There is nothing more comforting and snug than curling up in front of a fire at the end of a long, cold day. Fires give the sort of warmth and ambience that no heating system can offer – there is nothing quite like it. Fires aren’t just for indoors either – a chiminea or fire-pit outside is perfect for parties during warm summer evenings. A fire makes a house feel warm and alive, and it is something that we all instinctively crave.
Here’s our guide to putting fire to good use in your home:
Choose Points for a Fire
Sometimes a house already has a chimney that has been blocked up because it is no longer in use. It is really easy to expose the fireplace – just call in a contractor if you are unsure about doing it yourself. Of course, the chimney will have to be thoroughly swept before the first fire is lit.
Above: Brick Fireplace Restoration by Matt Westgate, Co-Founder & President of Lullabot. He has some very good information about how he did it: “Our brick fireplace was full of soot and a pain to scrub every other year. We decided we really like the exposed brick on the outside but wanted to paint the inside of the fireplace and create an even color palette in the background.
I started the project by having a fireplace cleaning crew inspect and clean the chimney and make sure the fireplace is in proper working order. Then deep cleaned the brick with soapy water and TriSodium Phosphate (TSP). TSP is a degreaser and cleaner often used for cleaning and removing mildew on the exterior of houses before applying a primer coat. It helps paint stick better. Wear a mask and gloves when using TSP. There were a couple of hard-to-remove spots which required a shot or two of organic engine degreaser, a steel wool pad and a wire brush. This also worked well for removing the wax and latex paint drips on the flat surfaces of the fireplace. One final wash with hot clean water and a sponge and it was time to let it dry.
For the black paint, RustOleum makes a high-heat brush-on paint which withstands temperatures up to 1000º F. This is an oil-based paint, so beware of it’s strong odor when applying and drying. And viola! A simple and elegant approach to a classic fireplace look and feel!” Photo & Information Courtesy: Matt Westgate
Other houses need flues to be built in from scratch. Have a builder visit your home and advise you on the best way of getting a fireplace in your home. As well as inside, it is worth setting a space aside outside for those late night party fires. Some people use a chiminea while others use a fire-pit, but whatever you choose should make the fire easy to contain for safety reasons.
What Fuel to Stock Up On
Different people prefer different types of fuel, but for an indoor fire you are best off using a combination of coal and logs. Both should be dry, and the logs need to be seasoned for a year or so before burning. You’ll also need a good stash of kindling (this can be any sort of cheap wood, as long as it’s dry), some firelighters and some matches to get the fire going. Building a fire is a skill in itself. Start with a small amount of kindling and a firelighter or two, and slowly build the fire up as it gathers heat.
What Safety Precautions to Take
Obviously, with fire there is a huge risk that it could become out of control. If you plan to have fires inside or outside your house, you should always make sure that there are adequate ways of putting the fire out. Fire extinguishers and fire blankets are essential to have at hand. Make sure you and everybody else in the house is aware of the evacuation procedure in the event of a fire. And never ever go to bed leaving a fire burning unless you are sure that it is safe (you should always use a fireguard, particularly if there are children about).
A fire is a wonderful resource in any house. Make the most of yours and use it to toast nuts and marshmallows on! Fires are as great for solitary evenings with a good book as they are for big parties where everybody can sit around the fire for a chat and a singsong. Everybody needs a little fire in their lives – just make sure you are sensible and careful about when and where you light them.
Nick Collins works for Genesis Landscape, a company providing landscape maintenance services in New Jersey. His hobbies include gardening and pottery. Log on to www.genesislandscape.com to know more about his work.