Is there any better feeling than snuggling up in front of a cozy, crackling fire with a good book, a favorite blanket and a mug of hot cocoa? Of course not. And by taking a few safety precautions before lighting your hearth, you and your loved ones can enjoy the pleasures of a warm fire whenever you choose.
Maintenance and safety tips
Have your fireplace and chimney cleaned and inspected annually, or after 80 fires, by a certified chimney sweep.
If your fireplace does not have a grate, add one for safety and to encourage the airflow needed to sustain combustion.
- Your fireplace should not be used as a furnace. Use it for a short duration fire - no longer than five hours.
- Use a chimney cap to prevent water damage, to keep animals from nesting and to keep debris from blocking the chimney.
Install carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors near your wood fireplace as well as in bedroom areas.
- Before making a fire, open the glass doors, pull aside the screen curtains, and place the kindling, newspaper, and logs inside. Next, open the damper and a window (just a few inches). You can check to make sure the smoke will go up the chimney properly by lighting a match, quickly blowing it out and watching the smoke to see if it's going up and out.
- Use a fire screen in front of the fireplace to contain embers and logs. Also, keep a nonflammable rug in front of the fireplace so that sparks won't melt or otherwise damage your flooring.
- Never overload your fireplace. Two to three logs, or one store-bought log like Duraflame, are enough for a sufficient fire.
- Never leave a fire unattended. Before turning in for the evening, be sure that the fire is extinguished. Stay vigilant in keeping young children and pets away.
Fireplace coals can remain hot enough to start a fire for up to three days, so always wait at least that long before removing the ashes. At that point, close the damper to prevent cold air in the flue from stirring up excess dust while you're removing the ashes. Use a shovel to scoop the ashes into a metal container. Store the container far from combustible materials and surfaces and wood floors.
- Glass doors may develop tough stains from flames and heat. To clean them, make sure the glass doors are cool, then scrape off any thick gunk deposits with a razor blade. Add a squirt of liquid dish washing detergent to a bucket of warm water, or add a cup of vinegar to a gallon of water. Spray or sponge the cleaner on, and then wipe it away with newspaper. Another option is to buy glass cleaner at a fireplace store.
A word about wood
For the best results, burn logs that have been split, stacked and dried for eight to 12 months. Hardwoods such as hickory, white oak, beech, sugar maple, and white ash burn longest. You can still burn less dense wood such as spruce or white pine (as long as they're sufficiently dry) but expect to stay busy adding wood to the fire more often.
Note: never burn Christmas trees or treated wood in your fireplace or wood stove.
In cooler weather the heart of the home is often the fireplace. By following a few safety tips, you're free to sit back and enjoy its comfort-giving heat, poke and prod the fire to your heart's content, and spend meaningful time with family and friends. There's really nothing quite like it.
Looking to add a fireplace to your home? You may be able to use the equity in your home to make home improvements or get cash out for other things. We'd love to let you know your options.