9 Common Fireplace Problems and Repair Solutions
Periodic maintenance checks and repairs will ensure your fireplace functions correctly to have it ready for use at any moment. Below are common fireplace problems and their solutions to fix them.
1) Pilot Light Not Working
Your gas fireplace has a small, constantly lit, gas-fueled light. It uses this tiny flame to ignite the main burners when running your fireplace. However, the pilot light could develop issues and fail to light up.
Fixing this can be as straightforward as restarting the gas flow to the pilot light and then lighting it manually. If this fails, you could be dealing with moisture build-up in the gas line. The solution to this will be draining the gas line, which is complicated and best left to an experienced and certified technician.
2) Creosote Buildup
Creosote is a hard tar-like substance that forms from soot when smoke from burning wood flows up the chimney and cools and condenses. When creosote build-up is in excess, it restricts proper airflow, causing smoke to flow back into the house (called back-drafting).
Given creosote’s chemical composition, it is a highly flammable substance. Too much creosote in your fireplace chimney is a significant fire hazard. You can limit the build-up by ensuring the chimney has a robust draft and cleaning it regularly. You can inspect the chimney periodically and consider leaving the cleaning to a professional.
3) Pilot Light Keeps Going Out
The pilot light will keep burning if there is combustion in your gas fireplace. The thermocouple keeps the pilot flame going by sending tiny electric pulses into the gas valve every time it detects heat. It is a reaction that signals it to stay open. You can tell the thermocouple is malfunctioning when the pilot light repeatedly goes out (burns for roughly 20 – 40 seconds and then goes out).
It could be that the thermocouple was not hooked up or secured correctly. Inspect the thermocouple, and ensure that all the wires, tubing, and screws are in their proper places. If these do not have a problem, consider replacing the thermocouple, which is not a DIY job. Hire a certified specialist to handle this for you.
4) Chimney Obstructions
Birds and other animals might call your chimney their home, building nests that impede the flow of smoke, causing back-drafting. You will note this soon after you get a fire going and the smoke fills the room.
You can prevent this problem by installing a chimney cap, which will allow the smoke to escape while keeping the unwanted critters out. Check the chimney cap routinely to ensure it does not have trapped leaves, twigs, and other debris that might impede the exhaust from escaping.
5) Short Chimney
Some design flaws like a short chimney can contribute to an insufficient draft, especially in wood-burning fireplaces. Experts recommend extending the chimney by at least three feet above your roof’s peak and two feet above surrounding objects within ten feet horizontally.
High winds can cause the smoke to flow back down the chimney and into your house when the chimney is too short. You can correct this by extending the chimney using an additional pipe segment fixed atop the chimney. Consider hiring a professional if you lack the safety gear for climbing and working on your roof or the experience needed for the job.
6) Dirty Gas Fireplace
A decreasing flame, heat output, and gas leaks are associated with not cleaning your gas fireplace. Routine cleaning ensures proper gas flow and heating. It is best to shut off the gas supply before cleaning. Also, let the fireplace cool before cleaning if it was in use.
Start by dusting and vacuuming the burners and all surfaces. Use the recommended cleaning products. Also, check for cracks and chips when cleaning. Remove the deteriorating stones or artificial logs before you start cleaning. Lastly, call an experienced technician to periodically inspect and clean the flue, vents, and chimneys.
7) Low Heat
Poor quality firewood can cause inadequate heating in wood-burning fireplaces. Some inexperienced people use freshly cut (green) wood, which has moisture that prevents burning cleanly from generating significant heat. It is best to use seasoned firewood dried for several months.
8) Incorrect Draft
The damper in your fireplace is there to help regulate the amount of heat flowing into the room. It is a steel flap you can open and close as desired. However, it is best to leave it slightly open when the fire allows the smoke to flow up the chimney. Also, keep it fully open when starting the fire and close it, leaving a little space to maintain the proper draft once there is adequate combustion.
The damper’s hinges might stop moving because they are dirty, corroded, or have creosote. You can fix this by cleaning the damper and its hinges when the fireplace is not in use. Use a wire brush, scrub horizontally, rinse, wipe dry, and lubricate the hinges with WD-40. Swing the damper back and forth severally allows all the oil to move into the hinges.
9) Cracked Fire Brick
Fireplaces have an inner lining of heat-resistant masonry blocks (fire bricks). Although the block can withstand extreme heat, it will not last a lifetime. Furthermore, the bricks can start cracking due to poor installation or a shifting house foundation.
The cracks may lead to leaks, allowing smoke or harmful gases to escape into your house. Therefore, it is best to fix this immediately. Call a professional to replace the damaged fire bricks or give it a try if you have the DIY knowledge.
Summary: Common Fireplace Problems
In closing, your wood-burning or gas fireplace can serve you for a long time if you consider implementing these fireplace maintenance tips to avoid common fireplace problems.