It’s that time of year: Temperatures are dropping, and homeowners are lighting fireplaces to keep their homes warm and cozy. As you light your fireplace this winter, it is important to observe some fireplace safety tips so you and your family can enjoy your fireplace without putting your home at risk.
Have your chimney swept and inspected.
Fireplace safety begins with your annual fireplace sweeping and inspection. Your annual chimney sweeping clears away creosote, which can put your home at risk of a chimney fire and prevent gases like carbon dioxide from escaping. The inspection makes sure that there aren’t any weaknesses in your fireplace or chimney that could put your home at risk.
Burn only seasoned firewood.
Wet firewood doesn’t burn efficiently. It smokes and steams, and that cooler, denser smoke causes a more rapid buildup of creosote within your chimney. Firewood should be dried for at least six months before it is burned. Once dried, it should be kept covered and off the ground to prevent moisture from being reabsorbed. If your firewood smokes and hisses, it’s not dry and ready for the fireplace.
Start with a small fire at the back of the grate.
Overloading your fireplace can cause embers to fly into your living room, or it can overheat and ignite your chimney. Start with a small fire built at the back of your fireplace grate. Build up the fire gradually.
Don’t close the fireplace doors.
If you have an open-hearth fireplace, the doors to the fireplace should be fully open while the fire is burning. Partially closing the doors does not allow the fire to get enough oxygen to burn efficiently, and fully closing the door can create a vacuum that causes the doors to smash.
Use a fireplace screen.
If your fireplace includes a mesh curtain, be sure to close it while the fireplace is in use. If your fireplace is not equipped with a built-in screen, consider purchasing a fireplace screen. A fireplace screen makes sure that embers stay contained within the fireplace.
Keep the area around the fireplace clear.
There should be a “safety zone” around your fireplace. All furniture, rugs, pillows, blankets, books and décor should be kept at least 3 feet away from the fireplace. Make sure that there isn’t any décor dangling from the mantle that could ignite.
Talk to your kids about fireplace safety.
Make sure your kids know to stay clear of the hearth when a fire is burning. Make sure they also know never to reach into the fireplace or ash bucket, as hot embers can remain long after a fire has been extinguished. If your children are too small to understand fireplace safety, or if you have a pet, you might want to consider installing a hearth gate to keep children and pets safely away from the fireplace.
Make sure you have the necessary safety gear in your home.
Your home should have smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors on every floor and directly outside of sleeping areas. Make sure you regularly check the batteries in your alarms to make sure they are functioning. You also should have a working fire extinguisher easily accessible in your home.
Make sure you observe these fireplace safety tips to enjoy your fireplace this winter!