A nice fire provides warmth on a cold day and your fireplace is a great source of heat when the power goes out. Fireplaces can also help reduce your heating bill. But as cold weather approaches, keep in mind that fireplaces and chimneys are one of the main causes of house fires. Whether you have a wood-burning, gas, or electric fireplace, get your fireplace ready before the temperature drops.
Have the Chimney Cleaned to Get Your Fireplace Ready
If you have a wood-burning fireplace, have the chimney professionally inspected and cleaned each year before building a fire. Creosote is a highly flammable residue that’s a byproduct of burning wood. Creosote buildup in the chimney is the number one cause of fires in wood-burning fireplaces.
Inspect the Masonry, Cap, and Damper
Get your fireplace ready by checking for cracks. Inspect the masonry for damage and hire a professional mason to make any repairs. Check to see that the damper is working properly and no debris or objects are stopping it from opening and closing properly.
Make sure the chimney cap is in good condition and securely attached. If you don’t have a chimney cap, install one. A cap with protective screening keeps animals from entering the chimney to nest, keeps moisture out, and protects your roof from burning embers that may start a fire.
Make sure no overhanging tree limbs are encroaching on the chimney. Tree branches restrict proper airflow and are a fire hazard.
Preparing Wood-Burning Fireplaces
If you have a wood-burning fireplace, only burn hardwoods like oak, birch, or hard maple. Keep seasoned wood on hand. Seasoned wood has been split and stored in a dry place for at least six months. Green wood and soft, resinous wood like pine produce much more creosote. Clean out ashes when they’re an inch deep. Wood ash is good for compost piles and garden beds.
If you have a wood-burning stove or insert, check seals and gaskets to make sure they’re in good condition. If the appliance has a blower, check to see that it’s clean since there is no filter to keep out dust and debris.
Install Metal Screens or Glass Doors
Metal mesh screens or fireplace doors help stop stray sparks from escaping and scorching the floor or starting a fire. Keep them closed, especially in an unoccupied room. Heatproof glass doors also improve your fireplace’s energy efficiency.
Get Your Gas or Electric Fireplace Ready for Winter
Although you won’t find creosote in a gas fireplace chimney, you should still check the chimney for bird and squirrel nests. Get your fireplace ready by having a qualified technician inspect the entire system including the safety controls. Clean the pilot and main burner airways to help prevent damage.
If your appliance is equipped with a blower, make sure it’s clean and dust-free. Accumulated dust will cause the bearings to wear prematurely and prevent the motor from cooling properly. Make sure the pilot is on and the vents are clear. Check logs, burners, and liners and replace any cracked or damaged components.