Here at Pagosa Peak Custom Fireplace, we know that nothing creates a cozy ambiance like a crackling fire. But, even the most beautiful fire can become a hazard in your home if proper steps aren’t taken. Every type of fireplace, whether wood-burning, gas, or electric, can pose a potential danger if used incorrectly. Enjoying a warm, cozy night by the fireside requires a clean, safe fireplace. And, because caring for your fireplace and chimney can be both complicated and dirty, we’ve put together this list of our top 10 tips to keep your home warm and safe this season.
Be certain the damper or flue is open before starting a fire.
Keeping the damper or flue open until the fire is out will draw smoke out of the house. The damper can be checked by looking up into the chimney with a flashlight or mirror. Do not close the damper until the embers have completely stopped burning.
Carbon-Monoxide and Smoke Detectors Are a Must
A carbon monoxide detector, as well as a smoke detector, are both fireplace safety must-haves. Carbon-monoxide is becoming a threat in more and more of today’s energy-efficient and airtight homes.
Know What You’re Burning
Only burn dry, well-aged wood or manufactured logs. Avoid resinous woods such as pine (which leave creosote in the flue), as well as evergreen boughs. Never burn items with glossy finishes – like wrapping paper or shiny bows, and foam peanuts – these items release toxic fumes. You’ll also want to avoid burning large quantities of paper, which can flare up and quickly get out of control.
Pay attention to Temperatures
Manufactured logs may burn cleaner than wood, but if you do use manufactured logs, be sure to follow the use directions on the log’s bag. These logs burn hotter than regular wood, and can potentially warp metal chimneys if you burn more than one at a time. A roaring fire looks beautiful, but it’s not as safe as a slower, steadier burn. A too-hot a fire can crack your chimney.
Keep the Area Around the Fireplace Clear
Make sure the area around the fireplace is clear of anything that is potentially flammable (ie: furniture, drapes, newspapers, books, etc.) Don’t position your Christmas tree near your fireplace. This is an essential fireplace safety rule. If these items get too close to the fireplace, or if a piece of wood “pops” and throws sparks, they could catch fire.
Never Leave a Fire Unattended
Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended. Make sure it’s completely out before going to bed or leaving the house. Don’t fall asleep with a fire blazing away. Never leave a fire unattended when children are in the house. If you do leave the room while the fire is burning or the fireplace is still hot, take your child with you. Adults, even if near, should not allow children to play near or with fire tools and equipment.
Gas Fireplace Safety
If your gas fireplace is controlled by a switch on the wall, use a grate or cover the switch to prevent accidental turning on of the gas or the fireplace.
Clean The Firebox Between Fires
While you’ll want to leave chimney cleaning to the pros like us, minor maintenance can be handled yourself. If you burn wood, clean the firebox (the area where the logs burn) at least once a week during the months it’s in use. Leave about an inch of ash because it acts as insulation but a thicker layer than that can restrict the air supply to logs. Keep the firebox completely clean during the months when the fireplace is not in use.
Keep a Fire Extinguisher Handy
Stash a fire extinguisher near the fireplace so that it’s handy – just in case. The best extinguishers are easy-to-handle units in 2- or 5-pound weights.
Keep Things Clean
To prevent creosote build-up in the flue, schedule a professional chimney inspection and cleaning annually If the creosote is allowed to build up, it can suddenly ignite, causing a chimney fire. If the fireplace is a significant source of heat, have it inspected more frequently. Even if the chimney isn’t due for a cleaning, it is important to check for animal nests or other blockages that could prevent smoke from escaping.
If your fireplace needs maintenance before this winter season, call us today to schedule an appointment. Be sure to follow our Pagosa Peak Custom Fireplace Facebook feed for other helpful tips and up-to-date information.