When you have a wood-burning fireplace or stove, cleaning up ashes is a necessary chore. Burning wood will always produce ashes. You can reduce the amount of ashes by burning hardwoods like oak, elm, and hickory rather than softwoods like cedar, pine, and fir. Softwoods are lighter in weight and can generate more ash. Despite which species you use for firewood, there will always be ashes to remove. Although this task seems simple, our customers often ask us for our advice on proper ash removal. We would like to share some of our tips on this topic to inform you of the importance of correctly removing ash from your fireplace or stove.
Store ashes in a metal bucket with a tight-fitting lid. Small pieces of hot coals are buried within the ashes when you scoop them out of the firebox of your fireplace or stove. Without a lid on your ash bucket, you have a fire hazard on your hands. Winds can stir up the ashes and reactivate the coals, and if the bucket should get blown over, hot coals can easily start a fire.
Place your ash bucket on a concrete, stone, slate, or brick surface. Putting the bucket on a wooden floor can be dangerous, even if the lid is shut. Hot coals within the ashes can make the bottom of the bucket actually char a floor or other surface made from wood.
Not too much or too little
Do not remove ALL of the ashes from your firebox. According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), leaving a half of an inch layer of ashes on the floor of your firebox during the winter will help you build and keep up a fire. The hot coals act as an insulator by adding more heat to the wood and by reflecting the heat back into the fire.
Too many ashes left behind can cause problems. Allowing the ashes to build up for too long can harm the grate of your fireplace. Never let the ash level get so high that it touches the grate. The high level of heat can cause your grate to prematurely burn out. Additionally, a large amount of ash buildup reduces the amount your stove or fireplace has for wood.
If you have a wood-burning stove, moving the ashes from just the front of the stove can be beneficial. Taking out the spent ashes from just inside the front of the stove creates a space where you can move up the hot coals from the back. This will easily ignite the new wood. Completely removing all of the ashes makes it more difficult to start a fire because the firebox must be heated all the way through the stove before it is hot enough to ignite a flame.
A small layer of ash also protects the floor of your firebox. Since a fire is quickly and easily started, the amount of unspent fuel is reduced, and this keeps this residue from clinging to the bottom of the firebox.
If you have any further questions about proper ash removal, contact Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps today. Our staff is more than happy to tell you more about safely disposing of ashes after a wood-burning fire.