embers a chance to fully cool down.
  2. Wear old clothes or an apron because this can be a messy task. Also, it is a good idea to put on gloves, a face mask, and protective eyewear to keep the soot from irritating your lungs and skin.
  3. Lay a plastic tarp or old sheet in front of the fireplace to catch the mess.
  4. Using a handheld broom, sweep any soot and ash from the floor and walls of your fireplace and collect it into a dustpan. Dump the ash into a heavy duty paper or plastic bag as you work. Do this gently to keep as much dust as possible from flying around. Pro tip: Sprinkle a handful of used coffee grounds on the ashes to minimize flyaways.
  5. For good measure, you may want to vacuum the area to catch any remaining dust. But don’t forget to clean the vacuum brush attachment afterwards – you don’t want to spread soot around the rest of your home!
  6. Now it is time to scrub! Water and hearth cleaner work well for the brick and iron parts of your fireplace. But if you have brick front or facing that’s more than 50 years old, just use water with a light scouring. Old brick is more susceptible to crumbling. For marble and stone, scrub with water and dishwashing detergent. Use old rags to wipe each area after scrubbing.
  7. If you fireplace features glass doors, they can be cleaned with a 50-50 solution of water and vinegar. You can also put the discarded ashes to good use by sprinkling some onto the towel to act as a light, natural abrasive.

Once everything is clean and back in its place, you will need to decide what to do with your ashes. If you would prefer a professional clean your chimney, make sure they are a certified specialist before hiring them. You can find a certified chimney sweep technician near you by visiting the Chimney Safety Institute of America’s website and search for a pro today, as well as get other helpful tips.

If you’re looking for a place to dispose of your ashes and your Piedmont Triad home has a garden, we recommend spreading them there. Ashes are a great source of calcium, potassium, and other nutrients for plants and they also repel some garden pests! If you are making plans on moving to a home in the Piedmont Triad area that has a nice fireplace to curl up by, then give Zippy Shell of the Piedmont Triad a call! We would love to make you moving and storage needs simple!

Prevent Frozen Pipe Problems this Winter with These 7 Tips

Kitchen faucet running in a home

One of the most important things you can do as a homeowner is to winterize your pipes to prevent them from freezing. When water freezes in pipes, volume expands and puts pressure on pipes from the inside. The result of this pressure will cause the pipes to crack or rupture entirely, causing expensive damage to your home.

Here are 7 tips to help you avoid a frozen pipe issue this winter.

  1. Pipe Insulation: Pipes located in unheated areas such as garages, attics and crawl spaces need insulation. Pipe insulation can be found at most home improvement stores for very little cost. It comes in long strips that can be cut to size with a utility knife. You can also consider heat tape for a few dollars more.
  2. Seal Cracks: Look for cracks or openings that might let cold air in on pipes that run from inside to outside the home (i.e. dryer vents, water pipes). Seal these cracks or openings with caulk.
  3. Outdoor Spigots: Turn off the outside water supply, disconnect garden hoses from spigots, and drain any water from the pipes. For optimum protection, purchase an inexpensive insulated faucet cover to be placed around each outdoor spigot.
  4. Garage: If water supply lines are in the garage, be sure and keep the doors closed. If you park your vehicle in the garage, minimize the length of time the garage doors are open to help keep water supply lines warmer.
  5. Kitchen & Bathroom: Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the pipes.
  6. Faucets: Let your faucets drip to keep water moving through the water system. This will reduce the water pressure and help prevent frozen pipes. If a pipe does freeze, it is less likely to rupture due to the lower water pressure.
  7. Vacation: Prevent frozen pipes by setting your thermostat to 60 degrees or above while away on vacation. Ask a neighbor to check inside and outside your home to ensure your pipes have not frozen and ruptured.

Although you can’t wrap your house in bubble wrap, these preventative measures can help you prevent a costly disaster this winter. If you discover frozen pipes, call a professional plumber immediately. The team at Zippy Shell hopes you don’t encounter a frozen pipe disaster, but if you need to store your belongings, consider Zippy Shell for any short or long-term storage needs you might have!