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Fireplace Grates - Why Every Wood Burning Fireplace Needs One

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For anyone experiencing the joy and satisfaction of a fireplace for the first time, it can be tempting to just throw some logs in the hearth opening and simply start a fire.  However, not only is a fireplace a potentially dangerous feature in your home when used improperly, it also requires a great deal of effort and dedication to operate.  So before you just toss some wood into the fireplace, here are a couple of things to keep in mind that will help you and your family enjoy the full benefit of your new hearth.

There is definitely a reason why you cannot simply toss logs onto the floor of your fireplace and start a fire—oxygen.  In order for a fire to function properly, it needs to breathe.  A fire draws the majority of its oxygen from below which is why you need fireplace grates or perhaps andirons.  A grate elevates the wood off of the floor of the hearth so a fire can breathe and continue to burn.  

In addition, while your fireplace has been designed to fully contain a fire safely, burning wood on the floor of your hearth may cause irreversible damage.  Ultimately, you may end up spending hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars repairing the floor of your hearth.  Therefore, never start any fire directly on the floor of the fireplace.

The size of your grate will depend upon the size of the hearth itself.  Some fireplace grates are designed to hold more wood but most will allow 5-6 medium-sized logs to sit inside.  You want the length of your grate to be at least 4-6 inches shorter than the actual size of the hearth opening so that oxygen can feed the fire properly.

Some grates are also designed so that they are self feeding making tending to the fire a breeze.  As the wood burns down and becomes ash, the logs above automatically fall into the center of the grate.  This allows for a more complete burn without the need to constantly use the poker and readjust the logs.

Finally, because grates will be enduring high temperatures for hours at a time, you want to be sure and invest in quality.  Diamond steel is the best material for grates and it will definitely stand the test of time so that you can enjoy using your fireplace for years without worrying about needing a new grate.

Even with a grate in place, you will still need a set of fireplace tools to remove the ash from beneath after a fire.  If too much ash builds up, you will choke off the oxygen to the fire and have a hard time keeping it going.  You should make it a standard practice to clean the floor of your hearth after every 2-3 burns for optimal efficiency.

While there are a lot of details that need to be kept in mind when operating a fireplace, the truth is that the hearth will probably bring you more joy and satisfaction than any other fixture in your home.  Just be sure to always use a fireplace grate or andirons to elevate wood off the hearth floor and then to keep the area clean using your fireplace tools.  Remember, a clean hearth is a happy hearth!