Our Company Blog

What Not to Burn in Your Fireplace

Fireplaces are a beautiful addition to any room that can provide warmth and ambiance throughout the cold winter months. However, most homeowners pay more attention to what they get out of their fireplaces than what they put in.

What materials you burn in your fireplace can have a direct impact on fireplace performance. In addition, attempting to burn materials that are not meant for residential fireplaces can pose a safety hazard through unmanageable burning or the release of toxic chemicals.

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Garbage

More popular in rural areas and communities, burning garbage is not a safe way to dispose of your trash. While there are a growing number of waste-to-energy factories in the United States that burn trash to create useable electricity, these plants are specially designed to filter any toxins or chemicals out of the air supply. Homeowners simply do not have the technology to do this, causing the chemical byproducts of whatever is being burned to enter the atmosphere. Backyard burning has been found to increase the risk of heart disease, aggravate asthma and emphysema, and can also cause rashes, nausea, or headaches.

Green wood

Homeowners should avoid burning green, or freshly cut wood, whenever possible. While green wood will burn, it produces less heat than seasoned firewood because more energy is needed to evaporate the remaining water in the wood itself. In addition, green wood produces large amounts of smoke, which can easily backdraft and fill a room. Finally, burning green wood produces more creosote, a gummy, corrosive, and highly flammable substance that coats the inside of the chimney structure.

Paper products

While burning used wrapping paper or pizza boxes may seem like an easy way to dispose of them, it can actually create a chimney fire. Paper burns extremely quickly, which can cause an enormous increase in the amount of flames if too much is put into the fireplace. These large fires cannot be contained by the firebox, causing flames to travel up the chimney or out into the room.

In addition, most wrapping paper and other printed products are not designed to be burned. While companies based in the United States use approved chemicals and dyes in their paper products, most printed paper produced outside the country does not. Because of this, colored wrapping paper may produce toxic chemicals when burned. Instead of burning them, wrapping paper, cardboard, and other paper products should be recycled or thrown away in the regular trash.

Pretreated wood

After removing old fencing, decking, or playground equipment, many homeowners believe that using the old materials as firewood is an appropriate way to recycle them. However, any wood that has been exposed to glue, paint, stain, varnish, or other chemical treatments should never be burned. The EPA recommends that homeowners “never burn coated, painted, or pressure-treated wood because it releases toxic chemicals when burned.”

Styrofoam

Although Styrofoam burns quickly, putting it into the fireplace is an environmental hazard. When burned, Styrofoam and other packing foams erupt in a cloud of toxic black smoke, releasing chemicals that can damage the nervous system and lungs. In addition, the melted foam particles can stick to the inside of the firebox and chimney structure, creating a future fire hazard if they were to reignite.

Instead, homeowners should only burn properly seasoned firewood in their fireplaces. While different species of trees have different burn characteristics, being dry is by far the most important characteristic of any potential firewood.

Creosote in a Nutshell

We know you care about keeping your family safe. One way to keep your family safe while at home is to minimize the likelihood of a deadly chimney fire. One way to minimize this risk is to make sure you do not allow creosote to accumulate.

Creosote is no laughing matter. The professionals at Lords Chimney can provide you with a wealth of information and service to give you that added peace of mind!

Creosote is no laughing matter. The professionals at Lords Chimney can provide you with a wealth of information and service to give you that added peace of mind!

For homeowners with chimneys, there is one other thing that they worry about specifically – creosote. According to our team of experts here at Lords Chimney, more than 70% of the inquiries and concerns we receive from our loyal customers involve creosote in some form or fashion. So what exactly is creosote anyway?

If you look online you’ll see a lot of definitions filled with scientific jargon that would just confuse you a lot more than you may already be. But the definition from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry describes and defines creosote in a simple and uncomplicated way. According to the ATSDR, creosote is basically the chemical byproduct of burning. There are different varieties of creosote. There’s the Wood, Coal Tar Pitch, Coal Tar Pitch Volatiles and Coal Tar. But basically they are all referred to collectively as creosote.

Why should we worry?

Although seemingly harmless during the beginning stages, creosote can quickly become extremely dangerous when left alone. You see, since it is a byproduct of burning, this means that it would constantly be produced whenever there’s burning of any kind in your chimney system. Once it is produced, it sticks to various parts of the fireplace and chimney. If it accumulates further, it becomes this thick volatile layer that is one of the number one culprits of chimney and house fires.

What can we do?

The best thing we can do to prevent things from getting out of hand is to properly maintain your chimney. Schedule regular inspections and cleanings to make sure that creosote build-up never gets a chance to reach threatening levels, which, in turn, would guarantee safety for your home and your family. So what are you waiting for? Pick up a phone and schedule an appointment right now. You can count on us for quality and dependable chimney and fireplace services. Lords Chimney is ready to help!

What’s Blocking Your Chimney?

A fireplace can be a wonderful addition to any room in the house where the family might gather, providing warmth, light, and a cozy ambiance. However, a fireplace system has to be carefully maintained to make sure that they common problems that affect chimneys don’t impact the safety and beauty of your family’s favorite gathering spot. We as homeowners owe it to ourselves to remain constantly vigilant as far as the condition of any part of our homes are concerned. Like every appliance or piece of furniture we own, a chimney requires just as much attention; one could even argue that it requires more attention.

Creosote

Creosote, the byproduct of burning wood, builds up on the sides of the flue system and the firebox area. Over time, this buildup can cause blockages that result in flue fires or potentially a whole-house fire. A buildup of as little as 1/8 – 1/4” is more than enough to create a fire hazard. Regular cleaning eliminates the chance for creosote to develop on chimney surfaces.

This little critter is just one of the many things that could potentially block your chimney. Call the experts to have your chimneys cleared.

This little critter is just one of the many things that could potentially block your chimney. Call the experts to have your chimneys cleared.

Animals

Birds, squirrels, or raccoons, among other animals, get in the chimney and cause issues inside that include smells, noises, blockage, and even fires. In addition to these concerns, the animals themselves may clog the chimney and, in some cases, could even carry diseases that could spread into your home. Chimney caps with spark arrestors are a common means to prevent animals from entering the space and nesting.

Leaves and Debris

Because of the location of your chimney, leaves and debris can build up in and around the chimney year round. These things can clog the chimney, which is far more dangerous than it sounds. If the chimney is clogged, it will keep smoke and combustible gases in the home rather than letting them out. This can lead to any number of health risks as well as an increased risk of fire.

While the firebox of the fireplace system can be easily seen and therefore monitored by the homeowner, the chimney itself commonly faces a number of troubles that are often caught only by a chimney professional. Your annual chimney inspection, sweeping and cleaning will help to ensure its safety and continued functionality for years to come. You can always come to Lords Chimney with any of your questions or needs. Our staff is always here to help.

Fire Safety & Maintenance

Keeping the focus on safety

Our clients’ safety is important to us, and at Lords Chimney, we want to do everything we can to help you minimize the possibility of fire hazards in or around your chimney system, from regular chimney maintenance to necessary repairs. That also includes helping you develop short-term and long-term fire safety plans that add up to a cleaner and better-performing system.

Maintenance Sets The Stage

This list of smart practices will help you continue using your heating appliance as safely as possible.

Annual cleaning and inspection is one sure-fire way to minimize safety risks with your chimney.

Annual cleaning and inspection is one sure-fire way to minimize safety risks with your chimney.

Every Time You Use Your Fireplace

Use the right fuel

Wet or green wood results in an increase in creosote in your flue, and more creosote means a bigger chance of creosote ignition. Use kiln-dried or seasoned firewood (or make sure you dry your own wood for at least a year before using it) — that helps you achieve the optimum small, hot fire, creating the lowest levels of creosote. Stay away from burning trash, Christmas trees, cardboard boxes or anything else that isn’t seasoned firewood, too — and never ever try to speed up lighting your fire by using any kind of flammable liquid.

Don’t leave your fire unattended

If you’re burning wood, it takes a while for the fire to thoroughly extinguish. Don’t leave a smoldering fire alone — if sparks or embers get out of the firebox or another problem arises, you need to be there to handle it.

Use a spark screen

Fireplace screens are affordable and useful — placed in front of the fire, they can create a barrier between flames/embers and your living area and the people and pets in it.

Keep things clean

Make sure you clean wood ash regularly, in the right way: Deposit ash in a metal bucket, and allow it to cool completely before disposing of it a safe distance away from your home. Whatever fuel you’re burning, keep the area around your fireplace or stove clean — keep a good distance between the appliance and anything flammable, from furniture and window coverings to decorative items.

Annually

Chimney sweeping

Creosote will build up as you use your wood fireplace or stove, and it needs to be regularly removed from your flue for both safety and performance reasons. A cleaner flue is a safer and a more efficiently venting flue, and Lords Chimney can help.

Chimney inspections

If something goes wrong in your chimney system, you want to know about it — damaged parts and components can lead to leaks and water damage, dangerous carbon monoxide leaks and fire hazards. So keeping up with your recommended annual chimney inspection is important. If a cracked flue liner, third stage creosote or any other issue is limiting your chimney’s safety and efficiency, Lords Chimney can find the problem and suggest and complete the work necessary to fix it.

Don’t Forget About Your Dryer Vents!

We talk a lot about fire safety associated with fireplaces, stoves and chimneys, but your dryer vent needs your attention too. Lint-clogged dryer vents can become a serious fire hazard — according to estimates from the National Fire Protection Association, dryers or washing machines were involved in nearly 17,000 home fires in 2010, and the most prominent cause of those fires was a failure to clean.

As you use your dryer, lint slowly builds up along the ducts, and over time, that build-up can begin to constrict the vent. That blockage allows heat to build up, and since lint is extremely flammable, that heat can cause it to ignite.

Keeping your dryer vents clean limits that possibility — and Lords Chimney can help with dryer vent cleaning services.

If you have any questions about safer fireplace, stove and chimney practices – or dryer vents – Lords Chimney is always here to help. Just give us a call!