Hearth Health: 12 Tips for a Better Outdoor Fireplace

From cleaning supplies and accessories to replacement parts and clever containers, here are 12 ways to keep an outdoor fireplace in tip-top shape.

Heavily used from November through March, this outdoor fireplace is kept in camera-ready condition thanks to proper maintenance, aesthetically appealing accessories and designer touches.

Over time, refractory fire box panels may crack or become damaged. For safety and stylistic reasons, it's best to replace these panels once their age begins to show. To replace the panels, protect both hands with carpenter's gloves, then locate screws along the tops of the side panels, loosen the screws with a screwdriver or drill, and take the panels off their clips. Repeat the same process for the back panel. Should the replacement panels require custom cuts, make these cuts using a circular saw before placing the panels on their clips and securing them inside with screws.

Metal fire grates, although virtually indestructible, will require occasional maintenance and possible replacement. To keep a fire grate looking new, consider washing it with a hose and scraping away any soot with a wire brush once or twice a year. This will keep the fireplace looking great during the months it's not in use, ridding its interior of dust and soot.

The quickest and most efficient way to care for an outdoor fireplace is with an ash vacuum or shop vacuum. For safety reasons, these vacuums are only intended for use with cold ashes. Several days after a fire has been extinguished, use the vacuum to remove all ashes from the fire box, then properly discard of them in conjunction with city codes and regulations.

There are several attachments which come with ash vacuums and shop vacuums. To properly clean the crevices of the refractory fire box panels, outfit the vacuum with the angled cleaning attachment. Not only will this remove all debris from small crevices, it will also keep the floor surface of the fire box pristine, eliminating any dust from being blown out and onto nearby areas.

Firewood can have a tremendous effect on the intended aesthetic of an outdoor fireplace. To add rustic charm to this modern mountain house, its outdoor fireplace is outfitted with silvered wood. When in use, the wood creates a soothing crackling noise. However, when not in use, the texture and tone of the wood add a touch of rustic elegance.

White birch logs are commonly used by interior designers and decorators to add a refined, decorative look to fireplaces. Available regionally, white birch logs are best sourced online through specialty websites and home decorating blogs.

Before a fire can truly take effect, kindling is needed. While logs are both practical and decorative, kindling is more likely to leave an outdoor fireplace looking cluttered when not in use. During the warmer months, consider keeping kindling hidden away.

Over time, fire boxes receive a fare share of wear and tear. As the black metal exterior of a firebox shows its age, consider giving it an update with high heat spray paint. To update the metal effectively, tape off the surrounding areas with painters tape, protecting surfaces with newspaper, contractor paper or plastic. Keep the can held eight inches from the surface of the fire box, then apply the spray paint in slow, controlled spurts.

Fireplace screens are extremely important in regard to safety. To keep them clean, use a bottle of canned air to blow away any soot, dust or cobwebs from the netting.

Add personality to your outdoor fireplace with stylish fire wood containers. To play up the modern, rustic vibe of this mountain house fireplace, its wood is stored neatly in a vessel made from discarded tractor tires.

Fireplace accessories can be both practical and pretty. To play up the overall architectural or decorative style of your home, choose accessories in metallic to coordinate with those used in the surrounding spaces.

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