Every year, over 35% of residential fires are caused by heating sources. Chimneys and stovepipes can accumulate creosote buildup causing a number of these fires. All heating systems need some sort of routine maintenance to keep them operating safely, especially when it comes to using a live flame.
When shopping for a home, understand that having a fireplace or a wood burning stove is going to be charming and a great heat element, but it also comes with a lot of responsibility. You need to keep it clean, know what to burn, what not to burn, and how to burn materials indoors, know how to properly store your firewood, and know how to protect your home inside and out.
Keeping wood stoves and fireplaces clean starts with a yearly inspection and chimney sweep. Make sure the specialist you hire is certified to perform these services. To keep the creosote from building up inside your chimney, keep the glass doors open while the fire is burning, but don’t forget to keep them closed when the fire is out. Airflow is key here, so you may even slightly crack a nearby window. When it comes to avoiding creosote buildup with wood stoves, keep air inlets open and make sure not to restrict the air supply.
Make sure you know how to properly use a fireplace or wood stove. Build your fires small with seasoned hardwoods for fireplaces and seasoned wood pellets for pellet stoves. Never use trash, plastic, or any cardboard as burning materials. Fires should be built on a grate for support and towards the rear of the fireplace. First place in the kindling and logs, then open the damper. An easy way to make sure the smoke will properly escape up the chimney is by quickly blowing out a lit match and watching where the smoke travels. Never start a fire with flammable liquids! To handle burning logs, use only your fireplace tools.
After the fire is extinguished, always make sure the ashes have completely cooled. This can take up to three days. When removing them, open the damper and a window. Rustled ash will be sent up the chimney with the negative air pressure. Keep ashes contained in a metal container at least 10’ from any standing structure.
Protecting the exterior of your home involves proper storage of your burning materials and landscape maintenance. Now that you have collected safe materials to burn for the season, where do you keep them? Place your firewood rack 30’ from your house. Keep the ventilation areas of the heating system clear by trimming any branches around the flues, vents, or the chimney. You can put a mesh screen to cover the chimney and it will protect the roof from any stray sparks. Vent pipes should be at least 3’ beyond your roof line.
As far as the inside of your home is concerned, have a screen cover the fireplace to protect the surroundings from sparks and stray embers. Place a nonflammable rug in front of the fireplace so that if a spark does escape it doesn’t damage your floor. Last but not least, test your smoke detectors on every floor monthly, and don’t forget to change the batteries once a year. Need help with friendly reminders? Follow any of our social media accounts and we’ll post when it’s time.
So your system is clean, you have the correct burning materials properly stored, and all other safety measures in place. It may be a little more work, but it is all completely necessary to protect your home from suffering a fire damage, and even smoke damage. The best part is now you can reap the rewards of all your efforts and cozy up to a nice toasty fire on one of these chilly nights. Tis’ the season and I hear it’s going to be a cold week. Enjoy!