There’s nothing like relaxing by a warm fireplace on a cold winter night. Keeping a fire going in the fireplace is also a great way to affordably heat your home. But, there is maintenance required to keep your fireplace functioning well. Here are six steps to keep your fireplace safe this winter.
1. Yearly Inspection and Cleaning
If you burn wood in your fireplace, it creates creosote, a sticky and flammable substance. If the layers of soot, creosote, and other debris get too thick, it can start a fire that could get out of control and spread to the rest of the home. Fireplaces fueled by natural gas can also have residue and should get an annual cleaning.
Scheduling a yearly inspection and cleaning helps keep your fireplace safe to use. The cleaning will take care of all of the debris that has collected inside the chimney as well as cleaning the chimney cap. The inspection will also check the condition of the structural aspects:
- The physical structure of the fireplace will be inspected. Whether your fireplace or chimney is constructed of brick, stone, or wood, it can be damaged by different things. Falling tree limbs can cause damage to the chimney. Variations of extreme cold and hot weather can cause stress on some building materials causing them to crack. Cracks in the chimney can disturb the air balance ratio needed for the fireplace to operate correctly causing a fire to ignite inside the chimney. Sometimes the age of the fireplace will result in normal wear and tear.
- The damper will be inspected to keep your fireplace safe. The soot and debris inside the chimney can settle on top of the damper and create a fire hazard. The debris can also make the damper harder to open and close.
- The chimney cap will also be inspected to make sure that there aren’t any cracks. The screen that covers the cap will be checked to make sure birds and other pests can’t get inside.
2. Holiday Decorations
Keep your fireplace safe during the holidays by avoiding putting decorations on the mantle or near the fireplace. Garland hanging over the mantle can get too hot and catch fire. The same goes for any decorations or stockings that are too close to the fireplace.
3. Keeping the roof clean will keep your fireplace safe.
Limbs and leaves that collect on the roof around the chimney can pose a fire hazard. Trees that have grown over the chimney cap can also be a problem. Not only can they ignite, but they will also limit the airflow that’s needed.
4. Keep the ashes cleaned out.
Depending on how often you use your fireplace, you’ll want to keep just a thin layer of ash on the floor of the firebox. If the ashes build up, the piles can restrict the airflow needed to keep the fire burning safely.
5. Use the right wood.
Firewood that is dense and seasoned for at least a year is the best option to keep your fireplace safe. Damp wood will create too much smoke and not light well.
6. Don’t use too much wood.
Not only will the fireplace put out too much heat which could cause a fire hazard, but you will also be putting more soot, debris, and creosote into your flue. Instead of starting with a huge pile of wood, just use a couple logs and add more as needed. Don’t throw wrapping paper in the fire as this will cause a flare up.