Hints & FAQ's
Open Fires – New or Renovating
Now that you have decided to enjoy the charm of the open fire, here are a few helpful hints for the planning process to ensure all goes well.
- Decide on the appropriate width and depth of the firegrate area in consultation with your bricklayer.
- Is there provision for the ash pit? Standard components available – see Tipping Grate & Frame.
- Will your new grate rest on the side bricks, or hobs, be mounted on simple steel legs from Dr Flue or positioned on Andirons. See Andirons.
- Select a ready made firegrate from our wide selection.
- For the larger fireplaces ask about the specials we can create.
- Purchase your selected grate to have on site for the bricklayer to layout the firebricks to.
- Select an appropriate cowl to prevent water entry and perhaps assist with the operation of the open fire.
Now sit back and enjoy the flicking flames and charm of your open fireplace.
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SAFE Ash Removal
Whenever you burn a solid fuel, such as wood, coal or pellets, in your solid fuel appliance you will be left with ashes to remove. These ashes must be removed periodically as they can affect both performance and durability of the product. The frequency of this ash removal will depend on the product itself, the type of fuel being burned and the “species” of the fuel (e.g. Softwoods vs hardwoods, anthracite vs bituminous coal). Small bits of hot coals removed, mixed and buried within the ashes, represent a hidden danger. What many consumers are unaware of is that these hot coals can stay dormant for weeks when buried in ashes. The ash acts as an insulator keeping coals from burning out. All these coals need to flare up once more is oxygen. It is for this reason the fire service often return to a scene to place more water on smouldering timbers and newly flared coals.
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Removal of the ASH
What is commonly done is to take the ashes from the appliance and place them into a plain simple metal pail. The thinking is that the metal pail will not catch fire. Logical, but a metal pail is not enough. Then the pail is placed outside on the porch because it is outside and cold. Again, logical but it is not enough.
Fires relating to ash removal can start this very way because a lidless pail sits exposed when a winter's breeze comes along, and stirs the pail's contents. The coals become active again, the pail's temperature increases, and the floor can begin to char. Worse yet, the winter's breeze actually disperses the now-active coals onto the wood porch and worse problems soon begin.
Other methods of transporting the ash from the appliance which are MISTAKENLY used with dire results are ;
- using plastic buckets, paper and plastic bags to carry and sometimes leave the ash stored
- using a vacuum system to either remove the ash from the firebox or clean up around the appliance
Warning: always treat removed ashes with a great deal of respect, regardless of the period since the last fire and to not leave them unattended for long.
The insurance industry advise that a high number of house fires are started by the incorrect method of ash removal and storage.
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Differences in Ashes:
If the ashes are from wood, they make an excellent addition for gardens because they are high in potassium, calcium, sodium, magnesium, and phosphorus. In areas where there is high rainfall, the soils there are typically high in acid. Wood ash can actually help decrease that acid level. Dry areas, however, tend to be more alkaline in nature. Wood ash in dry areas can exacerbate that problem. Since regions will vary, it is best to have your soil tested through a local garden centre to see if wood ash can be helpful to your soil prior to applying.
If the ashes are from burning coal, then you must be more aware of proper removal for many reasons.
First, you will have much more ash to remove versus wood. Second, coal ash is not beneficial to a garden because its potassium and phosphorus content are very low compared to wood. Third, coal ash also contains a great deal of other elements, such as cobalt, boron, and arsenic among others, which are toxic to plants, animals and people. You must be careful when burning coal because ash can trap unburned carbon which means that more unburned fuel is tossed away with coal ash versus wood. After a period of time when you feel that there are no longer any potentially “live” coals, you should bag and dispose of coal ashes at a transfer station or the local landfill.
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Safe Ash Removal and Storage:
The key is a safe removal of ashes and coals from the appliance and from the living quarters. Therefore coal ash must never be disposed of in the garden compost or spread over the ground. The safe type of ash “holder” or bucket for ash removal and storage should be made of sheet metal. The bottom of the bucket should be slightly offset from the ring base so that the actual bottom does not make contact with the flooring. The ring base will and should make contact, but the majority of the bottom is elevated. The bucket should have a large wire handle for easy carrying. And, most importantly, the bucket should have a lid that closes tightly. This is the key for safety. Spend the few extra dollars to purchase an ash bucket that has the features just mentioned. And, do not place the bucket directly on a wood porch or floor but instead on a non-combustible surface such as stone, concrete, brick or slate. You have made sure your appliance is installed correctly. It is just as important to make sure that you are as careful with the removal of the ashes.
Enjoy the warmth from your solid fuel appliance.
Acknowledgement to Ken Rajesky, Hearthlink International
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