Did you know that fireplaces and chimneys cause 42% of all home-heating fires? With the November chill in the air and the holidays approaching your family and friends will soon be gathered ’round your hearth. Now is the time to prepare your fireplace for the cold months ahead. Before you put spark to the kindling this season take a look at these 7 preparation and safety tips.
- Hire a Chimney Sweep
The National Fire Protection Association recommends that chimneys be swept at least once a year at the beginning of the winter to remove soot and debris. Find a certified sweep in your area via the Chimney Safety Institute of America.
- Check for Damage
In addition to cleaning, a chimney sweep should inspect the chimney structure for cracks, loose bricks, or missing mortar. Check chimney liners for cracking or deterioration.
- Cap the Chimney
A cap fitted with wire-mesh sides covers the top of chimney and keeps rain, birds, squirrels, and debris from entering. Replace or repair a cap that is missing or damaged.
- Burn Seasoned Hardwoods
Choose dense wood, such as oak, that has been split and stored in a high and dry place for a least six months. Green wood and resinous softwoods like pine produce more creosote, a flammable by-product of combustion that can build up in the chimney.
- Don’t Overload
Small fires generate less smoke, thus less creosote build-up. Also, a fire that is too large or too hot can crack the chimney!
- Build it Right
Place logs at the rear of the fireplace on a metal grate. Use kindling, rather than flammable liquids, to start the fire.
- Use a Spark Guard
Prevent errant embers from shooting out of the firebox with a mesh metal screen or glass fireplace doors. A guard in front of an open flame is especially important when the room is unoccupied.
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