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Save the Roasting for the Chestnuts, Not the Whole Home: Fireplace Safety Tips

Welcome back to “Monday Morning Coffee!” Today I’ll be discussing the importance of fireplace safety, which is especially important now that fall has arrived.

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As the leaves begin to change and the temperature starts to drop, if you’re like me, you can’t wait to cozy up with your fireplace this fall.

However, before you light any logs this season, it’s important to give yourself a refresher on the necessary practices for wood-burning fireplace safety and maintenance.

While unattended fires are the main cause of fireplace-centered house fires, unmaintained, uncleaned, and unserviceable places and chimneys significantly add to this risk.

Below are 10 simple steps to fireplace and chimney safety so you can ensure your fireplace is ready to keep your family and guests both safe and warm this season.

  1. Annual Fireplace and Chimney Inspection: As the winter season approaches, the last time you most likely took a peek into your fireplace was just under a year ago. Getting your fireplace and chimney inspected by a professional each year is an easy and cost efficient way to know your fireplace is safe, clean, and free from any animals who may have inhabited it over the summer.
  2. Install or Inspect Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors: Smoke and Carbon Monoxide are critical for all homes, especially those with a fireplace. Testing these detectors monthly as well as changing the batteries once a year is a simple and necessary step to keep you and your family safe.
  3. Ensure Damper or Flue is Open: While this tip may seem obvious, if you are a first time home buyer you may not know that before you light a fire, the damper and flue of your fireplace must be open. This step helps draw smoke up the chimney instead of into the house. The damper can be checked by taking a flashlight and looking up into the chimney.
  4. No Wrapping Paper: Burning all the wrapping paper remnants from Christmas day may seem like a fast way to clean up, but it is surprisingly dangerous when lit. Flash fires can result after tossing wrapping paper into the fireplace, so be sure to dispose of it in the trash instead.
  5. Keep a Fire Extinguisher on Hand: You may think you’ll never need to use it, but keeping a fire extinguisher in your home will help put your mind at ease about any possible fireplace accidents.
  6. Use Dry and Well Aged Wood: Using wet or green wood logs causes more smoke and leads to soot buildup in your chimney. Make sure your wood is dry and well aged to create a safe and enjoyable fire.
  7. Keep it Short: Fireplaces are not meant to be used as furnaces, so keep your burning time to a five hour maximum intervals each day.
  8. Purchase a Fireplace Screen and Non-Flammable Rug: Fireplace screens help to keep children and pets away from the flame, while also adding a decorative touch to your home. Non-flammable rugs help to ensure sparks won’t do any damage should they leap out of the fireplace and onto your carpet.
  9. Have a Chimney Cap Installed: Chimney caps prevent water damage, keep animals from nesting, and block debris from coming into your home.
  10. Don’t Forget the Firebox: Cleaning and maintaining the space where your logs burn is necessary for a safe fireplace. When you use your fireplace routinely during the week, dangerous ash builds up. Keeping a thin coating of ash can act as insulation for your next fire, but any more than that should be properly swept away.  

For other questions about real estate or home maintenance tips, feel free to reach out to me. I’d be glad to speak with you.


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