Your fireplace can be a centerpiece of warmth and beauty in your home and can provide hours of enjoyment for your family. Whether it is an intimate gathering, a large party or a romantic evening, a fireplace can provide ambiance and comfort. Fireplaces are also the source of many home fires and accidents as well and it is important to practice responsibility and safety in their operation. Some important preventative tips will keep your fireplace running safely and efficiently.
Cleanliness is the most important aspect of fireplace safety. Every year, you should have your fireplace and chimney professionally cleaned and inspected by a chimney sweep. Professional chimney sweeps will be able to give you tips on how to most efficiently run your fireplace and also let you know of any problems or repairs that need to be made in addition to getting everything clean and ready for the season. It is important to keep the amount of creosote build-up in your chimney and fireplace to a minimum. Creosote is the build-up of residue that occurs when you burn wood. Store bought fireplace logs will allow much less creosote build-up than regular firewood. Harder kinds of wood such as hickory and oak will also burn much cleaner than soft woods like pine and seasoned wood always burns cleaner and more efficiently than new wood which has a higher moisture content.
Keep the area around your fireplace clean as well. Be sure to keep any newspapers, magazines, kindling, rugs and flammable draperies away from your fireplace. Always use a fireplace screen, which prevents embers and sparks from popping out of the fire onto your furniture and floors, which can cause damage or start a fire. Fireplace screens have become quite fancy and you can find many different kinds to accent your décor. Also be sure that you don’t have any bird nests or tree branches near your chimney outside, these can also cause fires. Install a chimney screen so that animals can not get inside your chimney and build flammable nests there.
When burning wood in your fireplace, be sure not to make the fire too large. Putting too much wood in the fireplace can cause inefficient burning, and cause smoking. Fires that are too large can ignite creosote deposits. Always stack your wood near the rear of the fireplace and use andirons to keep logs from rolling out. Never leave a fire burning unattended and always extinguish a fire before going to bed. Keep fire extinguishers in handy locations near your fireplace and equip your home with smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.
When starting your fire, never use flammable liquids to ignite the wood. Lighter fluids and charcoal starters can cause flammable fumes to accumulate, which can cause fires from combustion. Be sure to always leave your damper open when operating your fireplace. If you use newspapers to ignite your fire, be sure you don’t use colored sheets of paper as these can sometimes release poisonous gases. Don’t burn anything in your fireplace except for fire logs, wood and kindling. Other materials may cause flare-ups or toxic fumes.