Colder weather is on the way and if you own a fireplace you may be eager to enjoy the warmth and comfort that a fire provides. To help prevent fire-related accidents, here are a few tips to keep your fireplace safe this season.
Select the Right Firewood to Keep Your Fireplace Safe
Cypress, fir, and pine make excellent kindling. They’re commonly used as fire-starters due to their quick ignition and high burning temperature. However, these woods are risky to burn as your main fuel. They tend to spark and pop, sending embers into the room. They’re also smokier than hardwoods.
Hardwoods are denser and they aren’t as resinous as softwoods. This means they burn longer and more steadily, with fewer sparks and less smoke. Ash, hickory, oak, and cherry logs are safer to burn in the fireplace than coniferous softwoods because they produce less creosote. Creosote is a flammable substance that builds up in the chimney and can start chimney fires.
Use a Metal Screen
One of the easiest ways to keep your fireplace safe is by installing a metal screen between you and the fire. Even if you’re using hardwoods as fuel, you’re still dealing with an open flame, and embers and sparks are inevitable. A fireplace screen catches burning particles, preventing them from escaping the boundaries of your hearth.
Fireplace screens come in all sizes. When purchasing one, measure your fireplace and add at least 3″ to the height dimension and 10-12″ to the width. The screen has to catch upward-flying embers and be large enough to cover the front of the fireplace opening.
Fireplace Safety Equipment
Logs should burn on an iron grate, elevated off of the fireplace floor. A chimney cap protects your roof and nearby trees from escaping sparks and keeps debris from falling down the chimney. Use an iron poker for tending to the fire. A sturdy set of metal fire tongs will help you reposition logs so you don’t have to use your hands. Wear fire-resistant gloves to reduce the risk of burns when you’re interacting with flames. Before building a fire, the damper should be open and functioning properly. Make sure it opens and closes easily and have repairs made if necessary.
Equip your home with standard fire safety items. An easily accessible fire extinguisher, working smoke detectors, and a carbon monoxide detector are essential to keep your family and home safe. Perform monthly tests on your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to verify that they’re fully operational.
Call a Professional
Fireplaces require regular maintenance, and one of the best ways you can keep your fireplace safe is to enlist a skilled professional. A chimney sweep or fireplace inspector will examine the fireplace. He or she will remove creosote buildup in the flue, and look for broken bricks and cracks in the mortar. Having a fireplace safety assessment and making needed repairs will help prepare your fireplace for use.
Keep Your Fireplace Safe
Never allow children near the fire without supervision. Only adults should handle feeding and stoking the fire, so keep fire tools where kids can’t access them. Keep flammable items, like drapery, rugs, and furniture at least three feet from the hearth. Make sure your fire is completely extinguished before leaving the house or going to bed.