In freezing temperatures, many of us use fireplaces to keep our homes warm inside during cold months. Because winter is the heaviest use period for our fireplaces, it’s important to ensure safety all season.
The following tips can help you and your family safely enjoy your fireplace this winter:
- Safely dispose of ashes. What you do when a fire has gone out is almost as important as what you do while it’s burning. Properly disposing of fireplace ashes can keep your firebox clean – as well as reduce the risk of accidental fire. First, allow indoor fires to naturally extinguish; using water to put out a fire can cause ashes to spread and dirty surrounding furnishings. This can also damage the masonry of the firebox. Spread out the ashes periodically, ensuring there are no pockets of embers. Next, remove ashes to a metal ash container. Ashes should never be put into combustible containers such as cardboard boxes or paper bags, and should not be mixed in with trash in dumpsters or trash cans. Check with your sanitation department for specific rules for disposing of ashes in your area.
- Keep décor away from the fireplace. Stray sparks and embers from a roaring fire can jump out of the firebox; to keep them from burning any of your possessions – or starting an accidental fire – keep décor away from the fireplace when it is in use. Chairs, cushions, carpets, blankets, and other furnishings should be kept at least three feet away from the fireplace when it is in use; this includes removing any hanging décor on the mantle before using the fireplace. Sturdy grates, mesh or wire curtains, or glass doors can all be used to reduce the risk of sparks spreading.
- Have your chimney swept. Regular chimney maintenance is an important part of keeping your fireplace burning safely during the winter. Annual chimney sweepings and inspections ensure that there are no blockages in the flue, damage to the chimney, or other performance problems.
All fireplaces should be swept and inspected at least once per year!
Having said that, using your fireplace as a primary heat source may mean you need to have it cleaned more than once per year. According to the National Fire Protection Association, chimneys need to be swept any time 1/8th of an inch of soot buildup occurs; in normal burning conditions, this amount of buildup is present after burning one full cord of wood. Homes where more than this amount of wood is burned during the winter may want to consider having their chimney swept for a second time mid-season.
Enjoy using your fireplace all winter long by following these safety tips. For more information on reducing fire hazards or to schedule your next chimney inspection, contact Coopertown Services today!