Fall is for Fireplaces: 8 Tips for Homeowners

A wood-burning fireplace is a wonderful feature in many homes. Here are some reminders and tips for staying safe and getting full enjoyment from your fireplace this season:

Annual Inspections – Have your fireplace and chimney inspected and cleaned by a professional to ensure that it’s obstruction free and clear of creosote – a black, oily substance that can build up on the inside walls of the chimney. Because creosote is highly combustible, a thick accumulation creates a serious hazard that can put your home at risk of a major fire.

Feeding Your Fire – Use dry, well-seasoned hardwoods in your fireplace. If you choose to use manufactured fire “logs,” never burn them together with real wood to avoid the possibility of dangerous flare-ups.

Plan Ahead – Keep the area around the hearth clear of debris, decorations, and flammable materials. Use a metal mesh screen that covers the opening, whether you have glass fireplace doors or not. Leave glass doors open while a fire is burning to ensure good ventilation and airflow.

When to Clean – During periods of heavy use, clean out the firebox regularly once the embers are cold. Leave about an inch of ash because it acts as insulation, allowing the new fuel to heat faster and retain heat longer. Never use a vacuum to clean up fresh ashes, as embers can smolder for as long as several days after the fire is out, creating a fire hazard.

Upkeep – Check that vents are unobstructed and able to do their job. If you have a fireplace fan, keep it clean. In non-wood burning fireplaces, clean and adjust glowing embers and logs for best appearance.

Cap Your Chimney – Have a cap installed at the top of the chimney to keep animals out, help prevent water damage and keep debris from blocking the opening. A spark arrestor will prevent live embers from escaping the chimney and landing on your roof or on other buildings.

Use Common Sense – Never leave a fire unattended. Make sure the fire is completely out before leaving the house or going to bed, and always keep children and pets away from the fireplace.

Be Community Aware – Many local ordinances prohibit the burning of wood, manufactured logs or pellets on days or nights when the amount of particulate matter in the air reaches a predetermined level. Be sure to check with your local air quality district or fire department before lighting your next fire. Some air quality districts have apps that can alert you when it’s not okay to burn.

Follow these tips and safely enjoy cozy fires all season long.