Wow, what a summer we’ve been having this year. But inevitably the seasons move on, and with autumn on the horizon, it’s time to start thinking about getting your fireplace ready for the cooler months. It’s not everyone’s idea of fun but think of it like this: with a cleaned and inspected fireplace you’ll be up and ready for some winter entertaining when it's raining, and good to go if it starts to snow. Chestnuts roasting, family film nights, Christmas not far ahead - your fire is the focal point as the nights draw in. Preparing your fireplace doesn’t have to be a huge chore if you just follow a few simple steps.

You can start by doing the obvious job of sweeping any ash or debris from the hearth. Make sure it’s cold ash, or you might end up melting any container you use. If you haven’t cleaned your fireplace for a while, you might be surprised how messy this job can be, especially if you’re taking ash out on a windy day. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

Next, you’ll want to look at the flue or get someone else to do it for you. The important thing here is that you can see the light at the end of the chimney! If you can’t, it’s probably a good idea to ask a professional to inspect. You might just need a routine clean, or you might possibly have some kind of blockage such as a bird’s nest or build up of soot. Even if you can see the sky up there, it’s worth arranging for a regular visit from a chimney sweep before autumn kicks in and they get booked up. Whatever the issue is, they'll be able to sort it out.

While you’re looking up there, make sure you notice any structural issues with the chimney. These can occur over time, and before you know it the heat from the fireplace can cause a problem to the chimney. That’s why cracks and wear and tear should be addressed sooner rather than later before they get worse and the job is a more expensive or urgent one.

If you have a gas connection to your fireplace, a regular check is recommended. Properly registered heating engineers can make sure the gas is flowing freely and there aren’t any dangerous leaks. These are potentially serious issues, which is why registered engineers are essential. Included in any fireplace check should be an inspection of any CO detectors or smoke alarms in the house. It’s a step that’s easily overlooked, but these detectors save lives, so make sure batteries are replaced and safety checks carried out frequently.

Your fireplace is a thing of beauty and never more so than during the autumn and winter months when it brings friends and family together and makes the home cosy and comfortable. Just a half hour spent now and then maintaining and cleaning your fireplace can make all the difference. Keep it running safely, efficiently, and as part of the welcoming character of your home.