Chimney, Fireplace Maintenance And Safety

fireplace.jpgStay safe this winter with these maintenance and safety tips for your chimney and fireplace.

There’s nothing like cozying up to a warm fire at home during the harsh winter months. But what started as a lovely evening could quickly turn dreadful—each year around 14,000 house fires are caused by fireplaces and more than 6,000 people end up in emergency rooms from fireplace injuries. You can avoid this by maintaining and using your fireplace and chimney correctly and following a few simple safety tips.

Chimney and fireplace maintenance

Malfunctioning flues, damaged chimneys, flying sparks, and ignition of nearby combustibles are common reasons for house fires resulting from fireplaces. But there are other dangers as well—carbon monoxide poisoning can result due to creosote buildup or obstructed chimneys.

To keep you and your family safe, the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommends that you have your chimney inspected annually by a certified chimney sweep and cleaned as necessary. You can find a certified chimney sweep through the CSIA’s Certified Professional Locator.

Don’t use your fireplace much? You should still have it inspected as birds or other nesting animals could be blocking the flue. Also, be sure to clear any twigs or other debris from the top of your chimney to prevent fires.

Using your fireplace


Now that your fireplace has been inspected and cleaned, it’s ready to use. When building your fire, be sure to use well-seasoned and dry wood. Place the logs on a grate in the firebox and ignite with a fire-lighter. Never use coal or charcoal and never use gasoline or other fuel to light or relight a fire. If using an artificial log, be sure to read the instructions carefully and use just one log at a time.

Once your fire is going, close the mesh screen to prevent sparks or flying debris from leaving the firebox. Leave the glass door of your fireplace open, however, as this allows cold air to be drawn up and cool the chimney. You should also crack open a window to keep the room from becoming too smoky.

Cleaning your fireplace

The coals from your fire can remain hot enough to start a fire three days after the fire has gone out, so be sure to wait before you remove the ashes. When you do clean the firebox, open the damper and a window in the room. Then use a shovel to scoop out the ashes and place them in a metal container. Never use a vacuum to clean the ashes as you could be sucking up hot embers.

If you plan to use your fireplace again during the season, leave about an inch of ash in your firebox to act as insulation for future fires.

Fireplace safety tips

Take these additional safety precautions to keep your home and your family safe:

  • Do not keep your fire burning for more than five hours.
  • Always supervise children and pets while a fire is burning.
  • Place a non-flammable rug in front of the fireplace to keep flying sparks from damaging your flooring.
  • Always use fireplace tools to tend to your fire.
  • Never keep flammable fuels or furniture near a fire. (This includes the Christmas tree.)
  • Do not burn trash or gift wrap in the fireplace as these items could emit deadly fumes.
  • Always make sure that the fire is completely extinguished before leaving it unattended.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher nearby when using your fireplace.
  • Before using your fireplace for the season, be sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are functioning.
Source:, City of Phoenix, Chimney Safety Institute of America, Chicago Tribune, Fireplace Safety
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