"Understanding Your Home" by Building Inspector Mark Visser
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HOW TO REMOVE SOOT STAINS
For minor stains on angel stone or natural stone, wet the surface thoroughly, then use a scrubbing brush and any liquid household cleaner.
Heavy stains can be removed by first covering the hearth with a thick layer of newspaper and then spraying oven cleaner on the stains. After about 15 minutes scrub them down with clean water and a brush. For very heavy stains the process may have to be repeated.

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Fireplace air supply kit
This kit is for new installations.

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Fireplace - Interior Components
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Damper
. Most dampers are equipped with a simple opening and closing device. When lighting a new fire, the damper should be fully opened to maximize the draft. When the fire has matured the damper can be closed halfway to slow down the heat loss up the chimney. As the fire dies down, the damper can be closed even further. Close the damper when the fireplace is not used. Dampers can rust through or become ill fitting through misalignment, warping or broken hardware. It is expensive to replace a damper and it may be more economical to install a flue top damper.
A damper is required to control the volume of air. This is necessary because cold outdoor air brought into the fireplace expands and could possibly result in more air than is needed for the draft and combustion. This excess cold air could roll into the room even with the fire burning.
The fresh air inlet should be located in the front of the firebox. Air supply kits, which include a hooded intake, a length of duct, and an adjustable air inlet are available for existing masonry fireplaces. The one pictured below is for new installations.
Glass doors. Tight fitting glass doors can be installed to reduce heat loss and increase fireplace efficiency by as much as 15%. They are also (according to some experts) an acceptable alternative for a broken or missing damper.




Wood burning fireplace
Fire screen. A screen will prevent sparks from flying into the room, but it also could lower the fireplace efficiency by as much as 30%. Placing the screen a few inches away from the fireplace opening will allow more heated air to enter the room.
Fireplace insert. A metal fireplace insert can be placed inside the masonry fireplace opening.
The unit operates now more like a wood stove than a fireplace. They are less efficient than a free standing wood stove because less surface area is exposed to the living area.
The firebox. This is the place where the fire is burning. The firebox floor is also called the back hearth. The mortar joints between the firebrick should be checked annually as well as the joints between the firebox and the fireplace facing. Cracks or missing mortar could allow combustion by-products to enter the house. High temperature cement, available at most builders supply store, should be used for joint repairs.

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