Summer is winding down, the crickets are out, and the nights are getting cooler. This means that now is the time to get your fireplace ready for fall! Here are some maintenance and safety tips to keep your family safe and toasty this year.
Ensure your fireplace and chimney are safe and in good working condition
Keeping your fireplace safe is the top priority– especially if you have pets or young children in your home. Did you know that 42% of all home-heating fires are caused by fireplaces and chimneys? So before you spark up the logs, remember to install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors – and check the batteries every 6 months!
Ventilation is also really important. You want to prevent carbon monoxide from seeping into your home along with harmful smoke particles. A clean fireplace is free of creosote in the chimney and flue. This will prevent chimney fires. It’s important to get your fireplace and chimney inspected every year by a professional chimney sweep. They will check for damage and inspect the fireplace and chimney for cracks and loose bricks. They will also remove soot and debris.
When you use your fireplace, keep these safety tips in mind.
- All furniture, fabric, carpeting, and anything flammable should be at least 3 feet away from the fireplace.
- Don’t touch, or let your clothing touch the hot surface of the fireplace.
- Clean up ashes a few days after the fire, when you are sure they are cold. Vacuuming warm ashes is a fire hazard.
- Use a fire screen or fire-safe glass to prevent sparks from flying into the room.
- Practice good fire safety: keep a fire extinguisher close-by at all times.
- Don’t use gasoline or starter fluids to ignite your fire (kindling and small pieces of wood are safest).
- Supervise children and pets at all times when you are using the fireplace.
- Keep fires small (they create less smoke) – the heat generated from large fires can crack your chimney.
Practice good fireplace-cleaning habits
Check your chimney:
- Get your chimney checked and professionally serviced every year. You can do it yourself with the same brushes and rods the professionals use. However, to be safe you might want to watch a chimney sweep and learn the “tricks of the trade”.
- Make sure to cap the chimney with wire-mesh sides. This will prevent birds, bats, raccoons or squirrels from creating a nest in your chimney.
- Your chimney should be straight, level, free of cracks, or any damaged bricks.
Sweep and clean your fireplace:
- Wait a day or two after your last fire to ensure the ashes are cold, then sweep them up.
- Clean your fireplace with soap and water to get rid of soot stains.
- Get a good look at your fireplace for any cracks, or damage to bricks and mortar.
Test out your flue and damper:
- Try opening and closing your damper to see if it seals properly. It should be clean and move easily.
- You might need a flashlight, a mirror and a stiff bristle brush to make sure you’ve gotten your damper in top shape.
- Keep the risk of creosote in your flue to a minimum: only burn dry clean wood.
Whether a fireplace is your primary way to stay warm or you’re using it to supplement your main heating system, enjoy the warmth the safe way!