Month: October 2016

Is Your Chimney Safe to Use?

Is Your Chimney Safe to Use?

Things are getting chilly fast! By now, it won’t be long before you’ll use your fireplace almost every day to warm your home. Few things are as pleasant as spending cold winter nights cozily close to a fireplace while sipping hot chocolate. But without proper care and maintenance, your fireplace can become a dangerous place to be. As you’re getting ready to use your fireplace on a regular basis, you should take a moment to consider its safety. For a fireplace to be safe, smoke and harmful gases should be effectively channeled out through your chimney.

Chimney Problems

If there’s any smoke entering your house from your fireplace, that’s an obvious red flag that something is terribly wrong with your chimney. In such cases, you should put out the fire immediately. Under no circumstances should you light a fire a fireplace that leaks smoke into your home. Your fireplace will only be safe to use after your chimney has been inspected and repaired. Ideally, your chimney should never leak smoke into your home. Chimney problems should be spotted and repaired earlier than that. Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to spot chimney problems. Chimney problems can be much less obvious. The problem is that even less obvious chimney problems can be fatal. Common chimney problems include:
  • Dirt buildup: Soot and debris will build up in your chimney when you use it. It’s unavoidable – plates get dirty when you eat from them and floors get dirty when you walk on them. In the same way your chimney will get dirty when you use it regularly.
  • Blockages: Even worse than having a dirty chimney, is having a blocked chimney. Bird nests, debris and soot buildup can eventually build up and block your chimney entirely.
  • Damage: Cracks, missing bricks or any other damage to your chimney should be fixed before you use it.
  • Length: Your chimney should pass safety regulations regarding length. Typically, it should be at least 2 feet long from where it exits the roof. A qualified chimney sweep will be able to tell you if your chimney should be longer in order to comply with safety regulations in your area.
There are, however, many other things that need to be inspected before you use your chimney. A reliable, qualified chimney sweep service will be able to do a thorough inspection of anything that needs to be fixed. It’s recommended that you have your chimney inspected either annually or once every other year. It’s best to have your chimney inspected and fixed before winter so you’ll know it’s safe once you use it.

Using Your Fireplace: Safety Precautions

While you probably shouldn’t try to inspect, clean and fix your own chimney, you will be the one using your fireplace. There are a few things you should do that will make your fireplace safer to use.

Use Woods That Burn Well

When it comes to your fireplace, not all woods are equally suitable for burning. One of the first things you should check for is that the wood you burn is completely dry. Never burn fresh wood in your fireplace as they cause more smoke while burning and leave more ashes than seasoned, dry woods. It’s also good to use woods from certain trees for burning in your fireplace. Stick to oak, maple, birch, beech, hickory and ash to keep your fire burning at a consistent pace. The hardness of these woods allow them to burn slowly at an optimal temperature. This prevents flames from flaring up and causing your chimney to overheat. When your fires are too hot, the excessive heat can lead to cracks and other chimney damage. By choosing a good firewood, you’ll also have less ashes and soot buildup in your fireplace and chimney.

Lighting A Fire

Avoid using flammable liquids, like gas to start fires. Rather make use of crumpled newspapers and softer woods like pine to start your fires. However, some people recommend avoiding newspapers with colored ink. Instead, you could use natural things like tree bark, twigs, brown bags, dry corn cobs and pine cones. Once your tinder is caught fire, you can add one or two pieces of a softer wood. The softness helps it catch fire more easily than harder woods, like birch. When your fire is burning properly, you can stack hard firewoods that burn more slowly on top.

Your Fireplace

You should preferably clean your fireplace about once or twice a week. When you clean out ashes from your fireplace, use a shovel to place them in a metal container. Remember that these ashes will remain hot long after the fire has died, so be careful. Once all the ashes have been cleared you should store the container in a place away from flammable things, like wooden floors, carpets and curtains. If it’s practical for you to do so, you could even leave to container with ashes outside. The tools you use at your fireplace should be of a high quality. Before buying fireplace tools like brushes, shovels and pokers, always check the handles. Handles have to be sturdy and durable. You A tool that breaks while you’re using it could be very dangerous. Hopefully you’ll spend lots of time snuggling up at your fireplace to stay warm and cozy this winter. But don’t forget to be safe. Have your chimney inspected regularly and always be cautious when you make a fire. Never forget that, even though fire can be relaxing and comfortable, it can also be deadly.