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   Here are eight quick fixes for a fireplace that’s not ready for your holiday photos:  

  • Replace your mantel. You can order pre-cut mantels in any price range and in materials ranging from hardwood to marble to plaster. This is a weekend job for a handy do-it-yourselfer. 
  • Convert your wood fireplace to gas. Maricopa County and parts of Pinal County have been declaring “no-burn” days for wood fireplaces when air quality in the Valley is particularly poor. Switch to a gas fireplace and burn a fire whenever you want. 
  • Clean your fireplace and chimney. Or hire a chimney sweep and save yourself the trouble. Indoors, update fireplace accessories like the shovel, poker, broom and screen. 
  • Add an electrical outlet to the mantel. It will allow you to mingle tree lights with the garland you drape around the hearth and eliminate the need for extension cords. 
  • Clean the brick or stone that surrounds your fireplace. If the brick is sealed, most of the soot should scrub off with detergent and a cloth. Tougher stains might require a mixture of ammonia and water with a stiff-bristle brush. Test a small area first to make sure the brush doesn’t damage the brick’s surface and the solution doesn’t discolor it. If your brick is unsealed or very old, don’t scrub it; instead, just sweep it. 
  • Hang your stockings by the chimney with care—a lot of it. Hanging stockings can damage your mantel and pose a fire hazard. Tips: Use the smallest hook or nail you can find so the hole you pierce into the mantel will be nearly invisible when you remove the nail after the holidays. Move holiday stockings away from the mantel before lighting a fire.


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