If you enjoy the occasional fire in your wood-burning fireplace, keep in mind that heating equipment is one of the leading causes of home fires during the winter months.
Wood-burning fireplaces require periodic maintenance to function properly and safely. Over time, soot and creosote build up in your chimney and it’s important to remove them on a regular basis. These substances are a fire hazard and can hinder the efficiency of your fireplace.
Have your fireplace and chimney inspected and cleaned by a professional chimney sweep at least once a year. In addition to hiring professional services, here’s what you can do to maintain your fireplace:
1. Check to see if the chimney damper is blocked by items such as leaves, twigs or even animals. If it is blocked, call a professional chimney sweep.
2. Clean the fireplace of ashes, debris, and dirt before starting a fire. They present a fire threat and can impede airflow if neglected. Wear gloves and a dust mask for your safety. Tip: leaving an inch of ash in the fireplace will make it easier to maintain a fire.
3. Test your fireplace by burning a few small pieces of dry wood. Light the fire from the top down. If smoke doesn’t exit vertically from the fireplace into the chimney, but enters the room, there might be creosote or soot build-up in your chimney or there might be something else blocking the chimney. Have your chimney serviced as soon as possible.
4. Burn fire logs (composition logs) to reduce indoor air pollution. This type of wood fuel is also easier to ignite, burns longer, and is more efficient than firewood.
5. If you burn firewood, use only clean, dry, and seasoned wood to reduce the amount of hazardous smoke. Good firewood also keeps your fireplace cleaner and in better shape. Avoid burning pine and other resinous woods that leave more creosote in the flue.
6. Store firewood in a dry area. If you store it outside, keep it at least one foot above ground and ensure the storage area is sunny and well-ventilated.
7. To reduce toxic fumes and prevent flue clogging, never burn materials like rubber, garbage, plastic, particleboards, colored papers, etc..
8. Place heatproof glass doors in front of the fireplace to prevent live embers from popping out onto materials like carpeting.
A great way to check that your fire is burning correctly is to go outside and confirm the smoke is coming out of the chimney. If the smoke is dense and dark, you may need to adjust the dampers or air inlets. For more fireplace safety tips, check out this article. If you use portable fireplaces, take a look at these tips for using them safely. For professional emergency fire damage repair or smoke remediation services, contact your local PuroClean office.