Fireplace FAQ Part 3

Q: Can I use wood in my gas burning fireplace?

A: No. If the fireplace is designed for use only with gas, this is a very bad idea. The fireplace is not designed to withstand a wood fire. And the gas jets are not meant to come in contact with ash. This is a real fire hazard. It's possible your fireplace was originally a wood burning fireplace and has been converted to gas. In that case, it can be converted back. But you shouldn't burn would in it until that's happened.

Q: I've heard that fireplace inserts are not safe and can damage the fireplace. Is that true?

A: Depends on the insert and the fireplace. If you've got a masonry fireplace that was built with the home, an insert shouldn't be a problem. If you've got a prefab fireplace, you'll need to be more careful. Make sure the insert is rated for use with your model of fireplace. You may need to call the manufacturer of your prefab fireplace to make sure.

Q: What are the pros and cons of burning an artificial "log" in my fireplace?

A: Artificial logs are made out of wax and sawdust. The most obvious "pro" is that they're easy to use. And if you follow the directions, you should be ok. Don't use more than one at a time or the heat produced may be too much for your fireplace. Don't prod the log after it has been lit, either. It can come apart which means the sawdust will burn faster and hotter than intended. Your fireplace may not be designed to take that much heat. Also, there's a possibility that the wax can drip into the low heat area of the fireplace and ignite there. That could cause a house fire.

Q: How often should I have my chimney cleaned?

A: At least once a year, maybe more. A good rule of thumb is that the chimney should be swept after each cord to cord and a half of wood used. Have a chimney sweep come out midway through winter and inspect the system. He can advise you whether there's enough buildup to justify cleaning the chimney twice a year.

Q: What kind of wood should I burn in a wood burning fireplace?

A: Use seasoned hard wood. "Seasoned" wood is wood that has been dried out for at least half a year, preferably a year. It's opposite, green wood, will produce a cooler, smokier fire that's bad for your chimney. Hard woods are woods like oak, maple, beech, and ash. They burn hotter than pine, spruce, birch, or redwood. Do NOT use wood that has been painted or had finish applied. This could release toxic fumes into your home.

Q: Can I use one of those chimney cleaning logs?

A: Chimney cleaning logs are not a substitute for a professional chimney sweeping, but they do do some good. It's a bit like running weakly soapy water over your hands but not scrubbing.

Q: Can't I accomplish the same thing by putting salt on the fire?

A: Don't do it. Yes, the salt will work, but salt is corrosive. You can damage metal parts like the damper and rain cap. If it's a prefab fireplace, you could corrode the whole thing.

Q: How do I clean the glass doors?

A: You can actually use a little ash from your fireplace to do the job. Just take a rag or sturdy paper towel, get it moist, dip it in a bit of ash, and use it to clean the windows.

Q: How do I clean the brass trim?

A: Do NOT use any sort of polish or metal cleaner. The trim on fireplaces usually has a lacquer coating that can be stripped off with harsh cleaners. Stick to simple soap and water.