Fireplace Holiday Safety Tips
Peaceful ambiance? Cozy comfort? Festiveness? Warmth?
A fire flickering in the fireplace checks all these boxes.
A home fireplace is an inviting asset, but it should always be used with proper caution so it’s a source of enjoyment, rather than worry. Thankfully, armed with a little knowledge and awareness, this is no problem.
Create Fires That Burn Cleanly
Not all fires are equal. Incomplete combustion or inadequate air supply can generate a smoky fire, causing creosote and soot to build up in your chimney. Here are ways to avoid this:
- Avoid using damp, diseased, or green (newly cut) wood. Good firewood is seasoned, which means it’s been aged or dried to burn as completely as possible. When seasoned, firewood will have visible checking (splits and cracks) and feel relatively lightweight.
- Use local firewood. This is for regional environmental health, which does indirectly affect your home. Using local firewood helps avoid the spread of tree diseases and pests from region to region, keeping them out of your neighborhood.
- Properly store firewood. Store chopped wood long enough for it to give a reading of 15-25% on a moisture meter. This will likely take at least six months if it’s freshly cut and split. Keeping the bottom of the woodpile off the ground with the top covered and the sides exposed to sun and air is ideal practice.
- Start well. Don’t use gasoline, charcoal starter, or other chemicals or accelerants to get your fire moving.
- Keep garbage out. Construction scraps, treated or painted wood, and household waste should never make their way into the fireplace. Some of these items release toxic chemicals, dark smoke, or lightweight particles when burned.
- Clear ash. Ash from previous fires should be cleared when it gets to about an inch thick. Otherwise, it can restrict airflow to the logs during your next fire.
- Open the damper. Be sure your damper is open so smoke can escape before you start a fire – and don’t close it until the fire is completely out.
Keep Your Fires Contained
You want your fire to be controlled and contained. This means taking measures to keep all embers in the fireplace and avoiding putting any combustible items where they could get too hot or be exposed to sparks.
- Use small pieces of wood. This will help ensure your wood is well-seasoned and burning cleanly, but also minimize chances of embers escaping as wood breaks down during a fire. Along these same lines, don’t overfill your fireplace.
- Maintain proper clearances. Rugs, curtains, and other flammable objects should be at least three feet away from your fireplace. Be vigilant about clearing away books or other items that may have accumulated too near before beginning each fire. And when you deck the halls, remember to keep the garlands and stockings a safe distance away.
- Use a firescreen. A metal firescreen helps contain sparks and prevent embers from rolling out onto furniture or rugs.
- Protect carpeting with a fireproof mat. If your fireplace is in a carpeted area, a fireproof rug can protect your carpet from burns if a spark does reach it.
Maintain Your System
Brick and mortar are durable, and chimney systems are built for longevity. With proper care and maintenance, they should serve you for a long time.
- Inspect your chimney annually. Your chimney should be checked over by a Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) certified chimney sweep every year, without fail.
- Have your chimney swept. Your chimney sweep should also clean your chimney, removing any obstructions and accumulation of creosote or soot, annually – or more, if you’re a frequent user of your fireplace. If you notice dark flakes of creosote, you’re overdue for a sweep and shouldn’t use your fireplace until it’s been done.
- Cut back limbs. Branches that overhang your chimney can be a fire hazard or can cause physical system damage to your chimney during high winds, storms, or if they break.
- Be observant. Say you had your chimney inspected in the spring, but have recently noticed new cracks or discoloration in your masonry or warping on your chimney cap. Have it checked out – these can be signs you’ve had a chimney fire. Also check for nests or debris that should be removed.
- Ask about a chimney cap. If you don’t have one, you should – a chimney cap has a metal top to prevent critters and leaves from entering your chimney and metal mesh sides that arrest sparks while venting smoke and flue gases.
Be Equipped for Safety
There are some basic safety tips everyone should know before lighting a fire in their home.
- Invest in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Check them monthly and replace batteries annually or if they fail a monthly check. Also, be sure your family knows how to exit the home and where to meet if they do ever go off.
- Crack a window. If possible, when the fireplace is going keep a window open a bit to increase ventilation.
- Keep a fire extinguisher handy. Know where your fire extinguisher is stored and how to use it.
- Be present. Your presence with the fire is a big component of safety. Be sure your fire is either attended or out. This is the case even if you’re home (i.e. your fire should be out before you head to bed).
- Protect children and pets. Keep fireplace tools out of reach and away from children and pets. Install fireplace doors or hearth gates to protect your loved ones from hot surfaces.
Partner With Us
We’re proud to be your partners in bringing the warmth and ambiance of a fireplace into your home and maintaining it for years of enjoyment. If you have questions about fireplace care, safety, or upgrades, give us a call today!
Reach out to our Houston location at 281-786-0507, our Beaumont location at 409-240-0013, or you can contact us online. We’d love to hear from you soon.