A backyard fireplace is probably one of the most rewarding investments for your Milton, MA home. Not only does it add to the opulence of your property, but also makes your yard a comfortable gathering place for friends and family. However, keeping a fireplace safe and functional requires some care, and knowing what to look out for can help you enjoy your fireplace to the utmost.
Rechecking the location
Safety is paramount with any fire feature, which is why it is important to revisit the placement of your fireplace. Ensure that plants remain a safe distance from the fireplace, especially after spring summer when most plants go through a growth spurt. Ask your landscaper to trim back branches and ensure that the fireplace’s location is still optimal. Moreover, try to keep the fireplace away from flammable structures and consider relocating it if you have carried out an extension or renovations.
Check for defective parts
Regular use, high working temperatures and exposure to the elements can take their toll on the various parts of your fireplace. Gas fireplaces, in particular, have to be checked more often, given they have a more complex design. It is important to ensure none of the gas lines, fixtures or valves are leaking. This can be done by your landscaper. Similarly, the burners and pilot light should also be examined for corrosion, given their exposure to the elements, as problems with them can result in trouble with lighting up and maintaining a flame.
Inspect the chimney
A clean and free-flowing chimney is an integral part of any fireplace. A quick inspection of the chimney should be carried out by the homeowner before every use to ensure that it is free of serious blockages. Typically, fireplaces with clogged chimneys experience back puffing, emitting smoke through the opening rather than through the chimney. This can be caused by leaves or debris accumulating, especially during the fall, as well as due to the build-up of soot and creosote. In either case, a clogged chimney is a significant fire hazard and a professional should be consulted, especially after a prolonged period of disuse. Creosote build-up, in particular, is quite dangerous given its inflammable nature. No fireplace should be used if the build up is thick and tar-like, as this is more susceptible to catching fire. Lastly, consider investing in a chimney cover or grill to prevent debris from falling in.
Issues with the masonry
Fireplaces are constructed from a wide variety of materials. Some are more susceptible to degradation over time than others. This is partly due to the high temperature variation, as well as constant exposure to the elements that an outdoor fireplace is subject to. Check the fireplace for cracks and consult a professional over the proper repair procedure. Filling in a crack with the wrong material can cause excessive expansion and exacerbate the crack over time. Similarly, exposure to the rain can result in crumbling masonry, especially inside the chimney, which is often less protected. Coating the entire fireplace with a sealant after repairs is one excellent way to mitigate any potential disasters. Lastly, fireplaces tend to be heavy structures that can cause the soil underneath them to compact. This can result is the ground settling under the structure, potentially causing it to become unstable and a safety hazard. In any of these scenarios, contacting a professional is the best option, given the high-risk nature of structural problems with fireplaces.
Image courtesy of Unilock.