Image for the article titled How to Prepare Your Chimney for Winter (and Why You Should)

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When talking about chimney cleaning, it’s hard to imagine Dick Van Dyke singing and dancing and his unique take on a Cockney accent stepping to the beat in “Mary Poppins” on the rooftops of London.

And while the job is no longer associated with Orphans and child labor, Chimney sweeper still there. In fact, they play an important role in home safety and help reduce the number of chimney fires – which, according to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), is an average of more than 20,000 each year.

But while a professional chimney cleaning and inspection is recommended once a year – or about every 80 fires – there are plenty of other things you (and should) do to prepare your chimney for the winter season (besides professional cleaning). . Here’s what you should know, courtesy of two articles At BobVila.com.

Make a clear path for the smoke

If you live somewhere with trees, remove any branches that are directly above the chimney. “Branches of trees are not only a fire hazard, they can also restrict the correct draft of the chimney and damage the cap,” Donna Boyle Schwartz writes.

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Get rid of ashes

Before you put your fireplace back into operation, make sure that all ash residues from the last use have been removed. “Clean the combustion chamber once a week or whenever the ash is more than an inch deep,” says Schwartz. Either sweep or vacuum the ashes (which should always be completely cooled by this point) and dispose of them outside your home – ideally in a compost heap or garden bed if you have both.

Store and store lots of wood (if your fireplace uses it)

Some fires burn cleaner than others, so make it easy for yourself this winter by getting the supplies you need ahead of time. According to Schwartz, Hardwoods like oak, maple, and birch are preferable to softwoods like pine because they burn hotter and longer. You can also use CSIA-approved chimney logslike Duraflame or Pres-to-Logs.

Dried twigs or branches are the best (and safest) kindling, Manasa Reddigari writes, adding that cloth should be avoided as it produces a lot of smoke.

Speaking of wood: never burn treated wood or lacquered wood, as this creates dangerous fumes. And as tempting as it may be to stack firewood in your house, Schwartz says This is not the best idea as it can attract pests and / or bring them into the home.