Keep Your Hearth Safe From Harm
Keep Your Hearth Safe From Harm
Keep Your Hearth Safe From Harm

picture of a fireplace

Keep Your Hearth Safe From Harm

Fireplaces today are considered a luxury, providing both cozy heat and a calming ambiance. But wood-burning fireplaces also require frequent maintenance and regular attention to keep them safe. Chimney fires all too often go unnoticed by homeowners, but that doesn’t make them less dangerous. Chimneys damaged by fires can become conduits for the flames to reach crucial, combustible parts of your home’s structure. By following these safety tips you should be able to safely enjoy your flickering fireplace throughout the winter.

Keep the Area Clear

The area immediately surrounding your fireplace should be kept clear of furniture, decor, and other flammable materials. To further reduce the risk of the fire spreading outside of the firebox, use a spark guard.

Clean and Inspect Annually

At the beginning of every fireplace season, ensure the chimney is clean. As wood burns, as the Chimney Safety Institute of America describes, it releases smoke, water, minerals, and other materials that condensate on the inside of your chimney as the released material encounters cooler air. This tarry buildup is called creosote, which is highly combustible. Annually cleaning your chimney removes hardened creosote and reduces the likelihood of a chimney fire, but the CSIA also recommends that you get your chimney inspected by a professional to ensure a previous, unnoticed chimney fire hasn’t caused damage — cracked tiles, exposed woodwork — that could lead to a house fire. Also visually inspect the exterior of your chimney to look for warping, discoloration, or any changes that could require further investigation, and make sure that vents are clear.

Double-Check Safety Measures

Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors should be checked frequently, especially with the onset of the heating season. The National Fire Protection Association recommends checking both detectors on a monthly basis and replacing them completely every 10 years. For installation, check the manufacturer’s guidelines to keep them a safe distance from fireplaces and kitchen stoves that could bias their results.

Focus on Your Fire

As we earlier warned, the majority of chimney fires go unnoticed. By keeping a close eye on your fire and watching for signs indicating creosote might have ignited, you could prevent damage or stop a house fire before it starts. The CSIA says loud popping or cracking sounds (beyond normal wood burning), dense smoke, and a hot smell can all indicate that something has gone awry with your fire.

Sam Radbil is a contributing member of the marketing and communications team at ABODO, an online apartment marketplace. ABODO was founded in 2013 in Madison, Wisconsin. And in just three years, the company has grown to more than 30 employees, raised over $8M in outside funding and helps more than half a million renters find a new home each month.

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