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Fire Safety for Fireplace Owners

A fireplace is a valuable addition to any east coast home, especially during the winter. Gray skies, bare trees, and a sharp wind can make the chilly season feel longer than it is, but cozying up to a toasty fire helps hurry things along. The comforting crackle and the soothing dance of flames puts us at ease and can even make us temporarily forget the long wait ahead until spring. Having the luxury of a fireplace is not all warmth and comfort, though. A fireplace actually comes with a lot of responsibility to keep the home and family safe.

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The most immediate danger in a fireplace is the fire itself. Burning at several hundred degrees Fahrenheit, sometimes more depending on the fuel, the flames and embers can cause severe injury instantly upon contact. Thus, to avoid these potentially life-threatening burns, you can take a few safety measures every time you light up the fire. First, maintain a distance of at least three feet from the fireplace for any combustible materials, like furniture and decorations. You should always supervise the fire while it is lit, especially with small children and pets in the vicinity.

To keep children and pets safe, another option is to have heat resistant glass doors installed in front of the fireplace. These prevent any accidental direct contact with the fire, and many models do not even become hot to the touch, making contact with the doors themselves relatively safe. For older children, be sure to teach them about fire safety as well. Explain the risk of injury from burns, how to be safe when a fire is lit, and the danger of throwing foreign objects into the flames.

Once everyone knows how to respect the fire, there are a few more steps you need to take. To start with, always open the damper prior to lighting the fire. Most fireplaces have a ventilation system, aside from gas vent-free fireplaces, so burning a fire with the damper open is imperative. Failing to open the damper could extinguish the fire, at the very least, or fill your home with poisonous carbon monoxide, at the worst. In addition, have the chimney swept and inspected at least once every year. This practice clears out creosote deposits, which can cause devastating chimney fires if allowed to build up, and checks for any damage or obstructions in the chimney that could make it unsafe to use.

This final safety tip goes for every home, not just those with fireplaces: install and regularly update smoke and carbon monoxide detectors throughout the house. Depending on the manufacturer, they must be completely replaced every five to ten years, and they should be tested for proper function every month. There should be one of each on every level of the house, with one outside the sleeping area. In addition, a smoke detector must be installed in each room.

By taking these basic safety tips into consideration when using your fireplace this winter, you can help ensure a happy, safe season for everyone. To receive more information on fireplace safety or to schedule a chimney sweep or inspection in the Boston area, contact Above and Beyond Chimney Service.

A Functional Chimney Cap Can Save You Thousands

Summer has officially come to a close and cooler weather is on its way. This time of the year marks the start of many things like school for the kids, leaves changing colors, and preparing for the upcoming holidays. Some of you may even have your fireplace on your mind because it will soon turn cold enough to light a fire. With the start of a new fire-burning season comes the usual appointment to have the chimney inspected and swept, but what about the other parts of your chimney? Your fireplace is more than a dirty chimney. It has many working parts that need regular attention as well to keep the system running smoothly. One part that many homeowners neglect too often is the chimney cap.

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The chimney cap is a small apparatus that sits at the very top of the chimney and acts as a cover to the interior flue. Usually made of copper or steel, these inexpensive contraptions may seem superfluous, but they actually serve some very important purposes. The main use for a chimney cap is to keep things out of the chimney that do not belong there.

One obvious guest you want your chimney cap to prevent is any kind of pest. Little animals like squirrels and birds are attracted to the warmth of the chimney during the frigid Massachusetts winters, and they have no qualms about settling into your flue. Unfortunately, this obstruction does not allow the chimney to properly vent the smoke and toxic fumes created by the fire. In turn, these gases backup into your home and cause a potentially deadly situation for you and your family. Having a properly fitting and functioning chimney cap will prevent this.

The chimney cap also keeps water out of your chimney. Water can damage your chimney in a number of ways. First, it will cause the steel flue lining to rust and deteriorate. This compromised structure then exposes the interior structure of the chimney to water. If you have a masonry chimney, the water will absorb into the materials and eventually degrade the structure through the freeze and thaw cycle of winter. The structure could eventually crack or even collapse. Water can also continue down into your fireplace and rust your damper assembly or cause water damage to your interior walls and ceiling. These repairs can add up to thousands of dollars and can all be avoided by a functional chimney cap.

When you have a mason out to clean and inspect your chimney, he or she should also look at your chimney cap. If the cap has experienced any kind of damage in the past year, or if it is missing completely, your mason can give you expert advice on how to proceed. Most likely, the least expensive route will be to simply have a new cap installed.

If you live in the Norfolk, Suffolk, Plymouth or Barnstable Counties of Massachusetts and you need your chimney cap inspected, contact Above and Beyond Chimney Service for a professional consultation.

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