Winter is the perfect season for the family to gather around a fireplace. Before you sit back and enjoy a warm and cozy fire, it’s important you take a few steps to ensure your fireplace and chimney are in tip-top shape.
Have your chimney annually inspected by a certified chimney sweep. According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), the majority of chimney fires go undetected. That means you could have structural damage to your chimney and surrounding areas that could put you at risk for a home fire. The average homeowner is not qualified to look for, or remove, the build up of highly flammable creosote in a chimney — but chimney sweeps are. They also will examine dampers and flues to ensure the smoke, water vapor, particles and gases from a fire are properly ventilated. The chimney sweep also can inspect for nests and other debris that may be clogging the chimney. CSIA has a searchable database that can help you locate a certified chimney sweep.
Make your fireplace safe for children. To prevent children from getting burned by the hot glass framing your fireplace or the wood burning within, install a safety screen. Also be certain your fireplace tools, matches and lighters are out of reach of young children.
Clean out the ashes. If you burn wood, it’s important that ashes be no deeper than 1 inch to ensure a healthy airflow feeds the fire and limits smoke.
Make sure a fire extinguisher is close at hand. Also make certain family members know how to properly use the extinguisher.
Clear flammable items from the area. Do not store newspaper near your fireplace and be certain other flammable items like books, drapes, cushions, blankets and furniture are a safe distance from the fireplace.
Once your fireplace is ready for use, be certain to use it safely. Never leave a fireplace unattended. Always be certain the fire is completely extinguished before going to bed and never close the damper until you are certain the fire is out. And be certain to use dry and well-aged wood to prevent the build up of creosote in the chimney that is caused by using damp or green wood.