Winter is finally here, and one of the best ways to enjoy it is to get cozy right next to your fireplace. Nothing beats the warmth and tranquility of a good fire on a cold and snowy night. But before you turn on your fireplace, you need to make sure that it is winter ready. Start here with these seven fireplace preparation tips for winter so you can stay safe and comfortable all season long.

Inspect the Inside

First things first – give your fireplace a thorough inspection. Use a flashlight to look inside the flue for any cracks or damper issues that may have formed over the summer. Any issues you find should be immediately fixed to avoid potential hazards and toxic chemicals from entering your home.

Check the Chimney

Once finished checking from the bottom of the fireplace, take a look down the chimney as well. You’ll want to look for any tar-like substances that will need to be removed to avoid a fire in the flue. Also, inspect around the chimney for any damaged bricks or loose flashings, and get these repaired before lighting a log.

Give a Thorough Cleaning

Before you begin to clean, set up a drop cloth around the seal to avoid any debris being blown into your room. Then start from the top of the chimney to push debris downwards with a long brush. Any debris and buildup can then be removed at the bottom with a vacuum. You may also want to use some soap and water to remove any soot or ash that has stained the shell or mantel.

Use Only Firewood

Use only seasoned firewood in your fireplace. Hardwoods like white oak and beech burn the longest, but even high-quality wood will not burn properly if it has not been seasoned. The drier it is, the better it will burn, as the more moisture your wood holds, the more soot and smoke it will produce.

Install a Chimney Cap

Installing a chimney cap is a good way to prevent any snow or animals from entering into your chimney. Plus, it can help reduce any downdrafts that may throw off your home’s temperature and makes your HVAC system work even harder.