In the colder months, nothing says comfort quite like sitting around and savoring a nice, cozy fire. You need two things for safe and responsible enjoyment: maintenance and a little common sense.
Burn the Right Wood — Hardwood that has been seasoned for at least six months is ideal for firewood. Seasoning wood removes water, which is a large contributor to smoke and creosote buildup. Hardwoods include birch, oak and hard maple.
Keep the Hearth Clear — Burning wood can pop and send embers flying out of the fireplace. Make sure flammable material is far from the fireplace, and always use a glass or metal screen to prevent popping embers from starting a fire.
Check Detectors — Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors save lives. Replace batteries regularly and ensure detectors are working properly before starting the first fire of the year.
Clean Ash — Clean the ash out of your fireplace when it reaches the bottom of the firewood grate. Be careful; embers can smolder in ashes for up to three days.
Don’t Overload the Fireplace — A large fire produces a lot of smoke, and that in turn leads to creosote buildup, which is a serious fire hazard. You also want to be careful because if the fire gets too hot, it can crack tiles, melt mortar and damage the chimney liner.
Install a Chimney Cap — Keep animals from nesting in the chimney and reduce moisture and debris with a chimney cap. This chimney feature also prevents downdrafts and protects against embers and sparks landing on the roof.
Call a Chimney Sweep — Before the temperature dips too low, have a professional inspect your fireplace and chimney. A sweep can also remove creosote, which is the largest contributor to chimney fires.