Keep the Fire Burning

Chimney Safety Tips – Building and Burning a Safe Fire

Enjoying a fire in the fireplace is a favorite family activity during the cold weather seasons. However, those cozy evenings can quickly turn to disaster if the fire is not built and burned safely. There are a few simple tips every homeowner can keep in mind in order to enjoy their fireplace without putting themselves, their families, and their homes at unnecessary risk.

To get maximum enjoyment from your fireplace...you must use it as intended.

To get maximum enjoyment from your fireplace…you must use it as intended.

The most important part of burning a safe fire is starting with a clean fireplace. It is recommended that the fireplace and chimney are cleaned each year by a professional chimney sweep. However, it is also necessary to do some basic maintenance after each fire. Sweep out the fireplace after the fire is out, but leave about a half inch of ash behind for insulation. Embers left behind in the fireplace can remain hot enough to ignite for more than a day, so it is important to properly dispose of them after each fire.

Another important thing to remember is that only certain types of hardwood should be used to make a fire.  In addition to using the right type of wood, it is necessary to use wood that has been seasoned for at least eight months, although twelve months is ideal.  Using wood that is not properly seasoned can cause the fire to become very smoky, filling the home with smoke. Other materials may also burn too hot, which can make the fire dangerous.

If the proper wood is being used for the fire but the room is still filling with smoke, there is a chance that the damper is closed. The damper is a piece inside of the flue that opens up to allow smoke out during a fire but closes when the chimney is not in use to keep out unwanted material. Leaving the damper closed is a common mistake, so remember to check carefully before starting a fire.

When the chimney becomes clogged, there are many dangerous situations that can occur. One, of course, is that smoke and combustible gasses cannot exit the flue. Another is that the material inside may be flammable, which can lead to a chimney fire. Installing a chimney cap is a simple and effective way to keep excess material out of the chimney, making it safe to burn a fire in the fireplace.

There are many safety issues related to fireplaces and chimneys that the average person could never anticipate or detect. For that reason, it is important to have the chimney inspected by a professional chimney inspector each year. They will be able to identify any potential safety risks and offer educated suggestions as to how they can be corrected. This is a good thing to include in the yearly routine during the fall, before the fireplace will be used for the year.

Using the fireplace and chimney properly is essential for maintaining a safe home. In order to avoid a hazardous situation, make sure that both elements are clean and that the flue is clear. It is also necessary to burn the proper materials in the fireplace. An annual inspection can help prevent any dangerous situations before they occur.

 

Keep Your Wood Stove Clean

Cleaning Woodstove & Inspection

It was not that long ago that all homes in the United States were heated with a wood stove. With a central location within a room can provide very efficient heat and warmth. Wood stoves today are very decorative and used and with a little care and maintenance can provide many years of enjoyment. A quick inspection of these things before you use your stove for the colder season can help with heating efficiently and safety:

  1.  Make sure that your wood stove is installed properly and meets all modern building codes for safety. All joints and seams of the chimney need to be properly sealed.

    Keeping your wood stove clean and in proper order is critical for safety and heat efficiency.

    Keeping your wood stove clean and in proper order is critical for safety and heat efficiency.

  2. Make sure the door latches properly and flue is installed and flue is clear from debris.
  3. Ensure there are glass doors or spark screen to keep stray sparks from flying out of the stove.
  4. Make sure all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors work in the home and have fresh batteries.
  5. Remove the stovepipe and inspect the chimney for creosote buildup.

The last step is the most critical. Chimney fires can happen without warning if the chimney is not properly maintained and cleaned on a regular basis. The rule of thumb is that the chimney needs cleaning if there is ¼” of creosote in any area of the chimney. Of course it can be cleaned earlier as a clean chimney will be more efficient in keeping smoke exiting the home safely and keeping the fire most efficient. If not cleaned, the creosote within the chimney can get hot and catch fire. The heat can then start fire elsewhere in the home.

During usage of a woodstove, follow these steps to keep your home safe and warm:

  1. Always burn dry seasoned firewood. Wet or non-seasoned firewood creates more creosote and will not burn as hot or efficient.
  2. Keep the damper open when there is a fire, even with embers still smoldering.
  3. Dispose of ashes regularly in a metal container with water.
  4. Never burn coal or other products that may contain toxic chemicals. Only burn wood.
  5. Never use gasoline, kerosene, lighter fluid, or other chemical accelerant.
  6. Always keep the screen door closed while a fire is going
  7. Keep the area clear around the woodstove and monitor children around the woodstove.

Follow these steps and you will have a long lasting wood stove that will be warm, safe, and inviting and can be enjoyed for years to come.

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