Care and Maintenance
by Michelle Hainer and Elizabeth Roehrig. Photographs by Steven
Randazzo, Keith Scott Morton and Grey Crawford.
A crackling fire is one of the simplest pleasures of the season. Keep your
flames burning safe and bright.
Check the vents. If the flue is blocked, harmful gases such as
carbon monoxide can seep into your home. Make sure the chimney is clear of
leaves, nests, or other debris. Hire a professional chimney sweep to clean and
inspect your chimney. To find one in your area, log on to the Web site of The
Chimney Safety Institute of America, csia.org.
Keep it clean. Every time you burn wood, highly combustible
creosote is produced. If not removed, it can catch fire. To maximize a
professional cleaning, try the Chimney Sweeping Log. It's loaded with minerals
that when burned help loosen creosote buildup (cleanyourchimney.com).
Invest in new dampers. Homesaver's Lyemance Energy-Saving
Dampers create an airtight seal that conserves heat, stops downdrafts, and
keeps animals out. Not for use with gas fireplaces (homesaver.com).
A good fire requires variety. Start with softwoods such as fir or pine,
which will ignite easily and provide a hot flame. To prolong the fire, add
hardwoods such as maple or oak. Don't lay kindling pieces parallel to each
other. Instead, vary the placement for efficient burning.
Hearth and Home
A mantel plays a big part in establishing the character of a room and
providing a focal point. You can update your existing fireplace, or get the
right look for a new one, from the many styles currently available. Here is a
sampling of treatments to help you find the look you want.
Composite. An update on the traditional fireplace mantels of
yesteryear, Doverra's St. Clair model is composed of a lightweight,
non-combustible fiber-reinforced cement (doverra.com).
Cultured stone. A less expensive alternative to natural rock and
easier to install, Cultured Stone's flat back and modular pieces are available
in a range of textures (culturedstone.com).
Vintage. For real historic and distinctive detail, consider
installing a vintage mantel. Consult the Yellow Pages to locate a salvage yard
near you, or log on to salvage one.com.
Gas and electric fireplaces are practical alternatives to wood-burning ones.
Gas gives off a hearty flame and lots of heat at the flip of a switch. Electric
fireplaces can be used year-round-in the summer, turn on the fire minus the
heat. Electric ones require no venting, which makes them the perfect choice for
basements. Log on to hpba.org.
Mantels aren't just for fireplaces. If you discover a beautifully detailed
vintage piece, try placing it on a long wall in a dining room, bedroom, or even
a bathroom. Use the top of the mantel as an alternative display shelf to hold
your favorite collectibles, framed photos, or books.