A wood-burning fireplace or woodstove comes with one regular maintenance issue: ash removal. In fact, one cord of wood produces 50 pounds of ash. That’s especially significant considering that the average house with a woodstove burns three cords of wood per year! If you’re burning softwoods, your ash output can be even higher.
Proper ash removal is necessary to the health of your fires and your fireplace or stove. Improperly removing ashes can put your family at risk of a fire or carbon monoxide poisoning. This blog will help you determine the safest way to remove ash, and you might even find a good use for all of those ashes!
When to remove ashes
It seems like the simple answer to the question of when to remove ashes should be whenever there are ashes in the fireplace. However, it’s beneficial to your fireplace and your fires to have a bed of ashes on the floor of your fireplace or stove. The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends leaving a one-inch bed of ashes on the floor of your wood-burning fireplace. That ash catches coals and insulates them, allowing your fire to burn at its hottest.
Ash should be removed when it build up beyond that inch, and at the end of the fire-burning season. Ash is acidic, and it can corrode the bottom of your firebox or you’re the grate that holds your logs. Too much ash also can inhibit your ability to build a proper fire.
How to safely remove ashes
If it’s time to remove ashes from your fireplace, there are a few guidelines to do this successfully. First, it’s ideal to wait 24 hours after your last fire to help ensure that there aren’t any hot embers still burning. However, even if you’ve waited, you always should treat the ash as if it is still hot. Wear protective gloves, use a metal shovel and place ashes in a metal bucket. If you do notice some burning coals, gently move them to the back of the firebox, and leave them surrounded by a small bed of ash. The removed ashes should not be stored near combustible items or in an enclosed area, in case some embers are still burning.
What to do with ashes
Of course, you’ll need a way to dispose of removed ashes. Once you’re sure the ashes are thoroughly cooled, you can bag them up and place them in with your normal trash. However, there are some creative ways you can put your ashes to good use! Ashes are a gardener’s best friend: They can be turned into the soil along with compost, and a sprinkling of ash around plants can be used to keep away pests like slugs and snails. Ash also can melt ice, hide stains on pavement and control algae in ponds. Believe it or not, a damp sponge dipped in ash dust is a great scrubber for glass fireplace doors, and a paste of ash and water can clean silver.
If you have any questions about proper fireplace maintenance or ash removal, all the experts at The Chimney Sweeper! We can answer your questions and help you find the tools you need to keep your fireplace clean.