There’s nothing quite like enjoying a roaring fire in the cold months of winter with our friends and family. The crackling of the wood and extra heat radiating on our hands and feet feels downright magical sometimes. However, owning a fireplace isn’t always glamorous – it comes with its own set of rules and responsibilities. In fact, enjoying a warm fire requires a clean and safe fireplace.
Here are 9 tips and reminders to help you maintain your fireplace and ensure that your winter is nice and warm this year!
Don’t Keep It On All the Time – Remember, your fireplace isn’t your furnace and should never take the place of a furnace. Fireplaces aren’t built for long-time uses, so be sure to use it for short-durations fires. Shoot for no longer than 5 hours.
Keep the Doors Open – Do you have glass doors on your fireplace? If so, keep them open in order to let the air be drawn up to cool the chimney. Remember to keep the screen closed, though. This will prevent little sparks from jumping onto your carpeting or hardwood. In fact, keep a nonflammable rug in front of the fireplace so that sparks won’t damage your flooring. You can find these rugs at a fireplace supply store.
Use the Right Tools – Hands never belong in a fireplace that is in use. When using your fireplace, be sure to use the proper fireplace tools to handle the burning logs, even if you just need to shift something slightly Even brief exposure can cause burns or, at the worst, an unexpected accident.
Cap the Chimney – Chimney caps are very useful! They help prevent water damage to the chimney, keep animals from nesting inside, and prevent debris from blocking the chimney, which helps prevent carbon monoxide. Put one of these on your chimney to stay safe. Additionally, invest in a spark arrester to help prevent sparks from flying out, which could start a fire on your roof or on the lawn.
Clean the Doors – Glass doors on a fireplace can develop some pretty tough stains from the flames and heat, so be sure to take care of them! When the glass is cool, scrape off any thick gunk deposits with a razor blade, then add a squirt of liquid dishwashing soap to a bucket of clean warm water, sponge the cleaner on, and scrub! Wipe the liquid away with a newspaper or a microfiber towel to make it shine.
Treat the Coals With Care – Coals in the fireplace can remain hot enough to start a fire for 3 days, so treat them with great care. Wait until they’ve cooled before removing any ashes (and never use a vacuum to remove the ashes!). Open the damper so the airborne ash will be drawn up the chimney instead of the room. Don a dust mask, open a window in the room, and use a shovel to scoop the ashes into a metal container. Store this container far away from flammable or combustible materials, surfaces, and wood floors.
Clean the Firebox – Fireboxes need weekly cleaning (at least) when they are used in the cold months. Leave about an inch of ash because it will act as insulation and allow the coals to heat up faster and retain heat more easily during your next use. Remember to keep the firebox totally clean during the warm months.
Keep Children and Pets Safe – When you have your fireplace in use, it’s vital to never leave your child or pet unattended as this could easily cause a tragic accident to occur. Even if you are nearby, children should never be permitted to play with fire tools and equipment or close to the fireplace. Make sure that your child knows how important fire safety is.
Get It Inspected – Make sure to have a certified chimney sweep thoroughly inspect and clean your chimney. It should be checked at least once a year or after about 80 uses.
So what are you waiting for? Get your fireplace cleaned out and prepped for use before your friends and family come over for the holidays! Nothing beats hanging out with your family in front of a roaring fire, but make sure, too, that your home is properly protected in the event of an accident. Call your friends at Madison Mutual at 1-800-766-MMIC to make sure your policy is up-to-date. Happy holidays!