There’s just nothing like a cozy evening by the fire, especially on the cold and blustery nights this season brings. Cuddle under some blankets before the hearth and sip hot drinks while you relax in the glow of the firelight.
Before you throw some logs in your fireplace and start making sparks, however, be sure to think about safety. Is your fireplace ready? Have you cleared the chimney and vents? What about the damper openings?
To help ensure you’ve checked all your boxes in fireplace preparation so you can have a safe season, follow the to-do list below:
- Get an inspection and cleaning. For the best protection, last year’s inspection isn’t enough to protect you this winter. Experts recommend you get an annual inspection and chimney cleaning at the start of each fall/winter season. Start this winter right by scheduling an appointment with a chimney technician who can prepare your fireplace in order to prevent fire damage. This professional will remove soot and debris, check your flue lining, and alert you to any damage that could cause problems.
- Fix damages. If you find out you have cracks in the chimney, loose bricks, missing mortar or any other damages, now is the time to repair these problems. Another common issue is cracking or other damage to the chimney liner.
- Check the damper. Your chimney’s damper is a valve or plate that regulates its airflow. Make sure this feature is working properly before lighting a fire this winter.
- Cap the chimney. If your chimney doesn’t already have a topper on it, get one. This cap keeps moisture, debris (leaves, twigs, etc.) and critters (birds, squirrels, etc.) out, helps prevent fires and, if it includes a spark guard, stops embers from escaping the chimney.
- Close the guard or doors. To prevent sparks from flying out from the fire into your home, be sure to use the spark guard or doors in front of your fireplace. Close these whenever you have a fire going in order to prevent fire damages.
- Clear the area. It almost goes without saying that you want to clear the area around the fireplace of furniture, décor and especially any flammable objects.
- Know what not to use. The kind of kindling and firewood used in your wood fireplace determines the way your fire burns and how long smoke lasts, so store dried firewood now. Know that seasoned wood burns longer than soft wood, so if you don’t want long fires, soft woods are a better choice. Likewise, don’t use lighter fluid or other flammable substances to ignite your fire. When you introduce chemicals to your fireplace, you introduce a whole new level of unnecessary danger.
- Know what to do. For the best and safest fires at home, always put the logs toward the rear of the fireplace, on the metal grate. Start with kindling and then add a few pieces of wood. Let the fire have lots of air by leaving space between the logs as you add more.
- Don’t overdo your fire. When you’re making fires at home, remember less is more. Don’t overload your fireplace with logs trying to create a huge fire; stick to smaller, more manageable flames that will build up less creosote in the chimney. Smaller fires also reduce your risk of cracking the chimney lining.
- Check your alarms. Now is also a good time to double-check that your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working. Find them, test them and be sure you’re covered to have something alert you if there’s a problem related to the fire.
If you’re excited about getting cozy in front of your fireplace this winter, simply follow the 10 tips above to make sure you’re safe. By taking a little time now to prepare your fireplace, treat problems and set proper precautions against fire damage, you’ll set yourself up for a long and happy season of welcoming, roaring fires at home.
Author bio: Mike Meyer works at Fireplace and Patio Design — your premium retailer of fireplaces, grills, patio furniture and accessories in the western suburbs. The company has a team of professionals who bring 50-plus years of industry experience to assist customers with their purchases, as well as a team of certified technicians for installation and service work.