A home with a fireplace is an amazing luxury. There are a few things that are better than listening to the relaxing crackle of a fireplace on a chilly winter night. However, all of that comfort will go right down the drain if a chimney fire should take place. So before you plan on being on snuggly and warm, follow these steps to ensure your safety:
1.) Check the chimney for animal nests. It’s not uncommon for birds and other animals to nest in unused chimneys. Think about; they’re safe from almost any predators, and it’s a sturdy shelter safe from various harsh weather conditions. Of course the problem arises the first time you light a fire, and either the nest catches on fire from the sparks shooting up the chimney, or the smoke has nowhere to go and backs up into the home.
2.) Hire a professional. Hire a chimney sweep to clean out creosote and soot build-up. Both of these things drastically increase your risk of chimney fires, and even if your house manages to survive a chimney fire, the chimney brick may crack due to the extreme heat. Replacing a chimney is less expensive than replacing an entire house, of course, but it’s still pretty darn expensive. It’s also important to check the storm cap, spark arrester, damper, firebox and ash pit. If you’re unsure of your footing on the roof or have no idea what these things are, have a professional check it for you.
3.) Ensure proper ventilation. Open fireplaces need more oxygen for combustion, so it’s important to make sure you have enough oxygen available. It’s also smart to install a carbon monoxide detector and a smoke detector close to your fireplace before you ever use it for the first time.
4.) Protect your stuff. Installing a screen or doors to the front of your fireplace will keep sparks from burning your carpet (or worse). And make sure all of your things are at a proper distance from the fireplace. Couches, magazine racks or really anything that’s remotely flammable should be kept at a proper distance from your fireplace. In addition, you won’t want to leave any pets or children alone in the room with a burning fire and no supervision.
5.) Burn the right things. Dry, cured hardwoods tend to burn cleaner and longer than soft woods. It’s also advised not to use any kind of igniters, like kerosene or lighter fluid. A few crumpled newspapers, some kindling and a match should get the job done. Oh and don’t burn things you aren’t supposed to burn, like trash. Not only is it dangerous, but it can make your house smell awful.
When your fireplace isn’t in use, keep it clean by removing cooled ashes and disposing of them in a metal bucket. If you maintain your fireplace as you use it you should have no problem starting it up again next year when the temperatures begin to cool down again.