It’s getting cold outside, the sun is hanging lower above the horizon, and evening is coming earlier. This is a wonderful time of year to curl up in front of the fireplace with a few logs burning brightly. But if you haven’t used your fireplace or wood-burning stove for a while, it’s a good idea to have a certified, professional chimney sweep inspect your chimney for a dangerous buildup of creosote. Creosote is a byproduct of wood combustion. It is highly flammable and is the cause of most chimney fires.
Aside from having your chimney cleaned by a professional, there are a few things you can do to keep your home safe and comfortable.
- Only burn seasoned hardwoods, not pine or building lumber. Seasoned hardwoods like ash, maple and oak burn cleaner and build up far less creosote.
- Open the damper before you build a fire. It is a common mistake to forget to open the damper on your fireplace, especially if you haven’t used it in a few months.
- Install a chimney cap. These relatively inexpensive chimney-top cages prevent birds, squirrels and other animals and debris from getting in and causing costly damage. They also keep out much of the rainwater and snow, which can accelerate chimney wear and deterioration.
- Place a wire screen in front of your fireplace. It will keep sparks contained and prevent logs and sticks from rolling out.
- Before turning in for the night, be sure to put out the fire. Use your fireplace poker to spread out the wood and embers. A flattened mound will help the fire cool. Scoop up some ash from the bottom of the fireplace with your shovel and place it over the cooling wood and embers.
- Place hot embers into a metal bucket with a lid. Wet the ashes with water from a spray bottle and put the container outside, away from the building and any combustible materials.
- Ensure that your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are working, and that they always have fresh batteries installed.
Follow these tips so that you and your family can safely enjoy a warm fire throughout the winter season.
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