Fireplace Tool Guide
Fireplaces can be a nice addition to have in your home. They are very beautiful, are great for when it’s cold outside, and can be soothing to listen too. Who doesn’t love that crackling sound? It’s such a soothing sound to listen to and it’s something I look forward to after a long day. If you learn to utilize your fireplace properly, it can be a great asset to have.
As most of you know, using the heat can cost a lot of money, especially during the winter. We usually bite the bullet though because we don’t like being cold and blankets only provide us with so much warmth. Luckily, I have been able to save money on my utility bills during the winter by using my fireplace instead and it’s something you can learn to do as well. I will also tell you how to safely put out the fire in your fireplace.
Before getting started you need to know that It takes a lot of effort and patience to keep your fireplace in good shape. I promise you, it is so worth it. Once you realize how much money you’re saving on your heating bill, you will be glad you started using your fireplace.
Tools Needed For Fireplace Management
In order to care for your fireplace, you’ll need these tools.
- Fire poker
- Fireplace Tongs
- Brush or Broom
- Fireplace Shovel
Keeping the fireplace clean is very important so you will need some cleaning supplies as well. This includes
- Face Mask
- Baking Soda
- Cream of Tartar (optional)
- Trash Bags
Every item listed here has its purpose. I’ll explain to you what the purpose of each item is so you’ll know why they are important.
Note: DO NOT USE STARTER FLUIDS AS FUEL! These fuels are not meant for a fireplace. Not to mention that they produce toxic fumes that you do not want indoors. Grab some newspaper and a match and start your fire that way. This is the safest way to start a fire. If you want, you can use those BIC lighters so you don’t risk accidentally burning yourself.
Before you start buying these tools, figure out what your budget is. Tools come in different sizes and are made from different materials. If you are on a tight budget, try to get only what is needed. We all want to get the best looking stuff, but if you can’t afford it, just get what is necessary to get the job done.
You can get more luxurious items later.
Tools you will need for your fireplace
Like all of the other tools, the fire poker helps protect you. This is because it allows you to tend to the fire while also keeping a safe distance.
The purpose of the poker (sometimes referred to as a fire iron) is to help you put objects into the fire while keeping you safe from getting burned. These are a must if you want to keep your fire going. Trust me, I learned this the hard way. You want to keep the fire going as long as you can. Pokers can also be good if you like to go camping.
They are made from iron and the grip is insulated so it won’t burn you if you touch the end. A tip to keep in mind, brass pokers last longer than iron pokers because they are more resistant to rusting. The looks of brass pokers look way better than iron pokers but they do cost more.
To use pokers, use the pointed end to push logs around. You’re doing this so there are more air pockets. Or if there is a hook at the end, use the hook to grab and move the logs.
If you also have a wood-burning BBQ, a fire poker is a great tool to have so you can move the meat around. It’s also a great self-defense weapon if you are out of other options. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. But if it does, grab the fire poker and get to poking.
Shop for Fire Pokers on Amazon
The word tong is fun to say isn’t it? Tongs.
Meant for grabbing hot items, tongs help you adjust logs and coal. That is if your fireplace is compatible with coal. Find out if you can use coal before actually using coal.
Gravity can be a nuisance at times, and the logs and/or coal will fall down. You need to adjust them quickly to help reduce the amount of ash building up. This will help keep the fire hot for a longer period of time.
Most tongs are at least 26” long but some can be about 40” inches long. Preferably, the shorter ones can be easier to use because the longer ones can make it more difficult to control the grip. Of course, the farther you are away from fire, the safer you’ll be. Since you will be using these every time you use the fireplace, you want to get tongs that are rust-resistant. Stainless steel is a good choice to go with.
To use tongs, put your fingers in and around the handle. It’s kind of similar to scissors. Position the grippers on the end of the tong between the wood and simply grab that piece of wood.
The great thing about tongs is that they can help you be lazy too. If you want to grab a remote control but don’t feel like getting up, grab the remote with the tongs. Make sure the tong isn’t hot though. Don’t want to break your controller. These can also be used for food. If you don’t have a spatula, use some tongs to flip the food.
Shop for Fireplace Tongs on Amazon
Just like balloon pumps, bellows blow air even though you can do it yourself. It’s better to use a device to save yourself time. Your lungs will thank you later.
Bellows help to prevent a fire from dying out but also help start a fire. It delivers extra air to the fire which helps ignite the fire and even reignite parts of the fire that is fading out. Fire needs oxygen to keep going and that’s what the bellow provides. You want to get a decent-sized one in order to make everything easier.
A good size is about 7 inches wide and 17 inches long. But everyone is different so a smaller size may help you more when using a bellow but it will require more strokes than a bigger bellow. Bigger bellows provide more air than a smaller one so keep that in mind. When you have your preferred bellow, point the nozzle at the base of the logs or coal if that is what you’re using and start blowing air into the fire. Be sure to be gentle because too much air can be bad.
You don’t want to accidentally blow too much air and make the fire get out of control. I wish I could say I didn’t make that mistake but that would be a lie. Luckily, no serious damage was caused… in my opinion…
There are nice Bellows on Amazon
Brushes and Brooms
Moving along, make sure to have a brush or broom present. Whether you use a broom or a brush is up to you. It’s a personal preference. You are just sweeping the fireplace and getting some of the ash.
DON’T USE WHILE FIRE IS ACTIVE! BROOMS AND BRUSHES ARE NOT FIRE RESISTANT! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
Use the broom or the brush once there is no fire and everything has cooled down. Or, you can get an ash vacuum to make the whole process easier and quicker. You want to make sure you don’t accidentally vacuum up any pieces of wood. It shouldn’t damage the vacuum, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
If you’d like, you can use the broom as a regular broom. However, and I can’t stress this enough, make sure the broom is clean. The ash can dirty the broom and if you go around trying to sweep with the dirty broom, you’ll just be making a bigger mess. Rinsing the broom with water is usually enough. If you have a water hose, you can use that to clean the broom.
Shop for Brushes & Brooms on Amazon
This is used to scoop out the ash in the open hearth. These tend to be really long. The difference between this and brushes is that shovels can be used while the fire is active. If you want to get fancy with it, you can get your own custom shovel. Shovels are great because they allow you to pick up ash more quickly. The fire builds up a lot of ash so you want to remove it to prevent the fire from going out.
Ash removal is needed so a sufficient amount of air is reaching the wood and fire. It’s important to be cautious while getting the ash because some debris can fly onto you and you can get burned. Try to wear pants and long-sleeved shirts to better protect yourself.
Shop on Amazon for Fireplace Shovels
Here’s a little history lesson for you. Andirons have been used for thousands of years. They have been used since Roman times. They are also sometimes referred to as fire-dogs. Andirons are placed in the fireplace underneath the wood and on the sides of the fire chamber. This helps air circulate under the logs more allowing the fire to burn longer. Usually, it comes in pairs and is made of iron but sometimes brass.
Make sure they are stable before using them as they are free-standing so you can move them and clean the fireplace easier. You don’t want one to fall over. If you don’t have screens, the only thing preventing the logs from rolling out onto the floor is the andiron.
Some people get confused when they see grates. They see grates and think they are the same thing as an andiron. Although they are similar, there is one key difference. Andirons have tall front pieces that stop the logs from rolling out. Grates do not have this. Keep this in mind when shopping for tools. It can save you in the future.
Grates do have their uses as well. If you have a screen in front of the fireplace, that can stop the logs from rolling out. Andirons are good if you have an open fireplace.
You can find great deals on Fireplace Andirons at Amazon
When the fire is going, there is a lot of crackling going on. Sometimes a piece of burning paper can fly out and land on the floor. These are called sparks. Sparks are very dangerous because they can cause house fires. Screens help keep all the materials inside including the logs.
Screens are a must if you have toddlers or pets. As much as we love them, let’s be honest… they’re a danger to themselves especially babies. To protect them from getting burned, put a screen in front of the fire to block the child or pet from getting too close.
How would you feel if I told you that having an open fireplace actually gives off less heat? Crazy right? But it’s true. Screens help because they help absorb the heat and push it into the living room. With an open fireplace, a lot of the heat will go up the chimney which is what we don’t want.
There is a beautiful fireplace screen on Amazon
Meters measure the amount of moisture the wood. If the wood is too wet, it can’t burn. The meter will tell you if the wood is too wet which is very important information to have. This helps tremendously when you are trying to start a fire. It’s recommended to use wood that has less than 20% moisture. I can’t tell you how much time I wasted trying to use wood that had too much moisture.
Meters are not that hard to use. Just place them up against the piece of wood you want to use, and the meter will show you how much moisture that piece of wood contains. Meters will save you so much time. Invest in one.
You can find an inexpensive Meter on Amazon
How to put out the fire in the fireplace
It’s not that hard to put out the flames, but you need to do it correctly.
First, grab your poker, shovel, and some baking soda.
Then, use the poker to move the wood around so they are spread out.
After that. grab your shovel, pick up some ash and place it over the wood. Ash helps extinguish the fire. Don’t use water on the wood. Water can sometimes feed the fire so that’s why ash is the better method. Only wet the ashes after you have placed them in a bucket.
Finally, when the fire is out, cover the wood with baking soda. Make sure the fire is completely out before applying baking soda. Triple check if you have to.
Once the fire is out, all you have to do is dispose of the ashes. You can read more about fireplace safety here.
How To Maintain Your Fireplace
Now that you know what you need for your fireplace, let’s talk about how to properly maintain it. Proper maintenance is important because numerous house fires start due to poor maintenance. This is because creosote builds up on the inside of the chimney. Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen to you.
Also, did you know an estimated 25,000 house fires a year start in the chimney? There’s a little ‘fun’ fact for you.
Disposing of Ashes
Whatever wood you burn will determine the amount of ash that is created. You don’t have to remove ash after every fire.
To remove the ash, grab your fireplace shovel. After you have that, you want to shovel out all the ashes and place them into a metal bucket. Be sure to have a shovel that is flat. It makes shoveling much easier. If you are lucky enough to have an ash dump, you can dispose of the ashes there.
You always want to use a metal bin for safety precautions. Wood ashes are one of the reasons house fires happen in the first place. People make the mistake of thinking that because the ashes are cooled down, they are inactive/dead. This is not the case as sometimes they can still spark up. Putting the ashes in a bag can cause a fire if the ashes spark up again.
If you aren’t one of the lucky ones, you’ll have to stick to the old fashion way and put the ashes in a metal bucket. Try and save a little bit of ash though. You’ll see what I mean later.
Removing soot and stains
Here is where the cleaning supplies will come into play.
This is one of my least favorite things to do because this part can be very time-consuming. Removing soot and stains just sucks in general. But we gotta do it. The quicker you start the quicker you’ll be finished. Keep that in mind when you want to procrastinate.
Before you start, you will want to put on some gloves and a face mask if you haven’t already. The process is very messy. Don’t be like me and assume it won’t be that bad. Trust me, it will. Cover your face and hands. If you don’t, you will regret it.
There are some products that you have in your house that can help you clean. Some products are baking soda and dish detergent paste, vinegar and water, or water and cream of tartar. The last one makes a paste.
I personally prefer the water and vinegar method. Here’s what I do.
I remove some of the loose soot by using a brush. After that, I spray the bricks with the water and vinegar. I then grab a scrub and get to scrubbing. I didn’t know this at first but it is recommended to use some water and baking soda to help with the acidity on the bricks.
If you notice that there are still some stains on the bricks, try using Muriatic acid. As with all chemicals, follow the safety instructions. They are there for your safety so please read them. Once you are finished with this, it is time to move on to the chimney.
Your chimney should have a cap on top of it. Go up to the roof and inspect the cap. This won’t be fun if you are afraid of heights but this must be done. Just don’t look down and you’ll be fine. Once at the chimney, make sure the cap is clean as sometimes stuff like leaves can get trapped in there.
You want it to be as clean as possible because if there is debris trapped in the cap, it can make it difficult for the smoke to get out, trapping the smoke in your house. That’s a big no-no.
Animals can get down the chimney sometimes so have a wire screen to make sure they can’t get in. Birds are the main ones you have to worry about. The only thing we want to come down the chimney is Santa Clause and he only comes down the chimney one night per year.
How often should I clean my fireplace?
The answer depends on how often you use it. It will need to be cleaned more often than someone who never uses their fireplace. But, even if you don’t use your fireplace, it is still recommended to get it inspected at least once a year to make sure it is safe to use. If you use it often, get it inspected more than once a year. If your fireplace has glass, you will want to clean it. Leaving it dirty will make it stick out like a sore thumb. Remember earlier when I said to save some ash for later? This is why. You can actually clean the glass using the ash. All you need to do is dampen some paper towels using water and dip that into some ash. You can then scrub the glass clean. Pretty neat isn’t it? That’s a nice way to save yourself some more money by not having to use your other cleaning supplies.