Fireplace Safety: How to Build Safe & Beautiful Fires
While a fireplace technically is a place to burn fires, not all types of fires and burning strategies result in the safe and beautiful fires you want. Here are some tips on how to use your fireplace in a way that’s safe for your home and everyone in it.
Burn dry wood
Burning dry (rather than damp) wood has two benefits when burning:
- Logs burn more completely when dry and your fires are more efficient
- You’ll produce far less smoke and reduce the amount of flammable creosote that forms in your chimney flue
Logs usually need about six months to dry sufficiently. If you bang two logs together and hear a dull thud, they might be too damp. A hollow crack is what you’re listening for.
Use kindling, not accelerants
Crumbled newspaper and/or small twigs that ignite easily are the perfect material for kindling beneath or above your log stack. Never use flammable accelerants like lighter fluid, kerosene, or gas to start a fire.
Burn only natural wood
Fireplaces are not incinerators into which you can dispose of anything you no longer want. Fireplaces are designed to burn only wood logs and nothing else. This means no clothing, cardboard, plastics, garbage, pressed board, sheetrock, treated wood, and other items that can burn too hot and give off poisonous gases.
Give logs room to breathe
Cross-stacking two or three layers of logs on a fireplace grate with sufficient kindling underneath or on top is the best way to create a safe and beautiful fire. Air is a critical element of fire, so make sure there’s some breathing room in your stack. Also, don’t overfill the firebox as this can lead to unsafe burn temperatures.
Warm up the flue
Before you strike a match to get your fire going, you may want to light a rolled-up newspaper and stick it up in the flue for a minute or so. This will warm the cold flue air, which is heavier than the warm air that will be carrying smoke and could impede drafting.
Be watchful for signs of a chimney fire
If you notice these signs of a fire listed below, call 911 and then put out the fire in the fireplace, if you can do so safely:
- Excess dense smoke either coming from the chimney or from fireplace into the room
- A tapping or clicking sound
- A rumbling sound like from a faraway train
Have your chimney cleaned and inspected once a year
This safety tip is a life-saver. You should schedule an annual chimney sweep service to remove flammable creosote from your flue. Creosote is responsible for most chimney fires in the United States each year.
Chimney inspections performed once a year will clue you in to early signs of damage or malfunction within the system so you can get it fixed before dangerous and expensive issues arise.
Above & Beyond Chimney Service of Dedham, MA, wants you and your family to be safe and enjoy your fireplace every time you use it. To this end, we offer CSIA-certified chimney sweep/chimney cleaning, all levels of chimney inspection, and all types of chimney repairs and rebuilding work. Talk with an expert about your fireplace or chimney at (781) 383-0415.