Fireplace Tips to Keep Your Family Safe & Warm

Let's talk Chimney safety for a minute.  

A cozy wood-burning fire was the main stage for telling stories and passing down history since the cave man days.  Once the New Era of Industrialization was born, more and more homes were built with a fireplace, and the crackling fire was the main source of heat.  Thus, chimney sweeping was born. In 1803 the first mechanical chimney sweep was invented. No more small children climbing up the ol' hot flue to ‘sweep' it out.  Can you imagine today telling your 10-year-old to climb up the chimney and sweep it out, so you can cook dinner?

Chimney's have obviously changed, but safety has not.  If you are thinking, “Oh man, I have never cleaned my chimney and have no idea on how to maintain a safe fireplace”, read on my friend.  We have you covered.

The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA)……….yes this organization actually exists, along with many other fire safety organizations, including the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), recommend that chimneys and vents are inspected annually before winter use.

Start with the obvious:

  • Clean the ashes out of the fireplace. (If you have a wood burning fireplace).
  • Use dry, cured wood – not green wood.  Do not use other types of wood like lumber boards, painted wood, furniture wood, crate wood, or scraps from construction.  These types of woods have been treated with chemicals and will discharge chemicals all throughout your house.
  • When you are not using your fireplace, remember to close your damper.  This will keep air from flowing in and out. (This will also keep your AC from floating out the flue.)
    • What is a Damper? A small, cast-iron door that is over the fire and leads to the chimney.  The door is moved open and closed by a handle usually found on the front of the fireplace. It must be open when you have a fire and closed when you don't.
  • Check Your Chimney Cap annually.  The cap is what keeps water and debris out of your chimney.  Water that leaks in through your chimney can cause erosion, deterioration and further leaks in your home.  The CSIA reports that not all homes with chimneys are built with a Chimney Cap. That is why an inspection is key to make sure you have the proper cap on your chimney to help keep water out.
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector and smoke alarms near the fireplace as well.  The CSIA recommends placing the carbon monoxide detector on a wall about five feet above the floor or on the ceiling, but not directly over the fireplace.

Fireplaces can turn from trusted heating sources to ground zero of a house fire. Sparks and embers from uncovered fireplaces can easily travel across the room and quickly create flames. Unattended fires are the main cause of fireplace-centered house fires, but unmaintained, unclean and unserviced fireplaces fan the flames of the risk. Make sure your fireplace and chimney are inspected annually at the start of winter.

Click here to search for a certified Chimney Sweep in your area that is recommended by the CSIA.

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