Like many who enjoy lighting up cool, dusky evenings with the comfort of a cheery fire, you’ve probably considered how to do so as safely as possible. Yet, as the season famous for enjoying fires draws near, it’s a good idea to refresh yourself on fireplace safety.

We at Northeastern Masonry & Chimney are committed to keeping our industry knowledge and certifications current, so in the spirit of that commitment we’d like to offer you a few reminders to ensure that running your fireplace safely is at the forefront of your mind throughout the upcoming months.

Preparing for the Season

Fire safety begins before you build the first fire of the year. Before diving into your burn season…

  • two feet in socks propped up in front of a fire in a fireplaceHave your chimney inspected. Before you amp up the use of your fireplace for the season, be sure it’s been checked over by a CSIA certified professional for signs of wear and tear, damage, and creosote build up. Creosote is a dark substance that is the byproduct of incomplete combustion of firewood – it’s not good for your health or for the proper functioning of your chimney. A chimney sweep will know what to look for and examine your chimney system top to bottom.
  • Move any objects that are too close to your fireplace. The proper clearance for a fireplace is 36 inches. Keep all furniture, decor, and other combustible items further away to reduce risk of an uncontained fire or damage to your home. If you update your decor or add seasonal decorations during the season you use your fireplace, continue to keep this rule in mind.

Cleaning Your Fireplace

Is cleaning really a safety issue? In the case of your fireplace and chimney, yes!

  • Don’t neglect routine chimney sweepings. Your chimney needs to be cleared of physical obstructions so that flue gases are not blocked and creosote buildup is not allowed to present a fire hazard. A swept, properly-functioning chimney should release smoke and flue gases efficiently out of your home. Leaves, debris, and other accumulation allowed to remain in your chimney can inhibit proper functioning.
  • Dispose of ash safely. When clearing ashes from your wood burning fireplace, remember to allow them to cool before disposing of them. Never empty them into a trash can. Use a metal container (that won’t ignite or melt) with a firmly-fitted lid and use metal tools for scooping. When done, remove the ashes to a place at least 10 feet away from your home on a flat concrete surface.
  • Keep your yard space tidy. Outside your home, trim tree branches that are near your chimney and clear your roof of leaves and other debris. This will help prevent outside elements from clogging up your flue.

Staring Your Fires

Time to get a fire going? Keep this useful tips in mind.

  • a small pile of wood stacked by a burning fireplaceOpen your damper. Open your damper before you build your fire so that hot air, gases, and smoke will be pulled outside the home, as intended.
  • Don’t use accelerants to start your fire. Rather, just a match or commercial firelighter will do. Flammable liquids can cause a fire to burn too hot and quickly for your fireplace and chimney, compromising their integrity through improper use.
  • Burn only dry (seasoned) wood in your fireplace. Wet wood won’t burn as hot or as well as seasoned wood, and this extra moisture can both make a smoky fire and increase creosote accumulation – neither of which you want. Good, seasoned firewood should feel lightweight and have evident checking (cracks and splits). Or you can test whether wood is well-seasoned with a moisture meter – you are looking for a reading of 20-25%. 
  • Don’t burn trash, boxes, paper, etc. When the holiday season has passed, dispose of holiday items – Christmas trees, wrapping paper, cardboard, etc. – appropriately. Which is to say, not in your fireplace. They may not burn at suitable temperatures, can release excessive smoke or toxic chemicals, and sparks from burning paper or pine needles can increase the risk of a chimney or roof fire.

Maintaining Your Fires

Once your fire is going, don’t neglect it.

  • Use the right equipment. Use metal tools designated for their intended purpose to tend your fire.
  • Use screens and door appropriately. Keep mesh screens closed when you have a fire going to help keep embers contained – but keep glass fireplace doors open to allow airflow for good ventilation and combustion to occur.
  • Never leave your fire unattended. If you’re leaving the house or going to bed, your fire should be completely out.

Home Safety “Must-Haves”

✓ Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors.Place smoke detectors on every floor of your home, in all bedrooms, and outside of sleeping areas. Test them monthly, and replace batteries annually (or earlier if they fail a test). Similarly, test your carbon monoxide detectors monthly and replace batteries if they fail any check or every year, whichever is sooner.

✓ Properly-Fitting Chimney Components. Invest in a chimney cap with a spark arrester. This will keep the flue free of branches, animals, leaves, and other debris out of your chimney, and sparks off your roof. Also, make sure your chase cover, flashing, and damper are all in good shape and functioning well.

Fire extinguishers. Always keep a fire extinguisher handy and near the fireplace (and make sure you know how to use it) in case of accidents.

Stay Safer By Working With Us

Making your home a warm, cozy, and inviting place is a priority, but safety always comes first. Before you begin using your fireplace, have us over to inspect and sweep your chimney. We’ll be happy to answer any questions about chimney maintenance, as well as suggest necessary repairs or updates that can help you enjoy your chimney worry-free.

We’re dedicated to customer service and have the knowledge, references, and experience necessary to provide it. Call us at 518-500-4048 or schedule your next appointment online today.