Cozy season is officially here, and that means it’s time to make sure your fireplace is in safe operating condition. By taking a few steps now you’ll enjoy peace of mind every time you and your family use your fireplace.
First Things First
Regardless of whether you have a gas or wood-fire fireplace, have your chimney inspected and cleaned regularly. A certified chimney sweep will remove debris, blockages, and creosote, the chemical mass of carbon that can be formed by wood fires. Creosote can form a thick coating of debris in the flue (the chimney’s passageway for smoke) and cause a chimney fire.
At the very least, visually inspect your chimney flue to be sure there isn’t a nest or other blockage that could prevent smoke from moving up and out of the house. Be sure your damper can be easily opened and closed. Keep the area around your hearth free from home decor or any other combustible material.
Make sure you clean all old ashes out of the fireplace before stacking wood for your first fire of the season. Sweep or vacuum the cold ashes and dispose of them outside.
Practice Fireplace and Wood Stove Safety
Once you’ve prepared your fireplace for the season, make sure to follow the do’s and don’ts on this checklist every time you start a fire. (Note that some items only apply to wood-fired fireplaces).
- DO make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are in working order. Keep fire extinguishers charged and accessible.
- DO be sure your grate or andiron—the metal structure(s) that hold wood inside your fireplace—are in good shape, to prevent wood or logs from rolling out of the fireplace.
- DON’T allow anything that can burn to come closer than 3 feet from your fireplace or wood stove.
- DON’T burn paper in your fireplace or wood stove.
- DO keep a metal screen in front of your fireplace to prevent embers or sparks from jumping out.
- DO make sure fireplace “on” switches and remote controls are out of the reach of children.
- DO keep the doors of your wood stove closed unless loading or stoking the live fire.
- DON’T leave a fire unattended. Be sure the fire is fully extinguished before leaving or going to bed.
- DO put ashes in a metal container with a lid. Place the container outside at least 10 feet from your home.
Consider an Insert to Improve Efficiency
A fireplace insert is a great way to upgrade an old fireplace. Traditional fireplaces only radiate about 10 percent of the heat they produce into the room. Fireplace inserts contain and radiate heat back into the room, making them up to 80 percent more efficient while also reducing wood-burning emissions.
Make Sure You Have the Right Tools and Expert Help
Fireplace doors help retain heat indoors when the fireplace is not being used. For wood-burning fireplaces, screens keep embers from escaping the fireplace. Grates and andirons prevent wood from rolling out of the fireplace. And you’ll want to be sure you’re prepared for the season with tongs, poker, shovel, broom, and fire-safe gloves.
You can count on the fireplace professionals at VanderWall to prepare you for a safe season of cozy evenings by the fire. We carry all the tools and supplies you need, from toolsets to chimney caps and flues. Interested in installing a fireplace insert or a brand-new hearth? From help designing your stone mantel and hearth to running the gas lines, our National Fireplace Institute-certified technicians and friendly staff are here to help. Visit our Grand Rapids or Spring Lake store for inspiration and assistance.