Winter is the time when a crackling fire in your fireplace sounds like the perfect cozy addition to a chilly day. But before you spark some kindling and throw on another log, it is imperative you make sure your fireplace is in good working order. Experts from This Old House state that fireplaces and chimneys are to blame for 42 percent of all home-heating fires. So, familiarize yourself with the following fireplace safety and maintenance tips so you can relax and enjoy your fireplace throughout the rest of the cold season:
- Sweep your chimney – Ideally, you need to sweep your chimney of soot and debris every year before winter arrives. Fortunately, you can easily hire a trained professional to do it for you. Check out the Chimney Safety Institute of America to find a certified chimney sweep in your area.
- Don’t skip the chimney cap – Chimney caps are made from wire mesh and fit over the top of the chimney. The function of the chimney cap is to keep out rain, birds, other small animals, and debris. If you don’t have one, get one. And if your chimney cap is damaged, replace or repair it.
- Look for damage and deterioration – Noticing loose bricks or mortar, or cracks in the chimney structures, means that your chimney needs some attention and should be repaired immediately. Your chimney sweep can also help with finding any areas that need to be repaired.
- Build your fire correctly – Place the wood you’ll be burning at the back of the fireplace and use kindling, not flammable liquid to get the fire going.
- Burn the proper wood – Hardwoods that are dense and properly dried, such as oak, are the way to go. More dangerous woods to burn are green or resinous softwoods, such as pine, as they produce more creosote, which is a flammable by-product that will build up inside the chimney.
- No bonfires please – Roaring, overloaded fires are far more dangerous, as the intense heat can crack the chimney. A large fire also produces more smoke, which produces more flammable creosote. So please, keep your fire on the small side.
- Maintain the ash level – You don’t actually have to remove all of the ash out of your fireplace before building another, but if it is deeper than an inch, you should take some out. Leaving about an inch of ash helps to build a new fire and protects the firebox floor. Also, make sure that the ash isn’t touching the fire grate, as the heat can burn the grate out. You can remove all of the ash at the end of the winter.
- Use a spark guard or grate – Prevent sparks from leaping out of the fire and into your home with a spark guard. These can be made from mesh, glass, screens, or ceramic. And as with any ‘appliance’ that generates heat or flame, if you leave the room for a time, it’s especially important to guard the fire.
If the worst happens, and you experience fire or smoke damage this winter, let Abbotts Fire & Flood Restoration help you get back to normal. To be the most proactive, you can always schedule an inspection to find any potential problems before they create larger ones.