From the Hearth: Give Your Outdoor Fireplace and Firepit the Maintenance They Deserve
Your outdoor fireplace is always a welcome companion, whether you’re spending time on your patio with family and friends or just having “me-time”. There’s nothing like using it to keep yourself warm while watching the beautiful night sky or roasting some marshmallows while telling the kids a campfire story. The cold Midwest climate isn’t kind to anyone, so keeping your firepit or outdoor fireplace well-maintained is essential if you want to spend time outside.
Choose Your Tools
Fireplaces, fire pits, and fire tables don’t need specialized equipment. You can use tools from your indoors fireplace on your outdoor fireplace, and all are readily available at most hardware stores. Make sure you have the following materials before starting your maintenance project.
- Dust Mask – You’re going to work with ash and soot, and you wouldn’t want to inhale their particles accidentally. Though not really dangerous in small amounts, toxic levels of these burnt particles is linked to diseases like bronchitis. It may cause existing heart and lung conditions to worsen. A simple home dust mask should give you ample protection, and you can easily find one in your local hardware store.
- An Arsenal of Brushes – You need a steel-bristled brush to clean grates and the inside of your fireplace or fire pit. A nylon-bristled brush is also necessary to paint and seal the outer part of the fireplace, and it is helpful when it comes to getting rid of dust.
- Shovel or Spade – You need a heavy-duty shovel to scoop out all the burnt wood and ash off your fireplace. If you have a small unit, a spade will do just fine.
- A Broom – This is a universal tool you need to sweep everything, from dirt to ash, off your fireplace and patio.
- Grate Polish – Any grate, whether it’s exposed to fire from gas or wood, accumulates soot and, in some cases, rust. You need grate polish to get rid of all that gunk and have your iron looking pristine.
- Paint – If needed, a nice coat of paint on the outer walls of your fireplace helps protect it from the elements, especially if it’s made entirely of concrete. If you want to give the firebox some TLC, a can of high-heat spray paint should do the work.
Other materials like mortar and brick may be helpful, because you might encounter breakage or cracks while inspecting the fireplace. For regular maintenance, however, the items above are enough to help you get your hearth in tip-top shape.
You need to get your fireplace clean before looking for any issues. Start by disposing of the burnt wood and sweeping any ash off the hearth. You may also use an ash vacuum to speed up this process. Next, clean the inside with a steel brush until it comes back to its natural color, then use a dry rag to clean the grate. Apply some grate polish for a shiny finish. Once you’ve finished cleaning, it’s time to move on to addressing your fireplace’s possible problems.
If you have a masonry firepit, scoop out the ash and put them in a bucket for safe disposal. Next, get a rag soaked in water and scrub the inside clean. Gas-powered ones don’t need much maintenance. Just make sure to clean the burners from time-to-time to ensure optimal gas flow.
Inspect and Solve
If you’re on the task of cleaning and maintaining your hearth, fire it up one last time and look for possible issues like:
Fireplace: Back Puffing –
This happens when smoke doesn’t escape through the chimney and pushes towards you instead. There are a variety of reasons behind this, including a blocked chimney or a faulty ventilation system.
Solution: Sweep the Chimney
Fireplace chimneys are notorious for being clogged by several things, such as wasp’s nests. Place a bucket or bin on the ground and use a ladder to climb up to the top of the chimney and take the cap off. Remove any debris blogging the chimney and dispose of it in the basket. Be careful if there are wasp nests and take any necessary precautions.
Next, check the top of the chimney. If you see any debris clogging it, try to pull some out or push it down. Once you’ve gotten rid of the clog, put them all in the bucket and inspect the cap. Pull out anything stuck in it, and make sure to clean the chimney with a steel brush to lessen any buildup.
If the fireplace still puffs back a bit of smoke, you may need to contact a professional to inspect it for any ventilation issues.
Firepit: Air and Fuel Mishaps –
If you’re having trouble lighting up your masonry firepit, it may be because it’s not getting enough air or you’re using damp wood for fuel. For gas firepits, you’ve probably experienced having delays when it comes to ignition.
Solution: Clean and Replace
Make sure that the air holes and intake vent are free of gunk and dirt with a steel brush. For the fuel, it’s as easy as replacing your existing wood with waterproof ones from your nearest hardware store. When it comes to gas-powered pits, try replacing your ignitor’s battery and test it out again. If it still doesn’t light up contact your gas provider to inspect your firepit’s valves, because they may need replacing after months of constant use.
Fireplace and Firepit: Cracking and Deterioration –
Even though your fireplace or firepit is made out of good quality prefabricated concrete or stone, there’s always a risk of it cracking because of heat. It may seem like a solely aesthetic issue, a large enough split could allow the fire to escape and spread to combustible materials like your lawn.
Your outdoor heating equipment is vulnerable to degradation because they’re regularly exposed to the elements. This is especially true if you live in a rainy or snowy location. Concrete absorbs water coming from these weather conditions, causing it to deteriorate over time. This situation is even worse when your fireplace has metal parts, as they may end up rusting as well.
Solution: Seal Everything
If you see any cracks on your firebrick, patch it up with mortar. Use a spade to scoop the material and apply it to the crack. If you don’t have time to mix mortar, use a can of fireplace sealant. You can find mortar from your local masonry store. If most of the bricks are cracked or deteriorating, it may be best to call a professional to replace the whole set as replacing bricks will need power tools.
Next, it’s time to protect outer materials with a fresh coat of paint. Grab your nylon brush and start coating the brick with your chosen color. If you’re in a hurry, heat-resistant spray paint is a good alternative. You can also use this spray paint on the surface of the firebox if it’s starting to show signs of wear and tear.
Don’t hesitate to ask a contractor if you find that you’re not equipped to handle an issue with your hearth. The time, effort, and money that you invest into your outdoor fireplace will be worth it when you’re keeping your loved ones warm while spending quality time on your yard.
Get the Outdoor Fireplace of Your Dreams
A beautiful patio isn’t complete without an equally gorgeous outdoor fireplace or fire pit. Apart from giving warmth, they’re a great place to cook the family’s meals and gather around. Here at Landscapes Unlimited, we provide a variety of built-in and portable designs for fireplaces, fire pits, and fire tables that fit the look of your home. We have an extensive collection of fireplaces and firepit materials, colors, and shapes so all you have to do is choose the perfect one for you.
Call us today to get your dream outdoor fireplace.