The nip is back in the air, which means it’s time to get warm and cozy by the fire. But do you know how to use a fireplace safely? Each year, an average of 22,000 home fires occur in the fireplace or chimney, and who doesn’t remember Rachel Ray’s chimney fire that tore through her home last year?
Prevent a chimney fire from happening in your home by following these fireplace safety tips!
How to use a fireplace safely (wood-burning edition)
Using a fireplace safely starts with taking steps to prevent a home fire. One of the most important precautions is simply cleaning your chimney. Excess creosote can lead to a fire which can spread throughout the home, which is why it’s important to:
- Schedule an annual checkup before using your fireplace for the season to remove any creosote buildup and obstructions, including nests, branches, leaves, or even bricks.
- Hire a professional to inspect the damper and its seals, the flashing, chimney crown, and bricks.
- Install a screen to prevent embers from exiting the fireplace.
- Keep a fire extinguisher close (and know how to use it safely).
- Create a three-foot perimeter around the fireplace opening and keep children, pets, and flammable objects out of this zone.
- Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your living room and test them monthly to make sure they are working properly.
We do not recommend you inspect your fireplace yourself as only a professional will be able to tell if your fireplace is safe. Plus, any dangerous issues you may find, especially with the damper or flue, should be addressed by a professional.
Unfortunately, professional chimney sweeps are not certified by the government, but professionals may hold certification from the Chimney Safety Institute of America and membership in the National Chimney Sweep Guild.
Fireplace logs safety tips
Preparing and using logs is another important component of fireplace safety home tips. Our experts put together these quick tips to help you stay safe.
- Use only dry, seasoned wood that was cut more than six months ago.
- Avoid using freshly cut wood as the moisture will produce unsafe levels of creosote and smoke.
- Use a torch to warm the chimney’s cold air during times of excessively cold temperatures to prevent smoke accumulation in your home.
- Allow the fireplace to cool before cleaning the ashes. Use a metal shovel and place ashes in a metal container. Store the ashes outside the home and not close or in anything flammable, including a house, shed, or deck.
Store the wood safely by keeping it outside your home. Termites and carpenter ants can live inside your logs, so when you store the firewood inside your house, you might be bringing bugs into your homestead. Instead, keep the firewood away from your home on concrete or asphalt, elevated on treated boards, and with a tarp to keep the wood dry.
Gas-burning fireplace safety tips
Like a wood-burning fireplace, you should have a certified (gas) technician inspect your fireplace once a year. This professional should check or clean the burner and gas lines, inspect the unit and vents, and look for condensation (which can signal an issue).
Generally, gas fireplaces require less maintenance, though they still need to be maintained. If you ever notice the warning signs of a gas leak – “rotten egg stench,” whistling or hissing near the line, or a cloud near the line – exit the home, get 350 feet away, and then call 9-1-1.
Also, you’ll need to create a three-foot perimeter around the unit and use a gate to stop pets and children from touching the hot glass.
Speaking of little ones…
How to block a fireplace from a baby
Start baby proofing your fireplace by installing foam or safety bumpers on the corners of a stepped hearth to protect a baby or toddler’s head from injury. Keep fireplace tools out of your child’s reach and maintain a three-foot perimeter around the fireplace by using baby gates.
Also, install a glass door to prevent a baby from touching open flames in a wood fireplace, but the fire can still produce extreme heat. In fact, a gas fireplace door warms quickly and can take as much as 45 minutes to cool, so really maintain that three-foot perimeter around all types of fireplaces.
If your unit is just decorative, you may be able to use a cushioned bench or hearth pad with throw pillows to safeguard young ones.
Stay on top of home maintenance
Here at vipHomeLink, we know how difficult it is to know what to do and when to do it around the home. That’s why we help to simplify homeownership through our home management app, which provides homeowners with personalized reminders for home tasks. From bat proofing your home to vacuuming your dryer vent, we’ve got you covered.