I don’t know about you, but I’ve had some fireplace tools that I’ve barely touched. So, it got me wondering, “Which fireplace tools are actually useful?”. I did some lengthy research to find out what the most common (and useful) tools are and why. Here’s what I found.
The only 5 fireplace tools you’ll ever need to tend your fire and maintain your fireplace are:
- Fireplace Tongs
- Fire Poker
- Fireplace Shovel
- Fireplace Brush
- A Blow Poke
It’s as simple as that. The great thing about something as traditional and primitive as a fireplace is that it doesn’t need space-age technology to function. So, if you’re ready to burn some wood and really feel the heat, read on to learn about the five essential tools you’ll need.
What Are Fireplace Tools Used For?
If there is one thing to keep in mind when operating a fireplace, fire is dangerous. It takes just a little experience to get a firm grasp on this fact. Anyone that has touched a lump of hot coal, a hot frying pan, or had an ember pop down the front of their shirt can attest that fire is not to be underestimated. But that’s not to say it needs to be feared.
Fire needs to be controlled, and that is the sole purpose of fireplace tools: to keep the fireplace and the fire contained and under your control. All of the tools for your fireplace are made to clean, maintain and control fire, in addition to extending the life of your fireplace.
Think of your tools as the safety mechanisms for your fireplace. These tools ensure the fire stays hot, the floor stays clean, and the house stays not-burned-down.
Do You Need Fireplace Tools for A Gas Fireplace?
Gas fireplaces have grown increasingly popular, and many new homes and apartments are adorned with one of these clean-burning home heating appliances. Since they have the same overall appearance and general output as a standard, wood-burning fireplace, one may wonder if any sort of tool is required.
Good news! You don’t need to get a set of tools for your gas fireplace. A gas unit should come ready to burn with everything it needs already installed. Since the fuel for these fireplaces, gas, doesn’t leave ash behind, you don’t have anything to sweep. Though that doesn’t mean you won’t have to replace or clean anything over time.
A gas fireplace’s components do breakdown slowly as they are repeatedly heated and cooled. Apart from the fireplace’s basic mechanical parts, which may need to be serviced, great-looking mediums (like the fake logs) enhance the flames’ appearance in the fireplace.
These can be materials like:
- Faux Decorative Logs: These can be made of glass, stone, or ceramic and look like real wood logs and branches. They even glow orange as they heat up, giving the fireplace a rustic, natural look. There are fake acorns and pinecones too.
- Fire Glass, Vermiculite, and Lava Rock: These layered chunks of glass and stone can be fine like gravel or big thick pieces. They can glow, or not, to either add a nice ember effect or as a method to play with the look of the flame.
- Gas Log Embers: Made of rock-wool, these “embers” are fuzzy pieces of spun stone and slag. Unheated, they look like lumps of dark fuzz. But, when the flames hit them, they light up just like natural glowing coals. Pretty neat.
There are many accessories that you can add to your gas fireplace to create great-looking flames. Though they don’t make an ashy mess, they do breakdown over time. So, while you don’t need an arsenal of tools like a wood-burning fireplace, gas fireplaces will require cleaning now and then. But that’s nothing a Shop-Vac or hand broom and dustpan can’t fix.
The 5 Best Fireplace Tools and How to Use Them
Now, on to the matter at heart: keeping that roaring fireplace in tip-top shape. Nothing beats a good fire on a cold day. To keep those flames working as efficiently and safely as possible, you’re going to need to break out the tools.
There are two critical factors when it comes to fire management: maintaining the flow of oxygen and fuel to the fire, and keeping fire operation as safe as possible. To do that, you need a few simple tools. Lucky for you, we’re going to show you how those tools work too.
1. Fireplace Tongs
When you start your fire, it’s simple enough to use bare hands to position your kindling and logs to get a fire going. Once the fire is red hot, and the flames are dancing, it can be more challenging to maintain control with bare hands alone.
That’s where tongs come in handy.
As wood burns down in your fireplace, it’s going to shift. Logs are going to fall or roll as they break down in flames.
Tongs let you reach inside the fire and reposition the logs that have decided to do their own thing.
This allows you to do two things. First, you can control the fire by shifting the wood to allow oxygen to move easier through the fireplace. The more oxygen that moves between the logs, the ground beneath them, and up the flue, the better the fire will burn.
Secondly, the logs that tumble as the fire burns could try to escape the fireplace altogether. Or, they may kick big chunks of burning wood or embers outside of the fireplace. You needn’t worry with your handy-dandy tongs in hand. Grab the embers and toss them back inside.
Tongs are typically at least two feet long to keep you from getting too close to the flames and allow you to move logs without losing your grip.
Like all of your tools here, they’re going to be metal, most likely- cast iron.
2. Fire Poker
Bet you can guess what the fire poker does… You guessed right if you said, “It pokes”! Oddly enough, it doesn’t really poke the fire, though. Instead, it just pokes the logs in the fire. But you get it.
A fire poker (also called a fire iron), can come in a few different shapes and styles, but mostly it will be a straight bar of metal with a barb, hook, or curved point at the end. The job of the fire poker is actually very similar to the job of the tongs.
It allows you to poke, prod, and shift the wood so that oxygen can get through more efficiently. But where the tongs are useful for moving entire logs with their grabbing end, the poker gets into those hard-to-reach nooks and crannies.
It can quickly shift a log into place, but it can also penetrate deeper into the fire, below the logs, to where the real heat is.
In summary, a fire poker allows you to push and pull logs and coals in the fireplace.
3. Fireplace Brush
While our previous two tools dealt with fire control and airflow management, this tool keeps things tidy. When wood burns, the final product is ash and it doesn’t take long for that ash to build up in the bottom of your fireplace.
Eventually, that ash is going to find its way out of the fireplace and onto your clean floor. That is unless you sweep it up with your fireplace brush. Before starting a fire, it is a good practice to check the ash levels in your fireplace.
If ash is starting to build up along the edges and corners of your fireplace, enough so that it’s about to spill out, it’s time to give it a sweep. Keep in mind, you don’t always need to sweep the fireplace completely clear of ash to have a good fire.
A warmer fire is easier to start, burns better, and will be more efficient at warming your home.
Now you’re probably wondering about what you do with all these ashes once you’ve swept them up. That’s where the fireplace shovel comes in.
4. Fireplace Shovel
A fireplace shovel works just like a fireproof dustpan. Whatever ashes you sweep out of the fireplace, you collect with the shovel. Simple as that.
Ash can, and will, pile up in uneven humps and piles as your fire burns and the currents shift in your fireplace. A fireplace shovel allows you to flatten out those uneven lumps of ash to make airflow better, and it can help prevent any ash avalanches from spilling out onto the living-room floor. The shovel is an excellent dual-purpose tool, playing roles in fire control and keeping things clean and safe.
For maximum fire safety, you need to make sure that you are disposing of that ash properly. Avoid using a vacuum to clean the ashes as hidden embers can stay hot for days and burn the inside of your vacuum, creating a fire hazard.
The safest way to dispose of ash is with an ash container.
Don’t Forget an Ash Container
A shovel makes it easy to sweep up the ash from your fireplace, and you may be tempted to throw that ash right in the garbage bin. However, whenever you’re burning solid fuel like wood, pellets, or coal you’re creating embers.
Hot embers are easy to miss and can be insulated in the ashes. If you were to throw that in the trash on top of the paper, food grease, and miscellaneous garbage, a fire would be very likely.
Instead, deposit your ash into a can or bucket made of metal, preferably with a lid. There are many ashcans for sale, but any metal vessel without holes or cracks will do. An old bucket or even a metal coffee can will work.
Keep your ash can outside if possible and away from anything combustible. Treat the ashes as if they are hot enough to start a fire (because they are). When it’s time to dispose of the ashes, wet them down with water into a slurry to ensure there is no material hot enough to catch fire before you throw it away.
5. Blow Poke
Fire needs oxygen to burn, and sometimes, no matter how much you shift your logs or move ash around, you just can’t get your fire going the way you want it. Thanks to the blow poke, you can add oxygen directly to the fire, at the point where it needs it.
A blow poke is very similar to a fire poker. It works well to stir up the fire and prod your logs, but it has another trick up its sleeve. A blow poke has a tube that runs through its length, allowing you to blow air through, like a giant metal straw. They usually have prongs on the end that make it easier to stir things up and poke your fuel.
With a blow poke, you can stick the end directly in the fire and blow through the tube to feed oxygen into a smoldering fire, all while keeping your face a safe distance from the flames and hot ash. Its cast-iron construction keeps you from burning your lips.
Thanks to the blow poke’s prongs, this tool can pull double duty when it comes to controlling your fire. You might just find that your blow poke becomes your go-to tool when it comes to stoking a fire.
But What About Bellows?
Bellows are certainly an option when you need to add air to a fire, but we think a blow poke is a superior tool for the fireplace for a couple of simple reasons. Here’s why:
- Good Bellows Are Hard to Find: A lot of fireplace tools happen to be antique or vintage. Bellows tend to be made from less sturdy materials and don’t stand the tests of time as well as iron. This can make it hard to find affordable, working bellows.
- A Fireplace Doesn’t Need That Much Air: Bellows can help add air to a fire without the operator passing out. But the truth is, with a blow poke, you won’t be blowing that much air into your fireplace to get it going. A bellows can be overkill for a simple hearth fire.
- A Blow Poker’s Dual Purpose: You can’t poke and prod burning logs with a bellows. Simple as that. A blow poke is two tools in one. If you try that with a bellow, you’re going to lose your bellows pretty quickly.
If you really want to use a bellows instead, we won’t stop you of course. Just know that you can get the same results with a simple blow poke and for a much more reasonable price.
A Place to Rest Your Tools
In addition to your essential five tools and your ash bucket, we always find it’s useful to have a place to put your tools when you’re not using them. There are many different stands and racks out there at vintage and antique stores ready to hold your fireplace tools.
Usually, you can find the entire set, complete with a standing rack, for a reasonable price. There are many styles since home fireplaces have been around just as long as homes. So, take a look and find something that catches your eye.
Well, there you have it, the five essential tools you’ll need to keep your fireplace crackling hot and sparkling clean. Remember to treat those ashes just the same as you would hot embers and dispose of them properly. A clean fireplace is an efficient fireplace.
When you keep your fireplace in proper shape and you dispose of your potentially dangerous ash with a proper ash can, you should have nothing to worry about.
Safety is a top priority when it comes to any manner of fire in the home, but with the knowledge of how to use these essential tools, it shouldn’t be a problem.
Need More Help?
You can always ask us here at Fireplace Tips, but you should know the other resources available to you! Here are the resources we recommend.
- Chimney Safety Institute of North America (CSIA): The CSIA is your BEST resource for fireplace and chimney safety at home. They’re a non-profit governed by a volunteer board of directors dedicated to the education, training, and certification of chimney and industry related professionals.
- Self-Sufficiency and Off-Grid: If you’re like me and passionate about off-grid and self-sufficiency, see my number 1 resource—Abundance Plus. Check out their Frugal Homesteading Course on growing 90% of your own food. Get 7-days free and 10% off with the code: TYLER10