As the holidays approach, you want to be thinking about the delights of family and home, creating cozy spaces to escape winter days, and gathering with friends – not home hazards.
Yet, practicing good fireplace safety is a task for all seasons. And while it may not remove the stress of, say, cooking the perfect Christmas dinner, it will help you enjoy all your home has to offer this holiday season with less worry and greater peace of mind.
✓ Have Things Looked Over
Where to start with fireplace safety? Begin with a professional chimney inspection.
During a chimney inspection, the chimney sweep checks the entire system over and looks for potential issues that should be resolved, ensuring it can run efficiently and optimally. Catching issues early helps prevent them from becoming major problems that can be dangerous, costly, and possibly put your fireplace and chimney out of commission when you want to use it most.
Chimney inspections are a vital part of home safety, and they should be done routinely by a trusted professional. Did you have your chimney inspected before you began using your fireplace or furnace this season? If not, schedule your inspection as soon as possible!
✓ Practice Caution
With an inspection done and any maintenance issues taken care of, it’s time to enjoy your fireplace. Before lighting a fire, be sure your damper is open so that smoke and flue gases are released outside as they should be – and aren’t contaminating your indoor air quality with carbon monoxide or smoke.
When you have an active fire, practice common-sense caution:
- Don’t allow children or pets too close.
- Only adjust your fire with the proper tools.
- Never leave your fire unattended.
- If you’re leaving the house or ready to turn in for the night, be sure your fire is out first.
- Don’t neglect the placement and testing of your home’s fire and carbon monoxide alarms.
- Keep the three-foot radius around your fireplace clear of any flammable furniture or decorative items.
- Adjust your decor to respect this area around your fire – even items that don’t seem to be at risk of touching the flame can become too hot or be struck by an errant spark.
- Be vigilant about not letting items such as books, newspapers, or slippers find their way in.
Be especially mindful of these rules when the holiday decorations come out of storage. Often, we’re eager to make a cheery hearth by putting a tree, stockings, and garland nearby, but remember that a crackling fire already does the work of bringing cozy cheer for you! A little extra clearance makes using your fireplace a whole lot safer.
✓ Keep Your Chimney Clean
Like chimney inspections, having your chimney regularly swept by a well-credentialed chimney sweep is a key element of fireplace and home heating safety. Often, these can be done at the same time, although if you use your fireplace frequently, you may need to schedule more than one sweeping a year.
Creosote build-up becomes more hazardous and difficult to remove over time, so being proactive is important. Additionally, your sweep will clear out other physical obstructions, such as twigs, leaves, and nests, from your chimney flue, leaving your chimney as safe as possible to use.
✓ Properly Fuel Your Fire
On the topic of holiday decor, remember that your Christmas tree and other holiday decorations or waste should never find their way into the fireplace. While burning them may seem like a convenient way to dispose of discarded gift wrap and pine needles, it is hazardous to burn anything but properly seasoned firewood.
Why is this?
Pine needles, napkins, paper, and other lightweight items can escape your flue while still hot or ignited and land on your roof or in your yard. And colored items, treated wood, plastic, and styrofoam can release toxic chemicals and dark, staining smoke – both of which compromise indoor air quality.
The wrong fuel can also burn unpredictably – too hot or not hot enough, either of which can be problematic.
A fire that is not burning hot enough won’t burn cleanly. In other words, incomplete combustion of what you’re burning in your fireplace will lead to a smokier fire, which in turn causes greater build up of soot and creosote in your chimney flue.
This is why it’s important to reach for properly seasoned firewood – and only properly seasoned firewood – as fuel for your fireplace. Seasoned firewood is simply wood that’s been properly dried, which will be evidenced by its relatively light weight, splits, and cracks. If you’re unsure whether your wood is seasoned well enough, you can use a moisture meter to check it – 20-25% moisture content is ideal.
Give Our Sweeps a Call to Schedule
Since our mission is service and safety oriented – preserving life by eliminating fire and carbon monoxide hazards, while improving quality of life – we invest significantly in training and educating our team. Our customer reviews and certifications speak for themselves.
Remember – fire and carbon monoxide safety doesn’t take a break for the holidays. Practice proper fire safety measures so you can maintain focus on creating memories and a comfortable warm home.
We at Advance Chimney Specialists are proud to serve as your local experts on all things chimney, and we’d love to help you out soon. Call us at 412-729-2446 or request an appointment online today.