If you have a fireplace in your home, there can be few better ways to spend a cold winter night than sitting around a nice, warm fire and relaxing. Fireplaces might seem like pretty simple objects, but they require some special maintenance to stay in good working order. When fireplaces aren’t properly cared for or maintained, it becomes more likely that the fire could get out of control.
Don’t let that relaxing evening by the fire destroy your home. Taking these steps will help you to safely enjoy your fireplace all winter long.
When you have a wood-burning fireplace, the best thing you can do is have your fireplace inspected and cleaned annually. These inspections will take care of many of the most common causes of chimney fires so you’ll be able to relax and enjoy your fireplace.
There are three different levels of chimney inspections. As long as you have your fireplace inspected regularly and haven’t made any changes to your fireplace, a level one inspection will usually suffice. With this, an inspector checks your fireplace and chimney for problems like creosote buildup and other obstructions and sweeps it if necessary. A level two inspection is more thorough and is usually best if you’ve recently moved into a house, if you’ve made changes to the fireplace itself, or if the house has been through a natural disaster. Level three chimney inspections are usually only done when serious hazards are known or believed to exist. A level three inspection involves removing and rebuilding parts of the chimney or walls as needed to get in and fix the problem.
Having your fireplace inspected and cleaned once a year is a minimum recommendation. If you burn more than three cords of wood every year, it’s recommended to have your chimney cleaned twice a year. When looking for a fireplace inspector, look for someone who has been certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) or is a member of the National Chimney Sweep Guild (NCSG).
Be Careful What You Burn
Fireplaces should only be used to burn seasoned wood or manufactured wood. Do not use fireplaces to burn leftover lumber, treated wood, wooden pallets, painted wood, plywood, particle board, cardboard, driftwood, charcoal, colored paper, charcoal briquettes, rubber, or any other type of garbage. Some types of wood are prone to burning hotter and faster than seasoned or manufactured wood logs do. And if you try burning something that has been painted, treated with chemicals, or has colored ink in it, it could release chemicals into the air.
Before you try starting a fire in the fireplace, make sure you open the damper first. You’ll want to keep this closed when you aren’t using the fireplace to prevent heat from getting out of the house, but opening it while a fire is burning will direct smoke up through the chimney, keeping it out of your house, and will help you to control the intensity of the fire.
If your fireplace has glass doors, make sure they’re kept open while you have a fire going. If you have a mesh guard, use it to make sure it to prevent embers from popping out and damaging your rug or anything else in the room.
When you use your fireplace regularly, make sure you have functioning smoke detector and carbon monoxide detectors in your home.
Allow fires to burn out on their own. Throwing water on a fire to put it out can damage the firebox. Once a fire has burned out, give the ashes ample time to cool down completely before trying to discard them. Embers can stay hot for upwards of three days after the fire has gone out. Never use a vacuum cleaner to remove ashes from your fireplace. When you do try removing them, transfer them into a metal container and open the damper to help direct airborne ash up the chimney rather than into your home.
Last, but certainly not least, never leave a fire unattended and be particularly sure to keep an eye on children and pets while a fire is burning. By taking these steps, your fireplace will keep your home warm and cozy all winter long!