As we head towards winter, and the weather starts to get colder and colder, naturally, our fireplaces are used more often. It’s possible, even likely depending on where you live, that you haven’t used your fireplace at all since last winter. Across the nation, accidents involving fireplaces, chimneys, and wood stoves cost over two million dollars in damage annually, not to mention injuries, so taking precautions to prevent these from ever happening in the first place is a smart idea.
Experts recommend having your chimney cleaned about once a year, so if you haven’t had that done recently, or worse, can’t even remember the last time you DID have your chimney cleaned, it would be a good idea to get that done, sooner than later, before the weather gets too cold. It can also be a good idea to check for any unexpected cracks in the masonry of your fireplace, as that can lead to damaging the fireplace while in use, which is expensive to fix, and potentially dangerous.
Our next recommendations is to have a general “safety circle” of approximately three feet around the fireplace. This circle should be an empty area, where people don’t congregate. This is an especially smart concept if you have small children in the home, but it works for adults as well to prevent carelessness that leads to accidents. You could have an actual barrier of some kind around the safety circle, but really it’s a just a good idea to have in the back of your mind when you’re nearby, so accidents don’t happen.
Next, if you don’t already have one, you might want to go out and buy a fireplace screen, in order to prevent embers or flying sparks from leaving the fireplace and landing on anything flammable. In context with this, you might want to double check or replace the batteries in all of your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors as well.
Lastly, if you have a wood-burning fireplace, it’s important to clean out the ashes periodically. You might want to leave about an inch of ash on the ground, as this acts as insulation, helping to heat the coals faster. If and when you do clean out the ashes, you should place them in a metal bucket with a secure lid, as ashes can remain hot enough to start a fire for several days.
Enjoy your fireplaces this winter, use them often, and always keep safety in mind.