Fireplace Maintenance and Safety

In Home maintenance tips, safety by Jackie Dunn

It’s that time of year, so before you light your first fire of the season have your fireplaces inspected.

freeimages.com Rajmund Barnes

Fireplace maintenance:

It’s important to check your fireplaces out to make sure they ready and safe to use. The best thing you can to is to hire a professional chimney sweep to check your fireplaces out. Fireplace maintenance and chimney maintenance is crucial to prevent chimney fires and save lives.

Clean chimneys typically don’t catch fire!

The National Fire Protection Association Standard 211 policy states, “Chimneys, fireplaces, and vents shall be inspected at least once a year for soundness, freedom from deposits, and correct clearances. Cleaning, maintenance, and repairs shall be done if necessary.” However; if you use your fireplace on a daily bases creating greater creosote build up you may need to have it cleaned more often.

You’ll want your fireplaces to not only be swept to remove creosote build up and debris, but also checked for damage. A masonry chimney’s interior structure should be checked for loose bricks, missing mortar, cracks and structural defects; along with the exterior for tuck pointing and cracked crowns. Even prefab metal insert fireplace should be checked; although creosote isn’t an issue you still could have issues with blockages from birds, squirrels and debris or damage to your fireplace insert retort panels, the metal flue, the exterior metal chimney crown and cap. If your fireplace insert retort panels are damaged or you’ve had a chimney/flue fire your fire place isn’t safe to operate. If you have gas logs you should also have them checked annually by a HVAC or fireplace contractor. Most importantly, if you have a fireplace no matter what type you have, you need at least one carbon monoxide detector. Carbon Monoxide is the silent killer.

You’ll also want to make sure you have a chimney cap and that it is securely fastened and in good condition. They chimney cap prevents moisture intrusion and the Spark Arrestor (screen guard) not only prevent birds, squirrels and debris from nesting in the chimney. More importantly it reduce the likelihood that embers exit through your chimney which potentially could start fires.

freeimages.com Petra WinklerBuilding the fire and proper operation:

Open your damper and preheat your chimney of possible. Build the right size fire, a smaller fire is better than a big one and only burn seasoned hardwoods, non-seasoned or green wood and softwoods will produce more creosote that will accumulate on the interior of your chimney resulting in more frequent cleaning.

Fireplace screens and doors:

When using a fire place safety should always be your first concern. We all enjoy the ambiance and cozying up by a warm fire on a cold or snowy night. It’s important we keep a safe distance from the fireplace so it is recommended every fireplace be equipped with a screen and/or glass doors. The screen would prevent embers and sparks popping out of the fireplace where it could land on a combustible material. Be careful of some types of wood because they are well known for “popping” include: “pine, shaggy juniper, alligator juniper, and cedar. But no matter what type of firewood you use, it’s important to use a screen because of the very real danger of your home catching fire as a result of a hot ember escaping the firebox.” The additional advantages of glass doors include more efficient heating, lowered heating costs and a reduction in down drafts. Both fireplace screens and glass doors also can help protect toddlers and pets.

Source data and Resources:

Chimney Safe Institute of America
National Chimney Sweep Guild
National Fire Protection Association