A fireplace brings coziness to the winter months and is an ideal gathering spot for family and friends, so it’s important to keep a few safety tips in mind when enjoying your fireplace. You want your fireplace to be the heart of your home. What you don’t want it to become is a source of worry or a safety hazard.
✔️ Make Sure Your Firewood Is Seasoned
What exactly is seasoned wood? “Seasoned” means the wood has been dried thoroughly so that it burns as safely and cleanly as possible. Green wood (wood that’s been newly chopped) or damp wood produces more smoke and acidic fumes, which leads to poor air quality, smoke backup, and more creosote buildup in your chimney – none of which is healthy or desirable.
Your firewood should be dried to a moisture content of between 15 and 25%. Indicators that your firewood is well-seasoned include:
- split and darkened ends
- feeling light compared to a more recently cut piece of wood with higher moisture content
- sounding hollow when clunked against another piece
- looking/smelling older and mustier
If you’re uncertain about the readiness of your firewood, you can purchase a moisture meter to measure its humidity.
✔️ Burn Only Firewood
The only thing that should be burned in your fireplace is firewood. As tempting as it may be to add something else you have handy – either for convenience or to dispose of the item – seasoned firewood is the intended, safest fuel for your fire.
Things like cardboard, wrapping paper, and other packaging materials contain chemicals that are released as they burn, and they’re also more likely to float up your chimney and land on your roof or yard, becoming a fire hazard. Similarly, treated or painted wood should never be burned in your home’s fireplace as these materials can release dangerous levels of toxins into your home when burned. Plastic and styrofoam also release toxic chemicals, as well as black smoke that can stain your home.
Long story short, burning only well-seasoned firewood will help the fire in your fireplace burn as evenly, cleanly, and safely as possible.
✔️ Never Leave Fires Unattended
Before leaving the house or turning in for the night, be sure that your fire is completely extinguished. Be especially vigilant with small children around – if you need to step out of the room and the fireplace is still hot, be sure your child goes with you or is in the care of another adult in the room.
✔️ Invest in Annual Inspections
Your chimney needs to be inspected at least yearly. A certified professional can help you identify any issues, some of which may be critical to address but not be immediately evident to the untrained eye. Your chimney should be properly maintained and cleared of any debris before use, but these steps typically won’t or can’t be taken unless it’s inspected routinely. Don’t put off inspections, repairs, and sweepings – it’s a safety issue!
✔️ Keep Your Fireplace Clean
Keep levels of ash in your fireplace at or below one inch. If you don’t clear out ashes from previous fires when they’re above that level, they’ll minimize air flow to your firewood, which will yield a smoky fire. If you’re removing hot ashes, use proper tools and a metal container, and store them outside and away from your home until they’re completely cool. Your flue should also be kept clean of soot and creosote build-up or any obstructions – regular chimney sweepings will help with this.
✔️ Regularly Test Your Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Alarms
You’re exercising caution while enjoying a fire and your home is properly ventilated – these things are important to your home safety. However, they never mean that you can neglect your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms. Alarms provide a vital layer of safety that can make all the difference should an emergency arise. They should be tested monthly and batteries should be changed if they fail your monthly test or once a year, whichever is first.
✔️ Maintain Proper Clearances
While you want your living space to be personalized and homey, decorative items should be spaced safely away from your fireplace. Even if they don’t seem at risk of directly touching the flames, they can still become dangerously hot if they’re too close. If your fireplace is in a carpeted area, you can also purchase a nonflammable rug from a fireplace supply store to protect your carpeting from errant sparks.
Be extra cautious about keeping your fireplace clear during the holidays, and resist the temptation to place holiday decor and stockings too near the fireplace. Don’t worry – Santa will still find those stockings even if they’re a little further away.
✔️ Educate Your Family
Be sure that you’ve spoken with your children about the dangers of fires and the heat that comes from them. Children should know what a safe distance to enjoy a fire from looks like, not to put anything into the fireplace, and what to do if a fire alarm goes off.
Call On Us Today
A fireplace is a delightful part of a home environment that should provide warmth and atmosphere. With a little caution, it can be enjoyed with optimum safety. Take steps to make enjoying your fireplace this fall as safe as possible, and if you’re due for an inspection, give us a call or reach out to us online today!