How to Keep Your Fireplace Safe and Well-maintained

May 28, 2021 | Personal Insurance

As the cold weather approaches, our bodies tend to seek warmth. The cold temperature gets drastic, and we cannot take more of it when it reaches zero or negative degrees. One thing we do to find additional sources of heat is to stay near our fireplace. It keeps us warm and comfortable, especially at night where it gets even colder than we could take. 

In addition to this, a fireplace is giving – romantic setting and energy advantages! Another one is its effect as a great alternative light when the power is out. However, have you experienced a fire incident while enjoying the comfort of being around the flames? We have to be extra cautious when it comes to this as it may start something more dangerous. 

You may not notice that those logs may burn uncontrollably, then boom! Soon you might face a significant loss if that happens. The following safety procedures ensure you get to enjoy being near the fireplace throughout the whole winter season.

Maintain clean chimney, wood stove, and fireplace

To ensure safety and the efficient work of your chimney and fireplace, have them cleaned. Hire a licensed specialist to inspect and clean them. Do this annually to maintain its good function. Keep the hearth and everything that surrounds it away from debris and other materials that burn easily. When using a pellet stove or wood-burning stove, read the manufacturer’s instructions. It contains additional guidance for proper venting and operation. 

Do you see white stains in your chimney? Sometimes there are yellow or brown stains. It is caused by efflorescence. When you see these stains, it’s time for chimney repair and not just mere cleaning to eliminate the spots. Efflorescence happens when moisture gets in between the bricks or masonry, which comprises salt particles. It crystallizes later on and may start the downfall of your chimney.

Ensure that the fires burn safely

It is a must that the fireplace is well-guarded while it is in use as it may start a fire. The smoke it emits should vent out properly to avoid suffocation inside your home. 

Proper Venting 

The flue or the chimney must be open before you start the fire in the fireplace. Doing this will ensure that it will vent out to prevent the smoke from staying inside the house. Having smoke or carbon monoxide in your home is dangerous for your health. Keep your damper open until the fire is entirely out. 

The glass doors of your fireplace must be open too when there is fire. They would give the fire enough air to keep it burning and reduce the build-up of creosote in the chimney. On the other hand, you should keep the metal mesh screens closed while using your fireplace. It keeps the coals from spitting out of it, thus, giving you additional safety.

The right fire starter

Another thing to consider is to use only a match or a commercial firelighter. Why so? When you use flammable liquids to begin a fire, it might cause a bigger problem. You might not be able to control the flame. Use dry wood only as wet wood may start a fire because of creosote build-up.

Materials that can cause a fire

Burning plastic, cardboard, wrapping paper, trash, or a Christmas tree in your fireplace is a no-no. Plastics release toxic chemicals that can damage your fireplace, chimney, and your wood stove. Furthermore, it is terrible for your health. When burned inside the fireplace, a Christmas tree is likely to start a chimney fire because of the needle sparks. 

Extinguish fire completely

Do not leave your home when the fireplace is in use. Keep an eye on it to avoid fire. Make sure that you completely extinguish the fire before going to bed. Please wait until the ashes cool down before putting them away, as it may ignite a fire inside the trash can. They take a few days before they cool down. Put them inside a metal container with a cover when you dispose of them. Keep your home at least 10 feet away from it.

Your home exterior and chimney must be kept safe.

Keep in mind to stack your firewood away from your home for at least 30 feet. Clean and remove the leaves, pine needles, and other debris from your roof and chimney. To keep debris, leaves, branches, and animals out, installing a chimney cap with a spark arrester is the right thing to do. It will also help avoid burning embers or sparks that may cause a fire hazard.

Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to keep your home interior safe

It is crucial to check your home’s smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to ensure you’re safe during winter. In case your smoke detector detects smoke from a fire, you can be alarmed immediately. Carbon monoxide detectors alert you if this hazardous gas, which is odorless and colorless, builds up. 

Testing these detectors every month is essential to ensure that they’re working and can do their work in emergency times. Just a tip, a smile detector’s lifespan usually lasts from 8 up to 10 years. It’s best to replace your carbon monoxide detector when it reaches seven years.

Equip your home with a fire extinguisher

We may never tell when a fire would worsen, so it’s best to put a fire extinguisher in our home near the fireplace. It is an essential component for fire safety. However, if you’re unfamiliar with using it, you may need to learn the basics first. It will help you become prepared and comfortable if an unexpected fire happens. Knowing what to do in case of this situation will save your life and the others. 

Ensure that everyone else is outside and safe before using the fire extinguisher. You can also call emergency services for help if you think you cannot stop the fire alone. Remember to use the PASS method when using the fire extinguisher. That’s Pull-Aim-Squeeze-Sweep.

  • Pull the pin. Some extinguishers may require a lock latch release, pressing a puncture lever, inversion, or other motion.
  • Aim the nozzle or horn of the fire extinguisher at the fire’s source.
  • Squeeze or grasp the handle, then press it.
  • Sweep and release the extinguisher’s contents from side to side at the fire’s base. 

Other Cleaning Tips for Your Fireplace

Aside from having your fireplace cleaned by professionals, you must ensure cleaning routines to keep it safe. We knew that every time we use our fireplace, a creosote build-up might lead to a fire. Here are some do-it-yourself cleaning tips you may try to maintain your fireplace.

Firebox Cleaning

Scrub the inside walls of the firebox opening only to the lintel’s height with a stiff-bristle brush. Be careful upon cleaning the firebox because it might break down. Be careful not to bend any corners as these edges leave holes in the wall supports where the fire will get in.

Cleaning Painted Firescreens

Clean painted fire screens by mixing one gallon of warm water and one teaspoon ammonia with ½ cup vinegar. Wipe all sides of the screen with a cloth dipped in the solution. Rinse after with a clean damp cloth.

Removing Soot Residue

After each fire, clean the glass facing the fire to remove any soot residue. Scrape baked-on soot from the glass with a glass scraper very carefully to avoid scratches. 

Combine a half cup of vinegar with one tablespoon ammonia and a gallon of warm water. You can spray the solution on the glass. You may also opt to dip a clean cloth into the mix and wipe it on. Dry with a clean cloth after rinsing with warm water.

Washing Grates and Tools

The iron-cast grate may collect creosote tars or sap from burning greenwood. Grates and cast-iron tools can all be washed in the same way. Take the grate or tool outside and spray it down to clear the build-up. Scrub the surface with a stiff-bristle brush or steel-wool soap pad after applying an abrasive cleanser.

Keeping the Fireplace Tools Polished

Many items can restore andirons and brass or brass-plated tools to their original beauty. You may create your own cleaning recipe for fireplace tools. Clean grime and soot from fireplace instruments by rubbing gently with fine-grade (000) steel wool dipped in vegetable oil. Use polish to keep the gloss finish. 

Secure insurance for your home

We’ll never know when an unexpected loss would happen. If your entire home gets burned by your fireplace because of negligence, then you must ensure you’re insured. It would bring your pocket to the brink. Having home insurance protects you from any misfortune a fire incident may cause.

Final Thoughts

Keeping your fireplace clean and well-maintained ensures your safety. A booming flame is not easy to extinguish, especially if it is left unattended. Your health and your property might be at stake, worse, your life and family. It’s not just the fireplace that needs utmost attention but also the chimney which receives the emission of smoke out of the house. 

Maintaining it would keep its sturdy form and safe from crumbling down. Professionals are the best people to approach for thorough cleaning. Follow proper guidelines in installing tools and other equipment related to your fireplace so you can enjoy the warmth of your cozy place through the entire cold season.