Sitting around the fireplace is always cozy, especially during the cold weather. While fireplaces provide warmth and light for our homes, it’s important to keep them maintained as well as take precautions for our safety. We’ve put together a list of fireplace safety tips for you to keep in mind this winter.
It’s tempting to slide your couch or chair up to your fireplace to snuggle in for the evening, but it’s also very dangerous! When I was young, we would do that after football games or after school in general, but if you fall asleep, you could unintentionally set something (or worse-case yourself) on fire. Keep flammable objects at least three feet away from heat sources. As an alternative to sliding closer to the fireplace, you can always grab a warm fleece blanket and something hot to drink.
If you have a gas fireplace, one hazard to be cautious of are gas leaks. If you come home and the house smells like rotten eggs or cabbage, that’s a sign that there could be a gas leak. See if the smell is coming from your fireplace. If so, you can check for the leak by shining a flashlight to see if there’s swirling dust around the fireplace. If you suspect a gas leak, you should step outside and call 9-1-1 and have a professional check your fireplace.
Most children are naturally curious and will test things, but make sure they don’t play around the fireplace — whether it’s wood, gas, or electric. You don’t want them to get burned or hurt. Tell them that they should never try lighting the fireplace and that an adult should do it instead. If possible, consider making that area a “no-kids” zone in your house.
4. For Wood Fireplaces, Periodically Remove the Ashes.
Periodically remove ashes as they build up to allow airflow when burning your wood. You may want to keep just a small layer for holding heat and hot coals, but don’t allow them to accumulate too much. And you might be asking, what can you do with all of those leftover ashes? Well, quite a lot! If your soil is acidic, you can add some ashes to help raise the pH. You can also use wood ashes to melt ice on your driveway and walkways or to help polish metal like old silverware.
5. Try to Use Dry Wood Instead Of Damp or Rotten Wood
If possible, use dry, seasoned wood for burning. You’ll be able to build up heat faster than with wet wood. Dry wood will also allow for a cleaner burn. Wet or damp wood will have a higher moisture content and can cause creosote buildup in your chimney. If you have fresh or green wood, you can store it away for about six to 12 months so the wood can dry out more. Avoid using firewood showing signs of mold to prevent respiratory issues.
To properly store your firewood, you should stack the pieces off the ground to prevent rotting and preferably in a location where you can use sunlight and wind to help dry out the wood. Stack the wood in a rack or on a pallet — leaving some gaps or spaces for air to flow through. To protect the wood from rain, ice, and snow, use a tarp for covering but make sure that air can reach the wood.
7. Close the Damper When You’re not using Your Fireplace
Once the fire is completely out, close the damper to hold your heat in and prevent cold air from coming in. You’ll also prevent water and outside debris from entering the chimney. While burning firewood, you’ll want to make sure the damper is open to release the smoke for proper ventilation.
You should have your chimney checked and cleaned at least once a year to help remove buildup and decrease the likelihood of chimney fires. A maintenance check will also keep you abreast of any issues that need addressing. Ultimately, you’ll maintain the longevity of your fireplace by making sure your chimney stays in good shape.
If you have a wood fireplace, keep embers from ruining your floor with a flame retardant rug. When you’re adding wood to start your fire, you may have some embers to pop out. With a flame retardant rug, you’ll be able to protect your floor in front of the fireplace, as well as reduce the chance of unintentionally starting a fire with a traditional rug.
10. Put Out The Fire Before Going to Bed or Leaving Home
It’s easy to forget to put out the fire or shut off your fireplace before turning in for the evening. If you have a wood or gas fireplace, make sure the flames are put out before you go to bed or leave home. If you have an electric fireplace with remote control and automatic shut-off, these features can be helpful in the event of overheating and allowing you to control the fireplace without having to manually adjust dials.
Fireplaces are beautiful to look at during the cooler months. It’s important, if you have a wood or gas fireplace, to keep it maintained annually. Try to reduce the risk of a home fire by making sure nothing is too close to the fireplace and putting the fire out or shutting it off before going to bed. Keep these 10 tips in mind for a safe and cozy fall or winter.