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Main Fireplace Tips Page | Types of Fireplaces and Fuels

James Dulley
Fireplace Safety Tips

Have your fireplace and chimney inspected annually for damage and obstructions by a certified chimney sweep. Have the chimney cleaned regularly to avoid buildup, also known as creosote, that could ignite your roof. A dirty fireplace can also contribute to air pollution. Select a chimney sweep who uses SaverSystems chimney products.

Clear the area around the fireplace, wood stove and chimney. Debris, decorations or other flammable materials too close to the fireplace could cause a fire. Check the flue for obstructions like birds' nests, and trim any overhanging branches or large trees near the chimney.

Always use a fireplace safety screen or glass door for protection from embers. Sparks will shoot out of the fire box and cause a fire. Be sure to use a screen large enough to catch rolling logs or sparks. If your fireplace is equipped with glass doors, leave them open while burning.

Special retaining screens can also keep children and pets at a safe distance from the fire and reduce the possibility of accidental burns.

Always open the chimney flue or damper wide to allow smoke to get out. This also allows adequate air to get to your fire so that it continues to burn brightly. Build a small, hot fire first to preheat the firebox and chimney. This helps the flue establish a good draft.

Never close your damper with hot ashes in the fireplace. A closed damper can help hot ashes build up heat, causing the fire to flare up and ignite your room.

Never overload the fireplace with too many logs. Build small fires that burn completely and produce less smoke.

When building a fire, place logs at the rear of the fireplace on an adequate supporting grate.

Don't use gasoline, kerosene or any other flammable liquids to start the fire or to make the flames burn more brightly. These substances will only coat the inside of your chimney.

Don't burn trash, cardboard boxes, Christmas trees, or piles of paper. Magazines, colored newspapers and wrapping paper may give off toxic chemicals in the smoke. (Put paper in a recycling bin!)

Never burn charcoal in your fireplace. Burning charcoal gives off deadly amounts of carbon monoxide.

Keep a fire extinguisher on hand and install smoke alarms on every level of your home. Test them monthly and change the batteries at least once a year. See that the extinguisher is in good working order and that all family members know how to operate it.

Do not leave a fire or smoldering embers unattended. Make sure the fire is completely out before going to bed or leaving the house.

Dispose of embers safely. Ashes need to be thoroughly dampened, cooled and stored in metal cans that are used solely for ash storage. The embers may be a day old and look as if they are out, but can still cause a fire. Do not discard hot ashes in a compost pile, paper bag, box or anything that is combustible.

Be careful in handling partially burned wood. The wood may still be smoldering and cause a serious burn.

Keep wood stacked, covered, and outside, about 30 feet away from your home and off the ground. Bring in only as much wood as needed to prevent insects entering your home that may be in the wood. Manufactured firelogs are packaged to eliminate insects and mess, this can also prevent this problem.

Burn only seasoned firewood — contains little moisture and creates less polluting smoke when burned. It should be dried for 6 to 12 months minimum.

Start your fire with softwood kindling like pine or fir. It ignites easily, burns fast and hot and will heat the firebox and flue quickly. Then burn hardwoods (oak, hickory, ash, cherry, etc.). Hardwoods are denser and take longer to ignite, but burn slower and more evenly. They produce less smoke and provide more heat energy than softwood logs the same size.

If using manufactured firelogs, read and follow the directions on the package. Never break the logs or use more than one log at a time. They will burn unevenly, releasing their energy at a high rate and resulting in a shorter burn time. This will also release higher levels of carbon monoxide. Firelogs perform best when burned on a supporting fireplace grate with a maximum of three to four inches of space between support bars.

Make a fire that fits your fireplace. A fire that's too large or too hot not only wastes fuel, it can crack your chimney.

Keep your fireplace in good working condition. If you notice any cracks in the chimney, and any loose mortar or brick, have your chimney repaired. Have the chimney liner inspected for cracking or deterioration.

Main Fireplace Tips Page | Types of Fireplaces and Fuels

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