Believe it or not, the long, dark, cold winter is nearing its end.
And while that icy feeling that has been gripping your chest since November 8th, 2016, is not going to go away just because the days grow warmer as spring settles in, at least it will soon be nice enough to go for a stroll down by the riverbank, to play games of stickball in the alley, or to sip your mint julep on the porch instead of in the parlor.
Sadly, the approach of spring also means enjoying the last few uses of your fireplace for this winter. After enjoying the last fire of the season, don’t simply shut the fireplace doors and forget all about it until next autumn; no, you’ve got a bit of work to do in order to clean and maintain that hearth of yours. Fortunately, we spoke to Jason Cameron, a DIY Network star who knows his way around a fireplace or two, and got some tips on proper fireplace maintenance and cleaning techniques.
Jason is a bona fide licensed home improvement contractor and the host of several DIY Networks shows, including Desperate Landscapes, Man Caves, and Sledgehammer. Along with his passion for home improvement, he is an outdoorsman and sportsman. He is also the PR representative for several national brands, currently serving as “home expert” for Pine Mountain. (You’re going to see a few Pine Mountain plugs — figured you should know that’s not just coming out of left field.)
We first asked Jason Cameron some very personal questions, but things got awkward in a hurry, so then we reverted to these slightly less personal questions. (OK, maybe we started with these….)
Were you always a fan of fires?
Yes, growing up in the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan, we heated our house with a wood burning stove. This forced me and my brothers to maintain the fire day and night throughout the winter. And by the way, winter in the UP is really long. So fire has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.
So they call up childhood memories, then?
One of my fondest memories from childhood was building a bonfire in the backyard with friends and staring at that night sky full of stars. In the UP, there is no light pollution, so you can still see a sky full of stars.
What should someone do during the last fire they burn each season?
Along with an annual chimney sweep [cleaning], it’s important to clean your fireplace and chimney yourself to help prevent dangerous chimney fires, which are more likely to occur when there is excess creosote buildup in your chimney. Creosote is the chemical mass of carbon formed when wood is burned, and if not periodically removed it can cause a chimney fire. To help clean your chimney, just add a [creosote sweeping] log to an existing fire in a wood fireplace or wood stove. When heated, the powder in the firelog changes to an active gas and attacks the creosote in the chimney. Using a Creosote Buster is both easy and mess-free. The firelog stays in its wrapper when placed in the existing fire, allowing your hands and home to remain clean.
And how should you safely put out a fire in your fireplace?
Extinguishing a fire safely is easy with the proper tools, specifically a fireplace poker and fireplace shovel. Plus, I always keep baking soda in my home. First, you want to help the fire die down by using the poker to shift the wood around with the goal of spreading out the embers. Once the fire has damped, use the shovel and cover the wood [with ash] to completely extinguish any remaining flames and burning embers. The last step is to sprinkle a layer of baking soda over the ashes – the sodium bicarbonate in the baking soda will ensure that no little embers are still burning. For clean-up, all you need to do is scoop up the ashes and toss them in metal ash container.
What is something most people get wrong when making fires?
Most people assume the more wood, the bigger the fire. However, you don’t want to overload your fireplace. Smaller fires help keep your chimney from cracking and slow down the development of creosote deposits. [Also] damp wood is a top frustration among those who have ever tried to start a fire. Make sure your supply is stacked with seasoned firewood that has been dried for at least six months [for] longer-lasting fires. To accompany the seasoned firewood, an ample supply of firestarters, such as the new Pine Mountain® ExtremeStart™ Firestarter, is essential to have on hand to enjoy each fire of the season with less hassle — and you won’t waste time trying to make your own firestarter. With the ExtremeStart, there’s no need to find kindling.
Any ideas for ash disposal? Ideally eco-friendly ideas?
Gardeners will love this idea: ashes can be mixed with soil in your outdoor garden to enhance the nutrients [and lower soil acidity]. (As a side bar, you can also spread wood ash over a lawn as fertilizer. Use between ten and fifteen pounds of ash per 1,000 square feet of your lawn.)
OK, tell us about Pine Mountain specialty logs, especially the coffee aroma fire log.
As a coffee drinker, I just can’t get enough of the coffee smell from the Java-Log Firedogs, and it’s amazing how Pine Mountain makes them – from real coffee grounds! That’s right, each year Pine Mountain sources over 100 million pounds of sawdust and coffee grounds from instant coffee manufactures and waste grounds from coffee shops. The result is an all-natural firelog with a cleaner burn and that emits less carbon monoxide, combustion residue, and particulate matter.