Home & Family
Fireplace Safety
12/1/2017 5:01:02 PM
Fireplace Safety

As autumn slowly wanes into winter, many homeowners begin conjuring thoughts of dark, quiet evenings by a warm fireplace. But before you place that first log on the fire this winter be sure your fireplace is a safe place for you and your loved ones to enjoy in the months ahead.

First and foremost, fireplaces should not to be used for long periods of time or as home furnaces. HGTV.com recommends five hours of continuous use as the maximum amount of time to keep a fire burning in your home. Fireplaces generate carbon monoxide and without proper exhaustion of the fumes released from your fire over a period of time (especially in fireplaces with poorly maintained chimneys) the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning becomes all the more imminent. It is estimated that 4,000 deaths each year in the United States are attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning. So, if possible, keep a nearby window cracked open when a fire is burning. Homeowners should also install both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and test them monthly; their batteries should be changed at least once a year. 

Before starting your fire, make sure the damper (or flue) is open so the smoke is drawn out of the house. You can check your damper by looking up your fireplace with a flashlight. Don’t stack any logs until you’ve checked for smoke ventilation. Light a match, blow it out quickly, and see if the smoke rises up and out of your chimney.  If it does, you’re all set to begin laying those logs. Afterwards, when your logs have died down to a glow, do not close the damper until the embers have stopped burning completely.

The area around your fireplace should be clear of anything that is potentially flammable, which includes drapes, newspaper, books, and furniture. It is also important to never leave a fire in your fireplace unattended. If you decide to go to bed or leave the house, ensure the fire is out completely. If you have small children, make sure you take them with you if you leave the room.

Cleanliness counts when it comes to fireplace safety. According to the National Fire Protection Association, nearly 30 percent of heating fires are caused when homeowners fail to clean their fireplaces and chimneys. Your chimney should be checked once a year (or after about 80 fires) by a professional chimney sweep. A chimney cap can prevent water damage and deter animals from nesting. Make sure you clean the firebox (the area where the logs burn) at least once a week during use so that ash does not build up. During cleaning, leave about an inch of ash in the area for insulation. This will allow the coals to heat up quicker; it will also make it easier for them to retain heat.

Few things top a roaring fire in the winter months. But all household fires should be enjoyed responsibly. So when you’re stacking logs in your fireplace this winter, keep these tips in mind to keep you and your loved ones safe – and cozy – in the months ahead.
Posted by: Frank DiCesare | Submit comment | Tell a friend

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