Moving into a house with a wood-burning fireplace can conjured thoughts of cozy winter nights spent sipping hot cocoa in front of the fire. Before you get too carried away with your fireplace fantasies, however, be sure to spend a little time attending to fireplace safety. A clean, well-maintained fireplace can be enjoyed safely all winter without it being a fire hazard. Here are five safety tips for your wood-burning fireplace:
Have It Inspected and Cleaned
The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends having your chimney inspected and swept out by a qualified chimney sweep once a year. The chimney sweep will be able to check for any blockages or debris in your chimney and thoroughly clean them out, allowing smoke to freely flow out of the chimney when you burn a fire and greatly reducing the risk of a dangerous house fire.
In addition, chimney sweeps make sure there isn't a dangerous buildup of creosote, a soot-like substance that accumulates over time and is quite flammable. If there is a creosote buildup, the chimney sweep will carefully clean that out as well. They will also inspect your chimney for loose bricks and other damage that may need to be repaired.
Burn Hard Woods
Hard woods such as oak or maple tend to be more expensive than soft woods like pine, but they offer a more pleasant and safe fireplace experience. Hard woods contain less sap, so they make less of a mess and therefore lead to less buildup inside your fireplace, reducing the risk of an accidental fire. Hard woods are also less smoky and cause less creosote buildup. Hard woods also burn more effectively, at a higher temperature and for a longer amount of time, making the upfront cost much more worthwhile.
Clean Out the Ash
Be sure to sweep out the ash and soot from the bottom of your fireplace in between uses. Not only will this keep your fireplace looking much nicer, but it will also prevent a buildup of potentially flammable material from accumulating over time, further reducing the risk of fire.
Buy a Chimney Cap
Make sure your chimney has a metal cap in good working order. The cap should be open on the sides but covered in metal mesh. This allows smoke to freely escape the chimney, while keeping out the elements as well as dirt, debris, leaves, and small animals that can otherwise make their way inside your chimney and into your home. If the existing cap is damaged in any way, be sure to replace it before you light your first fire of the year.
Know How to Use Your Damper
The damper, or small flap just inside your fireplace, needs to be used properly in order to safely burn a fire. Check the owner instructions for your specific fireplace, as this can vary a bit. The damper needs to be closed whenever you are not using the fireplace, in order to prevent cold air and rain from coming inside.
Buy a Liner or Screen
A mesh metal liner or glass door can be added to your fireplace for additional safety. These devices prevent sparks or embers from flying out of the fire and into your home. This is especially important if you have small children or pets who may get too close to the fire for a moment before you notice.
When you are about to start a fire, you must open the damper so the smoke can escape. If your home fills with smoke when you light a fire, your damper is most likely not closed properly.
By following these fireplace tips, you and your family can enjoy the warm glow of a winter fire without compromising your safety.
For more information, contact a company like Early Times Home Solutions.