A house with a fire blazing is comforting on cold winter days. If you use your fireplace as a heat source, there are a few things you should know to stay safe and prevent chimney fires.
Your chimney does more than just add to the beauty of the home; it functions as an exit route for smoke and carbon monoxide produced by the fire. Here are some safety tips for reducing your risk of chimney fires.
Make Sure the Wood is Dry to Prevent Chimney Fires
Only burn dry, seasoned wood in your fireplace. When storing wood, stack it away from areas that collect moisture. Damp wood doesn’t burn well and produces more smoke and creosote, a by-product of combustion, that collects on the walls of the chimney. Creosote is highly flammable. Use the oldest pieces of firewood first because they will be drier than newer, less seasoned wood.
Install a Chimney Cap
If you don’t have a chimney cap, have one installed. The cap helps to keep rain and moisture out of the fireplace and prevents pests from nesting in the chimney. A breeze can cause smoke to downdraft, blowing through the chimney and into your house. The chimney cap also keeps this from happening.
Keep the Fire Small and Hot
When building a fire, add just one or two pieces of wood at a time to keep it small and contained. Using fewer pieces of wood allows the fire to burn evenly and cleanly, reducing the amount of creosote produced. Use twigs and small sticks to get it started and don’t use chemical fire-starters because they can be especially dangerous indoors.
Get Your Chimney Cleaned
Have your chimney cleaned and inspected at least once a year. If you’ll be using the fireplace as the main heat source in your home, it may require more frequent attention.
Hire a professional to examine the chimney and remove the creosote to prepare it for safe use. Crumbling bricks and pieces of mortar can block airflow, as can birds and other small animals nesting in your chimney. The chimney sweep will safely remove the pests without causing harm or damaging your chimney.
Keep the Damper Open to Prevent Chimney Fires
Open the damper completely when using the fireplace. Restricted airflow encourages the buildup of creosote, which is a direct cause of chimney fires. Make sure the damper is open and remove anything that might block the passage of smoke up the chimney before building a fire.
Before Starting a Fire:
- Sweep out any ashes.
- Choose seasoned hardwood like oak and avoid using pine.
- Make sure the damper is open completely.
- Stack firewood to encourage good airflow.
It is estimated that 25,000 chimney fires occur every year in the U.S. Having your chimney cleaned regularly and following these recommendations will help you stay safe and prevent chimney fires. A yearly inspection can spot problems right away so they can be repaired before you use the fireplace.