Practice safe fireplace burning and maintenance

Practice safe fireplace burning and maintenance
Practice safe fireplace burning and maintenance

As spring cleaning beckons, you may be inclined to let fireplace maintenance wait until next fall. But while it's easier to turn on an electric space heater for warmth rather than clean out fireplace ashes and soot, letting it sit can be a hazard.

There are a number of mistakes that homeowners sometimes make that could leave them with a damaged fireplace or, in a worst-case scenario, a house fire. The most vulnerable section of the fireplace is the inside of the chimney. The more debris that's left over, the greater the likelihood that you'll have a buildup of creosote, a corrosive and combustible byproduct of burning wood that coats the chimney.

To prevent this from happening, remove cooled ashes from the fireplace frequently, preferably after each fire. Check for creosote buildup as far as you can see up the chimney and consult with a chimney sweeping company if you suspect the coating has reached a dangerous level. Experts recommend that you have professionals clean your fireplace annually.

When you're done using the fireplace for the season, you can always warm your home on an occasional chilly night with a ceramic space heater, which provides quick heating in any spot of the house.

Develop good habits
Homeowners can benefit from adopting good burning habits, which will keep their fireplaces cleaner for a longer period. For instance, cured firewood has less moisture and will burn more efficiently and cleaner than wood that hasn't been dried properly. Firewood should be cured for at least a year before it's used in a fireplace.

In addition, don't ignite your fires with lighter fluid or kerosene, because they may damage the fireplace and leave a foul odor. The slower, preferred lighting process calls for kindling, dry bark, fire starters or a rolled-up newspaper page to start the blaze.

Keep the damper open whenever a fire is active and still smoldering to prevent the release of dangerous carbon monoxide into your home. A fire screen will keep sparks from popping out of a live fire, but don't close glass doors while the fire is in progress to allow safe combustion that prevents creosote buildup. Once the fire is out, close the doors to keep the open damper from allowing cold air to enter the room.


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