Fireplaces serve many purposes. They offer warmth, they can be a great gathering place or focal point in a room, they can be a beautiful architectural element of a home and it can be quite relaxing to sit near one during the cold, winter months. But they can also be a serious fire hazard if not properly cared for.
One of the biggest concerns when it comes to fire prevention in your chimney is creosote. Creosote is a an element that occurs naturally as a byproduct of burning wood. Should the creosote buildup go unnoticed, it becomes a dangerous fire hazard. Buildup of creosote can also result in carbon monoxide poisoning as the chimney becomes obstructed. Utilizing the services of a certified chimney sweep is important to keep creosote buildup to a minimum. Check the Chimney Safety Institute of America to locate a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep®.
Here are some basic tips to follow when maintaining a chimney:
- Make sure the chimney has been cleaned and inspected before you purchase a new property that has one. If it has not, do not use it until you schedule an inspection yourself.
- Screen your fireplace. This keeps sparks and embers from escaping and keeps pets and family members safe as well.
- Do not go to bed or leave the house with your fireplace running, even if it has a screen. Wait until all embers are extinguished.
- Keep all branches and leaves at least 15-feet away from the top of your chimney.
- Cap your chimney! This will make sure that debris and animals such as squirrels and birds stay out of your chimney.
- Choosing the right fuel is important. For burning firewood in wood stoves or fireplaces, choose well-seasoned wood that has been split for a minimum of six months and stored in a covered and elevated location. Never burn Christmas trees or treated wood in your fireplace or wood stove.
- Never use flammable liquids to start your fire. Use kindling or a commercial firelighter to ignite firewood or firelogs that you've arranged at the rear of the fireplace.
- Keep furniture and other items at least 3-feet away from the fireplace.
- Install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms throughout your home and test them regularly to make sure they are in working order.
- Get your fireplace inspected annually by a certified chimney sweep.