An outdoor fireplace will add atmosphere, warmth and a great entertainment feature to your home. It will be the perfect focal point in your backyard landscape where family and guests love to gather for parties, dining and cozy conversations. With proper backyard fireplace maintenance, an outdoor fireplace will provide years of outdoor enjoyment.
To function properly, maintain a sound framework and retain a beautiful appearance, an outdoor fireplace requires backyard fireplace maintenance on a regular basis. The amount of maintenance required depends on the type of fireplace, building materials used and fireplace age.
Any outdoor fireplace can have problems. Exposure to outdoor weather conditions and changing climate conditions can cause various problems, especially over time. Look at some common problems that occur in outdoor fireplaces.
Problems from Weather Conditions
- Settling – Outdoor fireplaces are subject to constant ground movement and soil compaction. Even though the fireplace is built on a patio or terrace, the concrete foundation of the patio or terrace can crack and shift as well. In cold winter areas like northern states, the ground readily freezes, then thaws again, causing water in the soil. Over time this process causes the ground to settle and compact resulting in an unstable outdoor fireplace.
- Cracking – Even the best outdoor fireplace materials like natural stones, brick, rock, stucco, concrete and tile can begin to crack when exposed to intense heat and sun for continuous periods of time. Materials dry out and become brittle and this causes them to crack or chip easily.
- Crumbling – If an outdoor fireplace is exposed to a lot of rain, snow and ice, materials can become saturated with water. The more porous the material, the worse the outcome. This constant process of absorbing water and drying out weakens building materials. Over time, they may start to crumble or fall apart at corners and mortar joints.
Problems from Defective Parts
- Back Puffing – Back puffing is a common problem that occurs, especially in wood-burning fireplaces, with improper fireplace installation or without regular backyard fireplace maintenance of the fireplace chimney. The fireplace sends smoke back out through your fireplace opening into your face, instead of properly sending it up the chimney. Smoke guards and weatherproof exhaust fans should be installed to avoid this annoying and dangerous problem.
- Leaking Gas – A gas leak is nothing to fool around with. It can cause an explosion resulting in harm to your family and property. All outdoor gas fireplaces require a gas line that connects to your main gas supply line at the house. Gas lines, turn-off valves and gas fireplace parts require regular backyard fireplace maintenance for safety. Any defective parts should be replaced immediately by a professional licensed contractor.
- Defective Pilot Light – Outdoor gas fireplaces have a pilot light that ignites the fireplace burners. If the pilot light is defective or damaged, the fireplace won’t light. Have your contractor inspect the gas valve and gas line for problems and replace the pilot light if necessary.
- Defective Burners – Gas burners can rust and deteriorate in outdoor fireplaces over time. Located in the fireplace opening, they are somewhat exposed to weather conditions like rain, snow, sleet and wind that can cause them to malfunction. Your contractor should inspect your outdoor fireplace burners on a regular basis to ensure they are working properly.
Ensuring that your outdoor fireplace is well-maintained and free of defects is essential to proper operation and safety. It will help to prevent accidents and fire that can be caused by defective parts. Regular backyard fireplace maintenance will provide years of outdoor fireplace enjoyment for your family in a safe backyard environment.
Basic Outdoor Fireplace Maintenance
All types of outdoor fireplaces require regular backyard fireplace maintenance. Hiring a professional contractor is recommended for maintenance, but DIY cleaning is possible just to keep your fireplace looking good. You’ll have to decide if the labor and effort required is worth your time and attention. Here are some helpful tips:
Wood-burning Outdoor Fireplaces
- Keep all plants and foliage around the fireplace well-maintained and cut back. Overgrowth can be a fire hazard. Don’t plant right next to the fireplace structure. Plants and shrubs can attach to the fireplace itself in joints or cracks causing materials to deteriorate.
- Use creosote sweeping logs that can help loosen creosote in addition to backyard fireplace maintenance and cleaning.
- After loosening creosote, check its thickness. If you see that it’s thin, 1/8th inch thick, the chimney needs to be cleaned by a professional. If the creosote is thicker than 1/8th inch, don’t use your outdoor fireplace until it’s thoroughly cleaned. You could start a fire.
- Use a broom and sweep out any debris like leaves or left-over burned wood. Dust ashes and debris off the mantle and hearth. If you have an outdoor shop vac, this is a great place to use it to remove soot and ash. Be careful using a broom on soot and ash as you can easily smear it around. A vacuum or shop vac is better.
- Use a stiff-bristled brush and warm, soapy water to clean outside fireplace surfaces, the mantle and hearth. The inside of the fireplace will be more difficult to clean, and may require stronger cleaners to remove buildup. Professional backyard fireplace maintenance is best for difficult areas.
- The fireplace chimney and flu should be cleaned and maintained by a professional chimney sweep or contractor to prevent possible fire hazards.
Outdoor Gas Fireplace Maintenance
- Make sure the gas is turned off before attempting any cleaning or maintenance on an outdoor gas fireplace.
- If your gas fireplace has an exhaust fan, be sure that it is working properly always.
- Make sure your ventilation system is operating properly always. If not, have it inspected by a professional and make repairs if necessary.
- Clean gas burners with a soft cloth and a soft bristle brush for burner holes. Follow manufacturer’s guidelines for cleaning procedures and cleaning solutions for your gas outdoor fireplace, otherwise you risk voiding your warranty.
- Clean fake logs with a soft-bristled brush at least once a month to remove soot and ash.
- Turn off the pilot light during months when your fireplace isn’t being used.
Backyard fireplace maintenance is recommended by a professional at least once a year. If you use your outdoor fireplace year-round, have it inspected twice a year. Failure to do so can result in possible fire and injury to your home and family.
For long-term enjoyment and safety of your outdoor fireplace, talk to your landscape contractor for proper outdoor fireplace care and maintenance procedures that are best for your home.