Tips for Fireplace and Chimney Safety

Your fireplace and chimney are part of your home’s heating system, and require very little maintenance. Yet, ignoring upkeep entirely can have serious consequences, including chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. Unfortunately, few homeowners understand the basics of cleaning and assessing their fireplace and chimney. This results in creosote – a combustible originating from charred wood – accumulating and, over time, increase/s these hazards.
So, if you’re new to fireplace and chimney safety, where do you begin? 
Professional Assessment
To identify any hazards, never guess or make assumptions. Instead, work with a professional chimney sweep to have your system cleaned and inspected for cracks and loose bricks. Generally, your inspection falls into one of three categories:

  • Level 1 – This is a routine inspection involving the interior, exterior and any connections. At this point, a chimney sweep looks for obstructions and examines the overall functionality.
  • Level 2 – This procedure is done after a change in fuel type or any update to the flue’s shape or materials.
  • Level 3 – This inspection typically involves a suspected hazard and could require having part of the chimney removed for examination.

Keeping the Area Clean
As the first line of defense in preventing chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning, make sure you keep the area clear. Start by:

  • Using a glass door, instead of just a mesh screen, to keep out all debris.
  • Burning seasoned hardwoods instead of “green” wood, which creates more creosote.
  • Never throw an old Christmas tree, paper, boxes or trash in the fireplace, as all contribute to creosote buildup.
  • Add a cap to the chimney to keep out birds, rain, snow and other animals.

When It’s in Use:

  • Never use your fireplace as a replacement for your furnace. Instead, make sure the fire burns for no more than five hours.
  • As the fire burns, keep the glass door open to let the air cool the chimney, but use the mesh screen to prevent sparks from flying onto the carpet.
  • A fire should never be left unattended.
  • Any rug in front of the fireplace should be made of a non-flammable material.
  • Never remove ashes right away. Coals stay hot for up to three days. As you remove any ash, wear a dust mask, keep a window open and shovel the ashes into a metal container, which should be kept away from wood and other combustibles.
  • Never use a vacuum to clean up ashes, even if they spill and scatter.
  • During the months you use your fireplace, clean out the firebox once a week.
  • Have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors inside and outside of your bedrooms. Replace the batteries and test the devices each season so they continue to detect hazards.

Ignoring fireplace and chimney maintenance or using them in a dangerous manner could result in a full-blown fire. To make sure you’ve got enough insurance coverage for this risk, give us a call at 203.729.5261.