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  • Writer's picturejoseph retcho

Keeping Fireplace Safe

Updated: May 12, 2023


When the winter weather arrives, many homeowners turn to their fireplaces, wood or pellet stoves for additional heat. While fireplaces can give warmth and comfort, they must be cared for and maintained in order to function safely. Keep the following steps in mind to help ensure a safe winter season.

Maintain the cleanliness of your chimney, fireplaces, and wood stoves.

  • A qualified chimney specialist should inspect and clean your chimney, fireplace, wood, or pellet stove to ensure they are operating safely and properly.

  • Clear the space surrounding the hearth of any debris, ornaments, or combustible materials.

  • If you have a wood burning, insert, or pellet stove, consult the manufacturer's instructions for more information on operation and venting.

Keep fires burning in a safe manner.

  • Before lighting a fire, make sure the damper is open so the fireplace can properly vent. Do not close the damper until the fire is completely out.

  • Only use a match or a commercial firelighter to start a fire. Never ignite a fire with combustible liquids.

  • While blazing a fire, keep the fireplace glass doors open. This permits the fire to receive enough air for proper combustion while also assisting in the reduction of creosote buildup in the chimney. Creosote is a material formed by incomplete combustion.

  • To assist keep embers in the fireplace, keep metal mesh screens closed while your fireplace is in use.

  • In your fireplace, only use dry wood. Wet wood can cause creosote buildup, which can lead to chimney fires. Choose wood that has been seasoned for six months to a year, preferably hard wood.

  • Do not burn plastic since it can emit harmful chemicals and damage your chimney, fireplace, or wood stove.

  • Never burn a Christmas tree in your fireplace because the sparks from the burning needles can cause a chimney fire. Also, do not use your fireplace to burn cardboard boxes, wrapping paper, or trash.

  • Never leave a fire unattended in a fireplace. Make sure to completely extinguish the fire before leaving the house or going to bed.

  • Allow ashes to cool entirely before disposing of them, and keep in mind that it can take several days for ashes to cool completely. Never dispose of ashes in a trash container. Instead, keep ashes in a closed metal container 10 feet away from your house and other structures.

Best Firewood Practices and Chimney Safety

  • Keep firewood at least 30 feet from your house.

  • Keep leaves, pine needles, and other debris off your roof and chimney. Keep trees and branches away from your chimney by pruning them.

  • Install a spark arrester chimney cover to keep debris, leaves, branches, and animals out and to keep burning embers or sparks from escaping and becoming a fire hazard.

Install Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Detectors

Take the time to test your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. A smoke detector is the most effective technique to detect smoke from a fire and sound an alert, allowing you and your family to safely escape. A carbon monoxide detector can detect the presence of this hazardous odorless and colorless gas. To guarantee that the detectors work properly, test them periodically and after changing the batteries.

During the colder months, a wood-burning fireplace or stove can offer warmth and comfort to your house, but safety should always be your first consideration. Make it a practice to keep your fireplace or stove clean and in good working order. While you're at it, check your homes insurance to make sure you have adequate coverage.

Need help? Contact us and get your home insurance coverage quote.

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