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Expert advice on how to clean soot from your fireplace

Expert advice on how to clean soot from your fireplace

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Expert advice on how to clean soot from your fireplace

The accumulation of creosote tar, ashes and soot blacken the bricks, walls and glass of the fireplace and makes it lose its aesthetic beauty. All these things are the natural byproducts of a burning fire and must be cleaned regularly. Nobody likes a fireplace surrounded by a black buildup of soot and creosote tar. So, what are the best ways to clean soot from the fireplace?

Why does soot build on the fireplace?

The view of the dancing flames is an integral part of the fireplace’s charm, and the homeowners particularly prefer fireplace glass doors mainly to view this exceptional sight. However, a blackened glass door can obstruct this sensational view and make the fireplace lose its charm and appeal. Soot buildup is the main cause of the glass blackening and this indicates that the fireplace fuel isn’t burning efficiently. However, why does soot build on the fireplace?

There are different reasons why soot builds up in different types of fireplaces. Most commonly, bad fuel and wrong air-to-fuel ratio are the two main causes of soot buildup. For instance, the soot buildup in natural gas fireplaces is solely because of the air/fuel ratio. In such fireplaces, the improper position of ceramic logs results in loss of efficiency and ultimately accounts for the soot buildup. On the other hand, closing in the dampers too quickly is the main reason for the soot buildup in the wood-burning fireplaces. So, there are different reasons why soot buildup in different types of fireplaces. However, all the causes are simply avoidable and there’s certainly a way to slow down if not stop the buildup of soot in the fireplace.

How to clean soot from the fireplace?

Learning the science behind the soot buildup was important but what’s more important is to know how to clean soot from the fireplace. There are multiple materials in a fireplace but the two most common elements are the brick walls and the glass door. It’s obvious both these materials have their exclusive cleaning technique and their differences must be respected. Mixing up the cleaning methods isn’t usually the best idea as it often harms the aesthetic beauty of the elements especially the aesthetically pleasing glass fireplace doors. Here, we will learn how to clean soot from the fireplace.

⮚ Cleaning soot off the brick walls

Firstly, it is essential to let the fireplace cool down before diving in for cleaning. The brick walls require at least 12 hours to cool down and it is not recommended to try cleaning when the brick walls are hot. Secondly, it is recommended to wear rubber gloves and place a cloth near the fireplace floor to protect the floor from getting dirty. There are multiple ways to clean the soot off the fireplace brick walls and baking soda, vinegar, and TSP are the three most commonly used cleaning techniques.

Using baking soda

A thick paste formed by mixing the baking soda and warm water in equal parts works great for removing soot off the brick walls. The paste is rubbed on the brick walls with hands and must be allowed to sit in for 10 to 12 minutes. Following this, the mixture must be scrubbed off with an abrasive scrub brush and warm water sponge is best to use to clean the residue.

Using vinegar

A solution of equal part white vinegar and warm water is another great alternative for cleaning the soot. It is much more aggressive than the baking soda paste and must not be used on bricks older than 20 years old. The solution is sprinkled on the brick walls with the help of a spray and is scrubbed off the walls after 10 to 12 minutes.

Using TSP

Trisodium phosphate (TSP) is the most aggressive cleaning solution of them all and this chemical must be used with safety provisions. A TSP cleaning solution is prepared by mixing eight tablespoons of TSP in one gallon of warm water and a hard-bristled brush is used to apply the mixture on the wall. Finally, a warm water sponge is used to clean the residual soot and TSP off the walls.

⮚ Cleaning soot off the fireplace glass

Cleaning the soot off the fireplace glass is relatively easier than the brick wall and commercial fireplace glass cleaners often work like a charm. Homeowners often use wood ashes to clean the glass applied with the help of moist newspaper. It is essential to clean the fireplace glass gently and not to use abrasive scrubs that may damage the delicate surface of the glass.

Clean and maintain your fireplace door to avoid soot build-up

Regular cleaning and maintenance is the only way to avoid the soot buildup and to make sure the fireplace remains shiny and sparkling like new. Knowing how to clean soot from the fireplace, you can follow some of these recommendations to avoid the buildup of soot:

1) Only use well-dried and seasoned wood logs.

2) Conduct annual inspection of chimney, flue and firebox.

3) Weekly vacuum the hearth area.

4) Never use water to extinguish the fire except in an emergency.

5) Avoid abrasive cleaners that leave a flammable residue.


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How to create a welcoming space

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How to create a welcoming space

photo: Mike Chajecki

Have you noticed how some spaces seem so welcoming? What is it about them that invites people to linger? And what is it that keeps them coming back? As a designer, my job is to ask these questions, and in my experience, the answer is different for every client.

Regardless of what “home” means, there are likely some common denominators: Warm, cosy, comfortable, relaxing… you get the picture. There’s no magic pill to achieving a sense of warmth in the home, but there are strategic ways to contribute to this effortlessly deliberate, totally unmistakable look and feel. Here’s how to turn up the heat, to help any space feel more inviting.

Designer Andrea Colman offers her expert advice on how to make your space warm and welcoming

Physical warmth

This is the type of heat you can feel, experienced through physical touch. It’s what entices you to run your hand across the velvet sofa cushions and drape yourself in plush blankets with the rug beneath your bare feet. Window treatments, rugs, pillows, throws and your furniture upholstery go a long way toward achieving that overall sense of warmth and comfort.

Textiles are often left as an afterthought when designing a room, but I prefer to incorporate them in the greater design plan, as they are an impactful element not to be forgotten. Curtains, rugs, pillows and blankets, and the upholstery you choose for seats, chairs and your sofa all play an important role in the ambience. Layer different textures to add depth to the design. If warmth is important to you, textiles could be something that’s worth splurging on.

For obvious reasons, the fireplace is a natural focal point in any room, whether appealing to an audience with its crackling flames or as a display space for art and accessories. Allow your fireplace to be the centre of attention, and if you don’t have one, get one. Depending on your budget and the desired look and feel, you have many options available to you: Wood-burning, gas, electric and Dimplex even offers a water vapor fireplace that is safe, versatile, vent-free and more affordable than its wood or gas counterparts.

Perceived warmth

This is the type of warmth that you experience visually. When you enter a room, you immediately get a sense of its “temperature” based on what you can see. Is it soft and organic? Crisp and contemporary? Maybe it’s antique and storied. When choosing your home’s overall aesthetic, be mindful of how different styles impact your emotions. Regardless of the style you choose, visual warmth can be achieved by layering different patterns, textures, materials and finishes. Remember – variety brings interest and keeps the eye engaged.

Also consider “lighting temperature.” Light bulbs come in a variety of tints that can set the tone for the space, ranging from cool bluish-white to warm-yellow that mimics candlelight, and neutral daylight options. Consider what you’ll be doing in the room, and what type of lighting will best accommodate those actions. After all, function must come first. Will you be dining and relaxing? Reading and doing paperwork? Watching movies? Warm light is commonly used in residential applications like living areas, bedrooms, kitchens and dining rooms. On the other hand, cool light is ideal for workspaces such as an office, hobby or laundry room. Ensure a consistent light temperature in the room, and put your lights on dimmers to keep it versatile.

Emotional warmth

This is the warmth that is felt within; the kind that tugs at your heartstrings. A thoughtful medley of art, accessories and the small details can collectively tell the story of your past, your travels and your passions. In short, this is the personality of your home.

Warm up the mood of your space by putting yourself on display. Here’s your chance to unpack those mementos from the past and integrate them into your present. Collections, books, photographs and art all help tell your story and turn an empty room into a reflection of its inhabitant.

“Home” means something different to everyone, and while these tips are a good general guideline, they will be interpreted and realized differently by everyone. there’s no right or wrong way to turn a house into a home. If it feels right to you, that’s the most important thing.

Andrea Colman is Principal of Fine Finishes Design Inc. With almost two decades of reno and design experience, her full service firm serves clientele throughout the GTA. finefinishes.ca


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Tis the season to cosy up to a fire

Tis the season to cosy up to a fire

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Tis the season to cosy up to a fire

The weather is cold and thoughts of cosying up by the fireplace are becoming increasingly enticing. Fireplaces have a certain appeal in our homes, and definitely enhance the look as well as the feel of any room; somehow they are the perfect complement to any decor style. If you reside in a house, adding a fireplace to your home can be a relatively simple process; however, condo-dwellers may encounter a few challenges from space to accessibility, ventilation to finding an electric fireplace that “looks like a real fire.”

Often, condos and lofts are outfitted with gas, or even wood-burning fireplaces. If your home is not this fortunate, however, all is not lost. There are many different possibilities that will still give you the beautiful ambiance a fireplace creates while facilitating any structural or venting limitations you may be facing.

The progression in the design and functionality of electric fireplaces are vast since they first entered the market. Today, electric fireplaces can boast designs that use revolutionary ultrasonic technology to create a life-like flame as well as smoke effects simulating a real wood-burning fire. Advancements in technology have also created a three-dimensional flame, which is a fabulous and realistic design for an electric fireplace. We also have the “open flame” electric fireplace. This is a great design should you want to incorporate a more traditional looking mantel and add a lovely fireplace screen to enhance the look, or incorporate an “open-flame” design into a more modern setting.

We have recently seen the introduction of two-sided electric fireplaces, which undoubtedly can conjure up much by way of design inspiration when planning a renovation. When I’m designing spaces that require an electric fireplace, one of my favourite go-to manufacturers is Dimplex. They have been able to create unparalleled flame technology that is designed to suit any style or decor; and have a large selection of fireplaces to suit a variety of applications.

Another energy-efficient and “eco-smart” option in fireplaces would be ethanol burners.

Ethanol burners do not require a chimney or a flue, there are no restrictive gas connections which means they can almost be installed just about anywhere, providing you with endless design possibilities for your home.

Choosing the right design and function for your fireplace is key to maximizing the usage and enjoyment of your investment. As space can sometimes be limited, the addition of a fireplace to your condo should be well planned. If properly designed, you may find that the fireplace feature can often become a multi-functional element, possibly serving as storage space as well as beautifying your home. With many of the options available today, you may find that incorporating your fireplace into a media console, or a built-in wall unit can facilitate the extra storage space you may need.

Today we are fortunate to have a multitude of fireplace options and functionalities available to us that no longer restrict condodwellers from enjoying the seasonal charms and comforts of a roaring fire. Whether you prefer the traditional, formal mantel or whether your style beckons a more contemporary approach to the design of your fireplace, you undoubtedly will have a wide selection of options and design inspo to choose from. With the season changing, and the colder days among us, why not create an inviting, relaxed space to enjoy?

Linda Mazur is an award-winning, nationally publicized designer and Principal of Linda Mazur Design Group.

With almost two decades of experience this in demand multi-disciplinary design firm is known for creating relaxed stylish spaces and full-scale design builds within Toronto, the GTA and throughout Canada.



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Fireplace installation – is it worth the investment?

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Fireplace installation – is it worth the investment?

When it comes to upgrading interior aesthetics, there are many details you need to focus on. If you are keen on going for a cosy living room look, one that provides you with that comfortable feel as soon as you step inside, perhaps it’s time to consider installing a fireplace.

Once you browse through a few home and decor magazines or sites, you’ll see that the majority of stylish homes incorporate a beautiful fireplace. However, because each home remodel or addition comes with certain financial requirements, before deciding to pursue one project or another, you need to first establish whether the benefits outweigh the costs.

Gas fireplaces have become the preferred option here, so you’ll probably decide on a model that fits within this category. But what exactly can a gas fireplace offer? What benefits make your investment worth it here? Take a look at some of the aspects determining homeowners to install their own gas fireplace:

Boosts the visual appeal of the place

Let’s start with what usually draws the most attention and that is the aesthetical boost this type of home addition guarantees. The visuals of your interior design will be immediately improved, once you have a fireplace installed. This item gives any room character and makes the interior design look far more inviting.

While usually, fireplaces are installed in lounge settings and living rooms, the great thing about gas options is that they are versatile and can be easily added to any space. This means, if you want a fireplace in your master bedroom you have the possibility to add one there as well. One thing remains certain, regardless of how your interior looks like at the moment, it will look much better with a fireplace, this functioning as an attractive focal point.

Provides an intimate, cosy setting

Sitting in front of the fire on a cold evening, sipping some tea or a glass of wine will certainly make lazy days feel far more enjoyable. A fireplace is the type of element that can instantly create an intimate and cosy setting you can enjoy together with your significant other.

It’s important for your home interior to offer you that comfortable and relaxing atmosphere, and with this type of addition, you’ll benefit from a warm ambiance. Couples in particular love the romantic vibes a fireplace ensures, so if you want to have the perfect spot for a “dreamy escape” with your loved one, this is the type of home improvement project to opt for.

An alternative heat source

While you will probably not rely on a fireplace to keep your entire house warm during winter season, it can provide you with a reliable alternative heat source. This element certainly adds warmth to any setting, and in the eventuality of electricity being out, with a fireplace you’ll still have a source of heat until things are fixed. For a spacious living room, fireplace installation can matter, making it easier for the warmth to spread out throughout the entire area.

Easy to use

While the traditional fireplaces you would get back in the day were a bit more difficult to use, and some of today’s models running on wood might still be inconvenient for the common homeowner, gas fireplaces don’t raise any concerns here. All you need to do is click a switch or press a button, and the fire will be started – no effort from your part whatsoever. Finding, stacking and splitting logs won’t be something you are required to do if you go for a fireplace running on gas, and there won’t be any ashes to clean afterwards. In terms of convenience, you can’t find any downsides to a gas fireplace.


It’s energy efficient

This type of fireplace is also known to be energy efficient. Because it provides you with an alternative heat source, it might allow you to cut down on some of your utility bills. It’s also far more advantageous in this department than other models available on the market. So in the long run, a gas fireplace will provide you with cost-saving opportunities.

Style variety

Since one design won’t suit all interiors, there’s a wide selection of fireplace styles available in the marketplace. It’s highly important to choose the right size for the space where it will be installed, in order for the heat to actually be felt across the entire room. The dimensions and specific style details of the fireplace will also influence how visually-coordinated your entire interior decor is. Check out different models, try to picture how a specific style would look like in the room you want to install it, and decide on the option that draws your interest most.

Boosts home value

Last but not least, you shouldn’t forget about the boost in home value this type of interior addition might ensure. A fireplace is often considered a luxury upgrade, so in terms of home value, it contributes to how much you can ask for the property, if you intend to sell it. Fireplaces have always been an alluring feature, and someone who’s hunting for their dream home is more likely to pay the price you’re asking for, if you have one or several fireplaces installed. So, if you ever decide that you want to sell your house, you will certainly get quite the appealing return on your initial investment, and you’ll attract far more potential buyers.


Whenever you are making improvements around the house or considering certain additions, it’s important to assess potential benefits from the start, in order to decide whether the investment is worth making or not. Considering how much a fireplace contributes to your interior aesthetics, but its functionality as well, installing one in your home might be a wise choice. Look over all of these factors, and you can easily reach a conclusion. With a fireplace in your living room, you’ll start enjoying the space more than you have until now.


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Remnant Warehouse

How to Save on Smaller Projects!

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How to Save on Smaller Projects!

How you can save money – and help the environment by reducing construction waste.


Introducing a new program by Latitude Countertops for significant cost saving when renovating smaller surface projects like a small kitchen, island, fireplace or bathroom.

The Remnant Warehouse was born out of the countertop fabrication firm’s goal to reduce waste. The company created an online inventory with easily searchable remnant pieces of stone and quartz for small project needs.

Today, just more than a year later, the Remnant Warehouse (qrw.ca) boasts more than 2,000 pieces of popular quartz brands such as Caesarstone, Silestone and HanStone, as well as natural stone in all shapes and sizes. Hundreds more pieces are added each week.

What exactly is a remnant?

When a typical kitchen countertop is fabricated, it comes from a full slab of either quartz or natural stone ranging in size from 46 to 50 sq. ft. Since all of Latitude’s countertops are made to custom sizes and lengths, there are always leftover pieces of full slabs which can be used in other smaller projects. These remnants then become available for significantly discounted prices.

Searching the Remnant Warehouse is easy. You can search by colour name, size or brand name, and of course purchasing online is easy. You can also get estimates on fabrication projects using Latitude’s fast and easy Webquotes.

To register for designer and contractor pricing, visit qrw.ca

Features and benefits

The benefits of using qrw.ca include:

  • Saves money and helps environment
  • Fast and easy online searching and secure purchasing
  • Instant online project quoting for designer and contractor customers
  • Remnants are ideal for small surfaces such as vanity and island tops and galley kitchens, fireplace surrounds, table tops, furniture accents, shower walls and surrounds

416-638-8586 | 800-435-9083


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Design 101: Light My Fire

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Design 101: Light My Fire

Choose from a variety of fireplace options to turn up the heat this fall

By Cynthia Soda

Being a summer baby, I soak up the hot sun for as long as I can get it. But once our days get shorter and the leaves change colour, it’s time to turn back on the pilot lights on your interior gas units, and warm up those cold hands and feet once again.


In our first home as newlyweds, my husband and I didn’t have a fireplace; so every year I’d long for a mantel to decorate for the holidays and yearn for the soothing sounds of a fire during dinner or movie nights. Let’s just say that the fireplace channel was a staple when we wanted to create that ambience on a beer budget. Now, even though we have a builder-grade gas fireplace insert, there are so many options out there that make this designer girl long for an upgrade yet again.


In past projects, we’ve used linear fireplaces, see-through and even double- and three-sided units with clear, black or amber crystals, river rocks, or driftwood log inserts–all depending on the style esthetic of the home. In condos where we wouldn’t be able to install a gas unit, but still wanted that cosy feeling, we installed Dimplex units, which use a seemingly magical combination of water vapour and lighting to give the lifelike illusion of flames and smoke, yet perfectly safe with no emissions and a cool flame. Of course, there are a variety of electric units that can essentially be plugged in anywhere, if space and budget are tight.


As a designer, we like to push the limits of what’s possible, getting our clients the biggest bang for their buck, all while abiding by building codes and ensuring the health and safety of our end users. Endlessly in search of the next big thing, we get excited about new technological advances being made in design staples like the fireplace. Units that can provide heat, but are cool to the touch, are safe for families with small children, and allow you to get the function you want without having to compromise on style. Valor radiant gas fireplaces use a unique hidden ducting system that draws heat up and recirculates the heat in the room, allowing the use of combustible materials (i.e., wood mantels or surrounds) closer than ever to the unit. This means that the walls around the fireplace are kept cooler so there’s less worry about surface materials and things like artwork, your TV or stuffed animals left by the fireplace of getting hot. This allows us designer-types to be creative with finishing materials and design. Not to mention the fact that these style units burn less gas and provide more heat leaving more in your pocket.

Fully functional without the use of electricity, the installation of a radiant gas fireplace would keep your family warm and safe, especially in the event of a power outage in the middle of winter. The plethora of design options existing today have me re-thinking the possibilities of the fireplace as an art feature, as well as a functional heating unit, and a place to warm up inside as it cools down outside.

Cynthia Soda is owner, principal interior designer of Soda Pop Design Inc., a multi-disciplinary interior design firm providing complete custom renovation and design services for residential and commercial clients throughout the GTA. Soda Pop Design Inc. focuses on merging the client’s lifestyle, personality and architecture to create customized, liveable luxury. sodapopdesign.ca Instagram: @csodapop, Twitter: @sodapopdesign


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Active Home: Faux Fire Technology and Artistry Unite

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Active Home: Faux Fire Technology and Artistry Unite

I’m an avid reader, and there’s nothing better than curling up with a book in a comfy chair. So, when I was looking for a new home to purchase, I knew that I wanted a den with a fireplace. Nothing compares to a real fireplace on a cold day – right?

Photo, courtesy of Dimplex

As the story so often goes, we find it necessary to tweak our wish list when looking for a home. To my surprise, I ended up purchasing a condo in the city. It seemed to have everything that I was looking for, except for the one thing that I really wanted. I wasn’t going to get my real fireplace in a condo, and a gas insert wasn’t an option – so that dream appeared to be snuffed out.

Photography Gillian Jackson


Where there’s a will, there’s a way. If I couldn’t have a real fire, I was determined to search out a realistic facsimile of a faux fireplace. I had tacky visions of old-school fakes with tin foil and a lightbulb. From the get-go, I knew that it had to look real, or it wasn’t happening. Welcome to the 21st century – the technology, and design features, of electric fireplaces have vastly improved, and it didn’t take long to find a wonderful option.

THE VISUAL APPEAL OF AN electric fireplace IS AS COMFORTING AS the real thing.

In order to create my cosy den, I improvised by adding double French doors to the second bedroom, which is situated off the main living area. By doing so, I created a focal wall that was also visible from the living room.

Photography Brandon Barre


Through my research, I was completely taken by the electric fireplace option. Venting wasn’t required, installation was easy and fumes were not an issue. In addition, it was a cost-effective supplementary heat source, there wasn’t any maintenance (like ash to clean), and it was safe. To my delight, the added warmth was a welcome bonus on colder days and, visually, it was as comforting as the real thing.

When it comes to design choices, the selection is endless. What’s great, is that you can mount them almost anywhere for optimum viewing pleasure. On average, they’re only five inches deep, and they can be recessed or hung directly onto the wall – a sleek addition to a bedroom or dining room. For a traditional feel, consider a floor model with a fireplace mantle. A full-sized media console, with shelves that flank a built-in fireplace, might be the perfect solution for your great room. From modern to traditional, they definitely make a statement.

Photography, Brandon Barre

If you have a chimney with a nonfunctioning fireplace, or you want to build a feature wall with chimney-like stone or a brick facade, consider an electric insert. Add an optional trim kit to give it a custom, polished feel. For a contemporary look, consider a horizontal, wall-hung fireplace.


Photography, Brandon Barre

Many models are remote-controlled. With the touch of a button, you can have higher, faster flames, or flames of a different colour. You can use the timer to pre-set it to come on at certain times. Those that come with LED lights, which also change colour, offer a nightlight feature as well. If you want to ‘up’ the virtual experience, some models include extra features like sound effects (crackling wood burning), or the illusion of smoke. When you’re ready to turn it off, the embers slowly fade just like the real thing.

My den is probably my favourite place in the world – well, in my condo.

Jane Lockhart, B.A.A.I.D., Founder & Principal Designer of Jane Lockhart Interior Design. Lockhart is a multi-award winning designer, author and television personality, including six seasons as creative director and host of W Networks’ Colour Confidential. JaneLockhart.com


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