Fireplaces play important roles in millions of American homes. They provide warmth, comfort, and a place to gather at the end of a long day to relax. Despite their ability to provide that comfort, they can be dangerous when they aren’t properly maintained. Here are five things you should know about fireplace and chimney safety.
#1 – Regular Cleaning is Vital
Of all the maintenance required to keep your fireplace safe, cleaning is by far the most important. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommends cleaning your chimney at least once each year or any time there is 1/8” of visible soot. This prevents the buildup of a harmful chemical called creosote. Creosote is not only a respiratory irritant; it is also carcinogenic and extremely flammable – especially when allowed to build up over time. Be sure to call a professional for your chimney cleanings, too. They have the expertise, tools, and knowledge to do the job right.
#2 – Annual Inspections Can Save Lives
The National Fire Protection Association’s Standard 211 provides an important list of guidelines for chimney care. It recommends an inspection of chimneys, fireplaces, and vents along with additional cleaning during the inspection if necessary. You should always contact CSIA-certified professionals to carry out these inspections. They have high-tech video equipment that allows them an up-close view at the inner workings of your chimney, including the liner, the damper, and more. Spotting and repairing issues early on can prevent fires, carbon monoxide poisoning, and more.
#3 – Never Leave Fires Unattended
It’s not unusual for homeowners to walk away from a fire in the fireplace to answer the telephone, prepare a meal, or even step outside to water the lawn. This can be devastating. All it takes is a single ember to start a devastating fire, so be sure that the fire in your fireplace is out completely before you walk away. Along these same lines, you should never leave children or pets in the same room unattended. Accidents can happen in seconds.
#4 – Chimney Fires Can Spread
Chimney fires are far more common than housefires, and this can lead some homeowners to believe that they are not as much of a concern. This is a serious misunderstanding and one that could have potentially devastating effects. Though it is true that many chimney fires remain contained to the chimney and put themselves out, it is also possible for these fires to spread to the structure of your home. Every single year, fire departments across the country must battle huge blazes that started in chimneys.
#5 – You Should Only Burn Seasoned Wood
There’s a chance you’ve seen a movie where someone tosses an unwanted item into a fireplace to watch it burn, and while it may seem harmless to most homeowners, it can actually cause serious issues. In fact, even burning wood that has not been properly seasoned is dangerous. Seasoned wood burns rather cleanly, which means it will lead to less creosote buildup inside the chimney. Wood that is “green” or not properly dried, and even other items that you may toss into the fireplace for disposal, create a great deal of toxic smoke carrying creosote-laden soot. The resulting buildup can result in chimney fires.
As you can see, there are several things that you should always remember when it comes to keeping yourself, your family, and your home safe. Cleaning and inspection should be at the very top of your fireplace maintenance list, and you should always hire a certified professional to carry out these tasks.