A fireplace sounds romantic and cozy, but if you've never had a home with one before, you may not know how to maintain a fireplace to protect against a home fire. If you're house hunting and looking for a home with a fireplace, you should understand how to operate it and know when to clean the chimney. You'll also need to understand how to store wood and burn a clean fire so creosote doesn't build up too fast. Here's a look at how to maintain your fireplace and chimney.
Keep Fire Hazards Away From The Fireplace
Always keep furniture, curtains, and other household items a few feet away from the fireplace so they don't get too hot or close to a popping spark. Embers can pop out of the fireplace and land on a rug, where they can cause a fire. One way to prevent this is to always use a fireplace screen. It's also necessary to keep things clear of the chimney on top of the roof. Trim trees away so no branches hang over the chimney or rub against it. Keeping debris out of the chimney is important too, so have a chimney cap put on so no animals can build nests inside or create other fire hazards.
Have Your Chimney Inspected Annually
It's a good habit to have your chimney inspected each year before cold weather arrives. This ensures there is no debris inside that could catch fire, and it gives the chimney sweep an opportunity to check for signs of chimney damage that might need to be repaired. During an annual inspection, the chimney sweep will examine the inside of the chimney to determine if it needs to be cleaned out. The frequency of cleanings is hard to predict, since it not only depends on how much you use the fireplace, it also depends on whether the fire burns clean or if it leaves a lot of deposits on the chimney walls. This can happen if your fire doesn't get enough air or if you use wood before it has had time to dry out sufficiently.
Have The Chimney Swept When It's Dirty
A dirty chimney is a fire hazard, so you don't want to put off having it cleaned. The residue that builds up on the walls of the chimney can be powdery soot that's like dust, or it can be a thick, oily substance depending on the nature of the fires you build. The chimney cleaning company will consider the type of buildup on the chimney walls as well as the thickness of the creosote and soot when determining if it's time to clean out the chimney.
In addition to these tips, you should avoid burning anything in your fireplace except wood that has been seasoned properly by allowing it to dry for several months after cutting it. Although it may seem tempting and convenient to use your fireplace to burn a Christmas tree or gift wrappings, you can create a smoke and fire hazard if you do.