Preventive Measures to Do This Fall to Keep Your Fireplace Safe for Winter Use

Fireplace Ensure the safe use of your wood-burning fireplace this winter by doing these preventive measures before the end of fall.

With leaves turning orange and starting to fall, winter is definitely getting closer. And with temperatures dipping, you sure want to seek comfort inside your home. However, with the prices of natural gas and propane rising, you are most likely considering using your old fireplace to keep your home cosy for winter and to whittle your energy costs.

Before you spark up the first logs, though, know that fireplaces and chimneys are among the top culprits of house fires every year. So to help ensure your home fires would burn safely this winter, here are some important safety measures you should attend to.

Give the fireplace and chimney a good sweep

One of the leading causes of fireplace and chimney fires is the build-up of creosote, a flammable residue from burnt wood that condenses and accumulates inside the chimney flue as well as fireplace walls. As a rule of thumb, you need to have your fireplace and chimney swept at least once a year at the start of winter to remove creosote.

When sweeping your fireplace and chimney or have a professional do it, do not forget to inspect them to see if there are cracks, loose masonry or missing mortar that must be repaired or replaced. You or the chimney sweep should also inspect the flue liners for cracks or other signs of deterioration.

Clean the areas surrounding the chimney, too

As you or the professional do the sweeping, do not forget to look after the areas surrounding the chimney as well. Branches that grow too close to the chimney should be cut back and needles and leaves within the perimeter should also be removed as they are at risk of catching fire should a spark escapes from the chimney.

Nests in and out of the chimney should be removed, too. Critters like squirrels, birds and raccoons are notorious for accessing residential roofs and building their nests or staying inside chimneys during summer, thereby creating a fire hazard come winter time. To prevent unwanted critters from nesting inside the chimney, it is a good idea to install a chimney cap or replace one that is missing. Apart from blocking animals, this addition will prevent debris from getting lodged inside the chimney that could cause carbon monoxide to flow inside the house and will likewise protect its interiors against water damage.

Arrest the spark

A mesh screen or spark arrester is another helpful accessory that will make your fireplace safe to use. Apart from preventing embers and sparks from escaping the fireplace, such a cover also helps contain wood inside the safety of the firebox so it does not tumble into nearby rugs, tiles and flooring. For a safer option that does not heat up, you may opt for a glass fireplace door, which can also help improve the energy efficiency of your fireplace by keeping warm air inside.

Mind the damper

A damper is a small, movable steel or cast-iron door tucked inside the throat of the firebox. It allows you to close the chimney from the fireplace and its primary role is to prevent cold air from getting inside the house when the fireplace is not in use. When the damper is loose, cold air could seep through, requiring you to crank up the heater or thermostat to keep the room warm, which in turn could increase your energy bills. When the fire is burning, a loose damper may even cause smoke to spread inside. To avoid that from happening, clean it out along with the firebox and open it up to allow airborne ash to go up the chimney. That way, the damper’s flap will not get stuck and rust out.

Burn the right wood and do not overload

It is recommended that you use dense woods, such as oak and hickory, in your fireplace. These woods when split and dried for at least six months are proven to burn better and last longer than softwoods. They also do not produce too much flammable creosote that can build up in the fireplace walls and chimney and cause fire.

When using wood, avoid overstuffing the firebox and place the logs at the back of the fireplace on a metal grate. You should also use kindling when starting a fire instead of flammable liquids to keep the fire small. A fire that is too large or too hot can result to creosote build-up and may also cause the chimney to develop cracks that may lead to its early deterioration.

Mollie Fitzgerald is a writer with a strong interest in home improvement. Her passion for the said subject allows her to contribute content for Home Coatings. Visit to know more about the company.

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